Held at Diffords HQ in London yesterday the five global finalists in the Peter F. Heering Sling Awards 2014 have been announced.
Since opening just over a years ago, the creative team at Hutong have proved they’re not just reliant on breathtaking scenery, consequently, they’ve established a firm following for their inventive cocktails based on elements of Chinese medicine.
But there’s no resting on laurels here – bars manager Myles Donneky and new Hutong bar manager Filippo Testa are determined to push boundaries in a quest for superior drinks. Hence the recent overhaul of the cocktail list – with some very unique additions.
‘Bing Cha’ means ‘iced tea’, and this is the theme of the first page of libations, since tea-houses are more popular in Chinese culture than trendy coffee places and handlebar moustaches are in East London. Each leaf has a specific character, and so plays differently on the palate – vital to consider and respect when mixing with alcohol.
Working closely with the First Lady of Tea, Henrietta Lovell from The Rare Tea Company, Myles and Filipo have carefully considered which spirits would match the nuances of each individual leaf. The result? A list of four wonderfully enticing fusions combining the best of Chinese flavours.
And there’s an aesthetic treat to the proceedings, too. When the cocktails arrive they are presented in beautiful, heavy Chinese teapots, plump and round like a Buddha belly and emitting such glorious little jets of steam that you expect them to be whistling.
Wait, steam? Isn’t this iced tea?
Never fear, this is part of the presentation. Each concoction is served over dry ice which makes for a real spectacle when the drink is being poured into the little traditional Chinese cups.
So what innovative combinations are we presented with? Well, for starters there’s the Fujian Breeze, which includes white silver tip tea, Hendricks Gin, Fernet Branca and mint. This is one of the most delicate of teas, with a grassy freshness that is evident in the taste. There’s a gentle medicinal quality that finishes with a zing of mint on the tongue. It makes for a perfect palate cleanser (for more cocktails, naturally.)
The Moli Hua is a more perfumed offering, balancing the floral jasmine tea with vodka, egg white and peach bitters – it’s this last ingredient that makes for a real fragrant, fruity treat. The Keemun Guo meanwhile is a mix of lychee liqueur, Grand Marnier and oranges with Keemun tea. The smoky black leaf and zesty orange gives it a lovely rounded sensation and zingy freshness.
Finally, we tried the Shuanglong which, if we had to choose, was our favourite. The woody Oolong tea combined with three different whiskies, honey and Chinese chives make for a sweet and smokey, yet delicate cocktail.
These drinks are all beautifully considered, delicious, and so gosh darn fresh and tasty, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to try a soothing cocktail then Bing Cha are the way to go.
And let’s not forget the remaining creations on the cocktail menu. For those wanting a twist on classics there’s the Red Snapper, and we can heartily recommend the Hutong Julep, bourbon, blood orange and goji berries for a balance of sweet earthiness. If a well made Cosmo tickles your fancy, there’s the Red Phoenix – cachaça infused with tamarind and mandarin juice for an extra kick.
Another favourite is the Jade Emperor, a knock-out cocktail that combines ginseng spirit, Midori and Chinese five spice for a satisfying, complex and delicious drink.
The new menu at Hutong manages to be creative and innovative without losing sight of what a good cocktail should be: a glorious combination of flavours that make your taste buds cheer.
Margaritas rimmed with Mexican cactus sea salt, handcrafted
grapefruit liqueur in your champagne cocktail or maybe smoky
lapsang syrup as the secret ingredient in your next mixology
creation. Welcome to the World of Zing. Continue reading
Something splendid is taking shape on the South Bank. And
we’re not talking about the cleaned-up walkway… Remember
Sea Containers house, that big but dated and if we’re being completely honest, rather ugly office space parked somewhere between Oxo Tower and Blackfriars Bridge? Well, it’s been
given the mother of all overhauls and will be opening as a lush
hotel at the end of September.
We know, we know, London’s not exactly starved of fabulously designed hotels these days but if you’re as into your cocktails as
we are, trust us, Mondrian London at Sea Containers is one you’ll want to have on your radar.
It will be home to Dandelyan, the latest venture from Ryan Chetiyawardana and the White Lyan crew. And it’s going to be another corker. A word of warning though, if you’re expecting
more of the no ice, no citrus, no shaky, shaky cocktails we’ve all
come to know and love from the team, you’d better stick to their award-winning east London outpost – they’re doing things differently down by the river.
Modern botany is what it’s all about here. You’ll still get the creativity but Dandelyan, like the name implies, will have a
twisted green feel. “We like to break things down then build
them back up again whilst challenging perceptions,” says Ryan
in a rare moment in between meetings and fine-tuning of the
bar which is set to open in the last week of September.
He’s with Nathan O’Neill, formerly of The Merchant Hotel in
Belfast and latterly Milk & Honey in London, now head bartender and assistant bar manager at Dandelyan. While the pair are happy
to share most of the information regarding the look and feel of
their new baby, there are still certain elements under wraps. Like
the design of the menu which is very hush-hush: “it’s very visual and
has been designed for customers to engage with at every level – whether they’re out-and-out drinks geeks or just regular consumers,” says Ryan teasingly.
