Ok, my last post was a little over excited, a little long and quite a lot incoherent. But honestly, the UK finals of the World Class competition had a genuinely tense atmosphere and it wasn’t all down to it being the first cocktail competition I’d attended.
The contestants I spoke to considered it a prestigious affair and were going all out to win. Nowhere was that more clear than in the third round (I didn’t get a chance to write this up on the day as I was sitting in the judges room tasting all the offerings – all 26 of them…). This round was a chance to display creativity, with an original aperitif and digestif from each contestant.
It wasn’t all good though. In their quest to catch the judges’ fancy some of the bartenders offerings were just too avant-garde, complex or even pretentious, and failed to deliver what they promised.
For instance, one chap had delivered a very ‘chef-y’ deconstruction of a cocktail – perhaps to impress celebrity chef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace. Each ingredient (infused fudge, coffee and rum) was presented separately and the ‘cocktail’ flavour was then supposed to build in your mouth. This may work with a trifle or cheesecake but in most of the judges’ opinions, it added up to petit fours and not a cocktail.
Another spectacular crash and burn was the decidedly odd and misnamed ‘Perfection‘ (Gin, orange bitters, white port, and Nori seaweed ). This unhappy combination was not helped by being served with an unpleasantly sweet and chewy crab garnish. Take note: fish in cocktails is WRONG.
More successful was the warm digestif containing a melted Werther’s original. As crass as that may sound, the finished drink (Johnny Walker Gold, Melted Wethers, Vanilla truffle honey, ginger gomme, Lagavulin) would undoubtedly ensure a good night’s sleep not to mention sweet dreams. As would the Grand Zacapa (Zacapa 23 rum, Frangelico, peppermint bitters, Grand Marnier and orange) that one judge declared was everything you’d want from a digestif.
There were many other inspired creations but the stand-out drink for me was Neil Sutton’s Sage and Onion Martini (sage syrup stirred with vodka and served up with a dish of cocktail onions to munch as you sip). It was a simple idea, simply executed with no spiel and no dressing and the result is a cracking drink bursting with originality. Forget the Bloody Mary, this drink should become a staple of everyone’s Sunday lunch.
Below is my version, sadly without the onions. I hope Neil doesn’t mind. He shouldn’t, because as delicious as this version is, it’s not quite up to the original…
2 gin (I used Tanqueray 10)
1 Sage syrup
Dash Lemon juice
Sage leaf garnish
Stir gin, sage syrup and lemon with ice. Strain into martini glass and add sage leaf garnish.
Tip: I used a cold method to make the sage syrup. Shake up a 2:1 quantity of sugar and water. Add generous handful of sage leaves and shake vigorously. I think a cocktail onion garnish would make this perfect.