I've been given a few great opportunities over the last few years - but being a judge in the UK finals of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge last month ranked right up there with the very best.
TheFloatingRumShack.com has been along to a fair few cocktail competitions – most of them have been good fun and the levels of creativity on display can be really impressive. Whilst my getting involved on this particular occasion might have been down to a stroke of good fortune – I’m certainly not complaining about getting lucky!
Front and centre on the bar at The Ivy alongside David Delaney (last year’s Global Winner) and Mark Ludmon (the editor at Bar Magazine) is a pretty special place to sit - not only is the view unobstructed (a rare thing for me who's normally ducking around trying to grab a picture or two), but being close enough to the competitors to see the odd twitch of self doubt, the shaking hand trying to pour a delicate measure or of course the panic at the thought of missing something out... Like the rum or bitters!
10 competitors, two drinks each... The odds are that there will be a couple of drinks that are totally awesome and a couple of not so cool ones - ironically, not being a fan of 'very bitter' drinks I was a little nervous about what would be put in front of me. The fact that the competition rules called for far more bitters per drink than I've probably put in a round of drinks before didn't alleviate my concerns... The reality was that all were perfectly palatable, some were completely awesome and the general entertainment was top notch!
A few days before the finals, Ian "Rum Ambassador" Burrell had presented his 'How to lose a cocktail competition' talk at BCB. Fulfilling his role as compare allowed him to offer the odd word of caution to the competitors – not sure if it helped or if anyone noticed – but other than the odd surprise, time keeping was the one failing that cost several dearly. I guess it doesn’t matter how good the drinks were if you’re having 60 points deducted from your total. Didn’t make a difference to the winner though – Jamie Stephenson was the epitome of cool, calm and collected – add to that a fabulous pair of drinks that I’d very happily pay for in a bar and you have a proper winner. Jamie still would have won even if some of the other competitors had had their timekeeping deductions added back on. Points earned, not given away!
First place: Jamie Stephenson [centre left]
Second place: Elliot Ball [far right]
Third place: Máté Csatlós [far left]
A fair degree of kudos needs to be awarded to the competition organisers – the scoring sheet was amazing – clear and easy to use. Perhaps contributing in part to the fact that all three judges scored first, second and third places the same. When the job of judging is made easier by the fact that you can spend far more time thinking about the drink and less time thinking about how you scribble down your marks has got to be a good thing. Less scope for variation in interpretation between judges makes for a fairer competition all round.
So what happens next? Well I’m hoping for a lottery win, so that TheFloatingRumShack.com can head to Trinidad for the Global Finals next year to cheer Jamie on! Carnival time is a bonus... Well done to all the competitors for getting to the UK finals – but especially well done to Jamie for winning in such relaxed style – if you repeat the performance in Trinidad, the UK will have another win on the global cocktail stage. The small matter of the US$10,000 first prize and becoming Angostura’s Global Brand Ambassador for a year is something else of course…
Cocktail 1: The Rutherford
50ml Angostura 1919
10ml Sacred Spiced Vermouth
10ml Volare Apricot Brandy
1 Barspoon Acacia Honey
8 Dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a maraschino cherry cut in half.
Cocktail 2: Hanuman
50ml Rhuby Liqueur
25ml lemon juice
1/2 egg white
10ml Monin Butterscotch Syrup
5 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Shake well and strain into a chilled coupette rinsed with Angostura 1919
Garnish with a lemon twist
Self confessed total fail of the afternoon? Sitting right at the front, with a camera right beside me – perfect view and all… Guess how many photos I took? Foolish boy!
Coverage of the event in Bar Magazine: http://barmagazine.co.uk/stephenson-wins-uk-angostura-bitters-final/