It’s one thing the two of us jabbering on to each other about whether or not a drink hits the proverbial spot, quite another adding our tuppence worth on which bartender makes it through to the UK Final of World Class…
As any cocktail lover will tell you, if ever there was a competition designed to sort the ‘I’mjustdoingthis’tilsomethingbettercomesalong’ brigade from the serious ‘lipsmackingthirstquenchinggogettinginfusionmakingrisktaking’ bartenders, this is it. That’s why last year no less than 9,000 hopefuls entered the competition – winning is a ticket to work behind any bar or represent any brand in the universe.
We were at the UK Finals in Millbank last year when Erik Lorincz then of the Connaught Bar, now of The American Bar at The Savoy shook up a storm and earned his place in the finals in Greece. And we puffed out our chests like proud parents the minute we heard he’d beaten off all the competition to bring the World Class title home. So to find ourselves deciding who goes through to represent our country in New Delhi was an honour. Obviously, we’d like to keep the crown in Blighty. Even more bonus points if it stays right here in London. Needless to say, the pressure was on make sure our winner would do the UK proud.
We have to thank Rebekkah Dooley for our place on the panel. Had it not been for her inventive Twittersearch we’d never have got to stand in for Andy Pearson and joined Simon Difford and Barrie Wilson from Diageo to put our years of cocktail cogitating to the test. The cosy confines of the upstairs JubJub bar at Callooh Callay was the perfect spot to witness some world class bar action with the best in the business showing off their creativity with Tanqueray gin and Ketel One vodka.
We were brought in to do what the Spice Girls so famously sang about, making ‘two become one’, choosing between Julian de Feral from Lutyens and Alex Kratena from The Artesian at The Langham. Obviously both of them were good. Bloody good in fact. Alex dazzled with his cheeky, chirpy banter and bonkersly brilliant Bollywood shake complete with Banghra soundtrack. If we were doling out prizes for inventiveness and sheer entertainment value, Alex would have won hands down. As it was his New Delhi Martini (Tanqueray, Tanqueray Rangpur and homemade Bollywood style vermouth) was built up with the theatre but let down in the taste – maybe all that Indian-inspired neck rolling and shoulder shaking diluted the drink a little too much.
Julian’s style couldn’t have been more different. With his studious look and meticulous presentation he looked every inch the drinks boffin, further enhanced by his seemingly simple methodology, inspired by The Flavour Thesaurus which breaks down taste matches into distinct categories such as fresh fruity, creamy fruity, brine and salt and sulphurous. The result? The Juleport Fizz, a fabulous concoction combining Tanqueray Export, port, bourbon, lemon, soda water and unrefined sugar syrup (see recipe below). Taste-wise, it certainly pleased our palates and once we marked our judging sheets, divided up into Bartending Skill, Bartending Style; Appearance, Taste & Balance; Base Spirit, and Brand Knowledge, Mr de Feral came out tops. And that wasn’t just our thoughts, Simon and Barrie the experts thought so too.
So Julian has secured his place in the UK final on June 14th. We can’t wait to see who joins him. Watch this space…
The winning drink:
50ml Tanqueray Export
15ml tawny port (Grahams 10 year)
15ml simple syrup (1:1 unrefined sugar)
20ml lemon juice
10ml bourbon (Bulleit)
3 or 4 mint leaves
25mlsish of soda water
Shake and strain into a frozen highball.
Add cubed ice, top with more soda if necessary.
Garnish with a few mint sprigs and a lemon wedge.