Jake: The Chivas Masters 2014 is Chivas Regal’s first ever global cocktail competition. Within the UK, heats were held in Bristol, Oxford, London (x2), Manchester and Edinburgh, with the winners of each going through to the UK final that was held on 3rd June. The UK champion will now be heading off to New York for the grand final against ten other champs in July, the winner of which will then be announced at Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans!
So, who’s been mixing up a storm in the UK using Chivas whisky? Well I was able to pop down to the second London heat and Mike attended the final so we’re in a pretty good position to let you know whether Britain’s got talent… (Hint: there was a lot more on show than you’d have found on ITV last month.)
Each bartender was judged on the quality of their cocktails as well as their knowledge of the selected cocktail eras, their creativity and their presentation skills. At the heat I attended Enrique Gomez from Sticks ’n’ Sushi saw off stiff competition from Michael Mann from The Exhibit in Balham and Bianca Hepworth off of Hoxley and Porter to claim his place in the final. Without further ado though, I’ll hand you over to Mike to see how Enrique and the other heat winners got on in the UK Final...
Enrique Gomez, winner of the second London heat, proudly holding up the Chivas Regal 18 Year Old they gave him for victory sipping.
Mike: After the thrilling regional showdowns, the Edition Hotel’s Punch Room played host to the tense UK finals of The Chivas Masters – one of the world’s most prestigious cocktail competitions. The eight UK finalists came from far and wide to mix four different cocktails for a panel of the great and the good from the industry, including Chivas Global Brand Ambassador, Max Warner; Connaught Bar’s Director of Mixology, Agostino Peronne; The Cocktail Lovers; and Sharp and Dapper’s Johan Ekelund.
The judges had some tough decisions to make.
The plush, traditional surrounds of the Punch Room leant an air of grandeur to the proceedings, kicked off by Enrique Gomez from London’s Sticks ’n’ Sushi bar. Each bartender was tasked with creating a different cocktail inspired by four different drinking eras, including The Classic Age (1880-1920), The Post-War Boom (1945-1965), The Disco Years (1975-1990) and the Age of Revivalism. Enrique’s superb Disco Years entry, named the Mr. Scott Humble Bramble, was a definite standout, made with a superb mix of Chivas 12, crème de mure, honey, gomme syrup and pomegranate. It was inspired by the classic Bramble cocktail and it looked superb thanks to the rather wonderful visual effect of mixing the ingredients with charcoal powder.
[Jake: Here’s the one he made in the heat – the charcoal effect is awesome and it also had little lime pearls. Made with shop-bought pomegranate sauce (something to add to your list of home bar cocktail ingredients), it not only looked great but more importantly was utterly delicious.]
Second up was Lee Hyde, bartender at Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous in Whitfield Street. His wonderful premier cocktail – made in honour of the Classic Age – was inspired by Franke Welles, the first Head Bartender at The Savoy’s American Bar. His cocktail, a delicious twist on the Martinez, was made with Chivas 12 as well as the beautiful Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. Curaçao and orange bitters provided a lovely citrus edge, with added depth coming from maraschino.
Lee Hyde with his Cocchi
Third on the bill and all the way from Scotland was Bon Vivant’s Will Cox who concocted various marvellous libations with his own homemade ingredients. In memory of the Post-War Boom, Will created the drink he’d give the Rat Pack. Named Bloody Battle, it was made with Chivas 12, Byrrh, fresh lemon, tomato and blood orange juice, as well as Worcester Sauce and Tabasco. To serve, Will added a mist of homemade Chivas reduction.
Bon vivant Will Cox
Fourth up was Ali Reynolds of London’s Hawksmoor bar. He gave a fabulous presentation which combined subtle humour with gifted raconteur skills. His best cocktail might well have been his take on the Age of Revivalism, named Whisky, Beer and Crisps. He mixed a syrup made of IPA beer with Chivas 12, smoked sea salt and malt vinegar, but best of all was the presentation – the cocktail came in a used crisp packet. The result perfectly summed the most British of pub-based nights out.
Ali Reynolds' Whisky, Beer and Crisps
All the way from Bristol’s Papaji’s, Jolene Cadwell even donned a faux moustache for her presentation, telling the stories of how she came to create each drink in honour of her family members. Named John, James and Adam, her Disco Years entry was made with Chivas whisky, blue curaçao (which gave the cocktail an appropriate hue), lemon, pineapple and even Vimto!
Disco Jolene Cadwell
Franco Burnell from The Library in Bournemouth created some truly spectacular-looking drink and had a real flair for presentation (he even went so far as to use a miniature disco ball when serving his Disco Years entry, Nailed on the Dancefloor). A standout was A Gentleman Revived, inspired by the Age of Revivalism. He mixed both Martell VSOP Cognac with Chivas whisky, as well as rapadura sugar, mint, ginger and absinthe! The effect was not unlike a Sazerac cocktail, but with all kinds of depth and complexity.
Franco Burnell reviving his gentleman
The penultimate finalist came from Voodoo Moon in Wrexham. Jules Van Dyke crafted beautiful-looking drinks with classic ingredients. He filled the room with the wonderful aroma of a Romeo y Julieta cigar when he infused cigar smoke into his Post-War Boom-inspired cocktail, The Chancellor and the Bulldog – a drink he would have served Sir Winston Churchill. Using a mix of Chivas, Tawny Port, the superbly dry, aromatic Noilly Prat, the cocktail was given added depth with chocolate bitters, as well as homemade Romeo y Julieta cigar syrup!
Jules Van Dyke's Churchill homage
The final bartender on the bill, Liverpudlian Jake Murphy from 81 Ltd., was a charming and extremely entertaining chap and really held his own despite being the youngest finalist at just 20 years of age. His King Street Cocktail celebrated the Classic Age and was made with homemade vanilla and absinthe gomme syrup and Chivas 12. Into the mix went orange zest, star anise and cinnamon and the result was a spicy, rich affair.
Jake Murphy getting spicy
The day was at an end, the entrants had done all they could, and the wait was anxious. The cocktails had been absolutely superb, demonstrating flair, originality, and also the incredible charisma and presentational skills of the finalists. The winner – I must confess my favourite on the bill – was Ali Reynolds from Hawksmoor, and he’ll be going through to the Masters Global Final in New York (which will feature Dave Arnold).
The Master of the UK is... Ali Reynolds!
The delighted Ali Reynolds told The Cocktail Lovers: “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m absolutely delighted to have won and to now be representing the UK on the global stage. To come out on top is incredible. I can’t wait to see what New York has in store.”
Coming second and third were Jolene Cadwell and Jules Van Dyke, respectively.
It's been an incredible competition in the UK, and we wish the very best of luck to Ali at the Global Final.