They will talk about the drinks though. “I’ve worked for over a
year on the menu, sending emails to Ryan every day” Nathan explains. “It’s divided into four sections: Cereal, Mineral, Vegetal
and Floral, with light, aromatic drinks that have been formulated to appeal to a broad range of palates.”
Expect the likes of Puffed Grains and Chocolate (Mr Lyan x
Dewar’s 12 Scotch, toasted grain soda, chocolate, curaçao and
pink peppercorn); Patchouli Fizz (Beefeater London Garden Gin, basil, apricot, green tea, lemon, lemon and quinine); South Bank (Bacardi Heritage Edition, lemon verbena, lemon, grapefruit and honey bitters and pink salt soda), and Crystal Lyan (sparkling
Grey Goose vodka, crystal peach nectar, tilia blossom and vanilla).
With Tom Dixon running things on the interior-side, you know
it’s going to be a looker. “The bar is going to encapsulate the essence of the whole hotel,” says Ryan. “Expect the grandeur of transatlantic travel, together with the luxury of Morgans hotels
all in a prime London location, overlooking the river.”
We can’t wait.
Dandelyan opens on 30th September at Mondrian London at Sea Containers, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PD. T: 020 3747 1000. mondrianlondon.com
World Class has always had big ideas – the clue is in the name. Even so, who would have thought that something that started out as a reasonably modest but admittedly ambitious cocktail competition would blossom into a major initiative followed around by television crews, journos from every which where, plus a book about the winner’s journey thrown in for good measure?
Let’s rewind to 2009. Although Diageo Reserve Brands had tested the water with UK-only competitions two years before, this was the year when it truly got into the global grove. 19 countries entered and were tested with three days of challenges all set in London. Aristotelis Papadopoulos took the top prize and put Athens bartenders firmly on the map, a fact that was reinforced when the contest was hosted in the Greek capital a year later. This time 24 competitors took part in the four days of challenges where Erik Lorincz brought the title back home to Blighty.
A year later and the numbers went up. So did the location. Enter Delhi with 33 competitors and an all-singing, all-dancing competition won by Manabu Ohtake from Tokyo.
Next came Rio where Tim Philips from Australia beat off just shy of 50 competitors to take the World Class crown. That location was impressive enough but last year the crew cranked the dial up to mega, taking over a luxury cruise ship, stripping it of any blahness and remodelling it as a floating paradise manned by the finest bartenders in the world. David Rios from Spain took the top prize, which was rather apt given that the grand finale was held in the dramatic setting of a bullring in Barcelona.
How could the organisers top that? The answer was to bring the competition back to its roots. Scotland and London had a lot to live up to and they didn’t disappoint. World Class 2014 started off with a bagful of fresh, inspiring challenges including Blend of Two Worlds with Johnny Walker Blue Label and a Sensory challenge featuring the Singleton whisky, both held in the majestic backdrop of Gleneagles in Scotland.
After a leisurely train journey from Edinburgh to London on the Orient Express no less, the bartenders were put to the test with A Tale of Two Martinis in St. Pancras station, followed by Five-star Classic Cocktails and The Written Word challenges a day later. Then it was the Gastronomy, Market and Cocktails Against The Clock rounds from the heights of The Shard, culminating in the Signature Punch & Serve for those who had survived through to the final six.
Charles Joly from The Aviary in Chicago had the X-factor, beating off 48 competitors at the end of the five days. And he deserved it. Never less than polished throughout every challenge, he dazzled and delighted the judging panel and select guests at every turn.
But there were other winners too. Including Ian Sceney who travelled from Australia especially for the competition. Not just as a fan of cocktail mastery you understand but because his son Grant was representing Canada in the competition. Confused? Don’t be, Grant left Australia for the Canadian Winter Olympics five years previously and hadn’t been back home since. Ian took the opportunity to puff out his chest with pride as his son showed off the skills he’d acquired while he’d been away from home.
“I’m so proud, I could burst,” said Ian. “It felt like my heart stopped beating when Grant called me up to taste his Golden Caesar cocktail ahead of the judges – words can’t describe what that meant to me.”
Grant made it through to the final six, winning the Written Word challenge overall. Was Ian disappointed Grant didn’t scoop the top prize? Not a bit of it. “What a fantastic achievement,” said Mr Sceney senior, “It’s been one of the best weeks of my life.”
Hannah Van Ongevalle also made a big impression during her time in the competition. Her presentations were confident and compelling but she also stood out for her mission to put female bartenders firmly on the World Class map. “I want to be the first female to win this competition,’ she said brightly, just minutes after finding out she hadn’t made it through to the final eight in this year’s comp. “I’ve only been bar tending seriously for the past seven months and to make it this far has just fuelled me to go even further – watch this space!”
We’re watching and we have a feeling this lady is going to go very far. Look out for our interview with Hannah coming soon.
World Class 2014 winners:
Blend of Worlds – Giacomo Giannotti (Spain)
Sensory – Reinhard Pohorec (Austria)
Tale of Two Martinis – Hardeep Rehal (Denmark)
Written Word – Grant Sceney (Canada)
Ketel One Market – Mido Yahi (France)
Ron Zacapa Gastronomy – Peter Chua (Singapore)
Against The Clock – Charles Joly (USA)
Punch & Glass Signature – Claudio Perinelli (Italy)
World Class 2014 winner – Charles Joly, USA