UKBG National Cocktail Competition

Words by:
Photography by: & video by OH GOSH Productions

The UKBG National Cocktail Competition 2018 took place on 1st November at Mr Fogg's Society of Exploration. After a hotly contested set of challenges Elysa McGuire from Below Stairs, Leeds, emerged as the worthy champion.

With a big focus on rediscovering North American Classic Cocktails, this year's UKBG competition was supported by Woodford Reserve and was held, appropriately, in the middle of Old Fashioned Week.

A competition which reaches many young and emerging bartenders across all regions of the UK was a natural fit for Woodford Reserve, which prides itself on supporting bartenders and their career progression. As Nidal Ramini, Head of Trade Advocacy for Developed and Developing Europe & Africa says "When the chance to work with the newly reformed UKBG came up we grabbed it with both hands."

Declan McGurk, Vice President of the UKBG and Director of Bars at The Savoy, was MC for the day and opened up the competition by welcoming the competitors and setting out the challenges.

The panel of judges were on the hunt for an innovative twist on an Old Fashioned, and during the first challenge each of the 20 competitors were judged on appearance, aroma and taste of their drink, knowledge, presentation skills, name, story-telling, technical execution and relevance to the competition brief.

Judging deliberations complete, the six bartenders with the highest scores from the qualification round were announced and invited to take their place behind the bar and infront of the panel one more time. Judges included Tom Vernon, Global Brand Ambassador Woodford Reserve and no stranger to the art of the Old Fashioned, Pietro Rizzo, Claudia Carrozzi, Slye, Sam Fish, Jared Brown, Claire West, Salvatore Calabrese and Cristian Tirel.

In the final round each finalist was asked to once again make their twist on an Old Fashioned and additionally challenged to make a North American bourbon classic cocktail. These were selected by the judges at random so everyone had to think on their feet. The classics included the Boulevardier, Old Pal, New York Sour, Manhattan, Julep and the Smash.

Elysa McGuire was announced champion by UKBG President Salvatore Damiano, with well deserved 2nd and 3rd places awarded to Charley Carrington and Ferdia Murray respectively. As part of her prize, Elysa receives a one year UK guest bartending tour and personal mentoring program with the bartending legend and former Head Bartender at The American Bar, Peter Dorelli. She also has the chance to bring home the global crown as she represents the UK at the 2019 IBA World Cocktail Competition in Cheng Du, China. Zhù nǐ hǎo yùn!

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Elysa McGuire - 1st place winner

From: Below Stairs, Leeds
Where the pine grows
50ml Woodford Reserve
10ml Heather honey
Oat Straw
Apple Cordial
Pine & Terra bitters - Spray of  Moss & Sea salt
Garnish with sea mist

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Charley Carrington - 2nd place

From: Last Chance, Nottingham
50ml Woodford Reserve
5ml Date syrup
Bitter melon and artichoke tincture
Garnish with orange zest

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Ferdia Murray - 3rd place

From: The American Bar at the Savoy, London
Oscar’s oil
50ml Woodford Reserve
20ml Lapsang Souchong infused Pedro Ximenez Sherry
10ml Martini Bitters
5ml Saline Solution
Garnish with orange Twist

Other finalists reaching the Shake Off round

Connor Bloomfield

From: Swift, London
50ml Woodford Reserve
3 dashes Pimento
2 dashes Nut bitter
7.5ml Honey water
15ml 30x40
Garnish with lemon twist

Stephen Kane

From Revolution de Cuba, Harrogate
The Windjammer
35ml Woodford Reserve Double Oak
15ml Woodford Reserve Rye
2 dashes Suze gentian and cardamom bitter
1 raw brown sugar cube
Garnish with anchoor hydrosol

Calum Robb

From The Botanist, Newcastle
50ml Woodford Reserve
2 dashes Dashfire Jerry Thomas bitter
15ml Black cardamom syrup
5ml Kings Ginger
Garnish with black cardamom pods and dried orange

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