Another week, another cocktail competition. This time Benedictine were in town for the Manchester heat of their competition to take another bartender to the finals in France and I, selflessly, offered to help them judge. Bartenders travelled from afar with representation from Steve who works at Bank Bistro in Newcastle! Here is how they got on:
First up was Steve from Bank in Newcastle with his Grand Elixir Martini. His vision was to build on layers so whetted our palates with a drop of cider whilst he mixed his cocktail, a nice touch! His cocktail contained Benedictine, pink grapefruit, peach bitters, Monkey Shoulder and salted lemons before being shaken and topped with pineapple foam and a pinch of saffron. He served his cocktail in a vintage glass with a red ribbon atop a spectacular platter showcasing some of the herbs and spices used to make Benedictine. On the side he served raspberry and mango pearls on engraved spoons. A very impressive start and something I’ve never seen in all my time of cocktail tasting or judging. The pink grapefruit and bitters balanced out the flavours of the sweet benedictine well with a lovely saltiness from the lemons… a real unique ingredient that some of the judging panel had never heard of before.
Next up was Epernay’s own Joey with his Miner’s Club Shake. He drew on the popularity of the liquor at the Burnley Miner’s Club and put his own spin on how he imagined they would enjoy it most. He combined Benedictine, Johnny Walker Black, half n half infused with saffron before using nitrous oxide to whip it up giving a milkshake like consistency. This was served with a side of vanilla ice cream drizzled with Benedictine. This tasted light and airy with a good kick from the Johnny Walker. The ice cream was fabulous with Dave and I fighting over it after everyone had tasted.
Clementine who is also from Epernay called her creation St Benedict. She made her twist on a snowball by mixing Benedictine, Johnny Walker Black, egg white, lemon, peychauds bitters and peach bitters before serving in a Pernod rinsed glass with a ginger beer top. She dusted the top with some homemade Benedictine sugar and served it with some homemade Benedictine boiled sweets. The drink worked really well with the egg white providing a lovely froth and the bitters, again, balancing the sweet flavours. My sweet tooth adored the hard boiled sweets and I pocketed a few for later.
Ben from Room’s cocktail was completely different to the others and was called Ben’s Addicted. He wanted to draw on the medicinal flavours of the liquor so spent some time warming his glass over hot water. Whilst this was happening he added honey, a splash of hot water to bring out the flavour of the liquor, Benedictine, Cocchi Americano and old fashioned bitters before adding a rind each of grapefruit and lemon. The drink was then stirred with a cinnamon stick. The citrus helped to balance the flavours with the cinnamon drawing out this flavour in the Benedictine.
Amir from Room had originally named his drink the Grand Elixir but changed this last minute as it had already been taken. His Grand Belle Epoque combined Lillet Rouge infused with dark chocolate tea, a lemon twist, Kings ginger, Benedictine and peychauds bitters garnished with ginger and mint served with some dark ginger truffles. This strong cocktail had a wonderfully sweet yet spicy kick from the ginger which was awakened with the truffles so well. I wanted to keep this one all to myself.
Last up was Tom from Corridor with his Eternium Flip. His twist on a classic flip mixed Benedictine, egg yolk, coco lopez which had been caramelised in his kitchen prior to the competition, bitters and Guinness. His cocktail was then stirred with a red hot poker to solidify the fats from the egg yolk before being strained into his glass that had been stolen from his Mum’s house the night before. He dusted his cocktail with all spice before serving. This was so unusual but the flavour of the coco lopez was divine and lingered on the palate much longer than a normal drink.
With the judges departed to discuss their winner the competitors waited nervously. This was a tough decision and the toughest I have encountered in my experience of judging cocktail competitions. We awarded Steve from Bank 3rd place for his innovation and amazing presentation with a decent drink… but then there was a tie… and a shake off! Amir and Tom were inseparable throughout and the judges could not pick one winner. They were both asked to make a drink using the bar of Epernay. Both their drinks were exceptional, considering the pressure we had just heaped on them last minute. Amir’s slightly sweeter with Tom’s having a spicier twist.
Still unable to pick a winner it was decided that both Amir and Tom would represent Manchester in the finals in France and will jet off later in the year! Well done lads, if anyone beats you guys it will be a miracle.