Tennessee Calling is like no other cocktail competition - why? I'll address that below. Firstly, I’d like to honour the three highly talented winners - Alex Walker (Artesian, London), Ben Alcock (Filthy Thirteen, Bristol), and Eric Tinca (Satan's Whiskers, London). Each made a delicious cocktail that I and my fellow judges considered special enough to serve at the world famous Dead Rabbit in New York.
And, importantly, we regarded their bartending talents to be of such a high standard that collectively they could run the bar as a team and cope with orders for their signature cocktails from a crowd of invited guests and Rabbit regulars over several very busy hours. Folk who only stand on the drinkers’ side of the stick might consider such an evening a nightmare rather than a prize, but for three talented and ambitious bartenders it was a great opportunity and experience, and they relished it. Their drinks, all very different in style, were delicious, and for those of us that looked on, including my fellow travellers, bartending legend Erik Lorincz and London Cocktail Week’s Hannah Sharman-Cox, it was great to witness how all present appreciated their cocktails and hosting skills.
Unusually, Tennessee Calling involves the judges travelling from bar to bar to sample cocktails presented by the competitors in the bar they work in. The judges go to the competitors rather than the competitors going to the judges. Touring the bars involved numerous train journeys but revealed the best collection of cocktails yet in a Tennessee Calling final. And, to be honest, it was a very enjoyable tour. It was also a close-run thing, with ten delicious cocktails and some clever marketing behind them causing much discussion among us judges. However, the three winners stood out. And in keeping with Tennessee Calling tradition, they were given less than one weeks’ notice that they would be flying to New York to bartend at the Dead Rabbit and then onto Tennessee for an access-all-areas VIP visit to the historic Jack Daniel Distillery.
Unlike most other competitions, there is no ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’ place in Tennessee Calling – instead there are three winners. Their prize started with tours of some of Manhattan’s most legendary bars before their shift at New York’s most awarded bar. Then they were whisked off to Nashville, Tennessee where they stayed, in some style, partied in country and western bars, enjoyed the traditional southern hospitality and food at Miss Mary Bobo's and experienced the cocktails at the Nashville outpost of the legendary Attaboy. But the highlight was the day at the historic Jack Daniel’s distillery.
This was my seventh such visit to Jack Daniel's and every time I go it seems more magical and I learn a little more. Both the small town of Lynchburg with its one traffic light crossing and the Jack Daniel Distillery are like walking onto a film set but actors could never play the part of the folk you encounter and no set designer could recreate the experience of walking from Jack Daniel’s old office, complete with the safe that killed him, past the lime stone cave, through the heat of the distillery on the way to a watch yeast multiply in the laboratory.
My congratulations to Alex, Ben and Eric, and my thanks to the folk at Jack Daniel’s and all who took part for making this a great and worthy bartending competition and a memorable experience for all who took part.
By Alex Walker of Artesian, 1c Portland Place, London.
Garnish: 1 drop Grape seed oil
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.
• 40 ml Jack Daniels Old No.7
• 15 ml Champagne and Timut cordial
• 5 ml Green Chartreuse
• 2 dash Salt solution
Inspiration: “I based my drink around what I think is the most important part of Jack Daniel’s, the filtering through Ten Feet of Charcoal. I also touched upon Mr Daniels mentor and teacher Nathan Green. As well as focusing on minerality for the tasting notes of Jack Daniel's by using the over Fizz from the end of every night at the bar and using black pepper to emphasise the slight spicy and fruity notes of Jack Daniel's.”
By Ben Alcock of Filthy Thirteen, 208 Cheltenham Road, Bristol, England.
Glass: An Ornate punch bowl & Serving cups or a rocks glass
Garnish:The drink can be served with a pureed fruit roll-up
Method: Combine all ingredients in punch bowl and lightly stir over a large block of ice. For the cordial: using an off-set smoker and old Jack Daniel's barrels staves or Jack Daniel's smoking chips. Smoke cider apples or cooking apples for around 2 hours, depending on the size. Place the apples on a large, shallow baking tin or gastranorm to catch any juice that burst out the apples; that stuff is like unicorn tears! Once smoked and chilled squeeze out of the skins and purée with unfiltered organic Scrumpy Somerset cider, Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry, a nob of unsalted butter, a vanilla pod, caster sugar, filtered water and fresh lemon juice. Once pureed pass through a high micron super bag. Allow to strain until all you are left with is a damp apple sauce in the bag and a clear amber cordial below. Pasteurise and bottle for eternity; or store in bottles or tubs until it goes a little funky. You are now ready to use at will.
• 40 ml Jack Daniels Old No.7
• 20 ml Demi-sec champagne
• 15 ml Smoked cider apple & butter cordial
• 15 ml Lemon juice
• 1.5 ml Damson vinegar
Inspiration: “Every story needs a teller and every teller needs a tale. A story is so much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s an endearment, a memory, a cover and sometimes, just sometimes; a little anecdote is the perfect antidote to a hard day’s work. The true strength of any story is to outlive its teller. From the moment those faithful words have been uttered the tale is free and ready for the world to enjoy. The strength of any tale is its ability to rest and develop in one’s mind. Staying bottled until the time is right to be told. The strength of a raconteur is their ability to distill, dilute and filter the elements of the story. Leaving a perfectly tailored tale ready to be told. Our tale embodies elements of Bristol, Jack Daniels and Dead Rabbits. The ingredients represent a story ready to be told and all stories have three things in common. A start. Our story starts with Jack Daniels Old No.7.
The middle. The middle of this story represents survival. A slow smoked cider apple and butter cordial. After the 21st Amendment was passed Lem Motlow made apple brandy whilst waiting for his whiskey to age in the warehouse, keeping the business alive. Stokes Croft in Bristol, the home to Filthy XIII, was flattened during the war and rebuilt by the local residents, not the council, allowing independent business, arts, crafts and a cultural community to blossom. And earlier in the year Dead Rabbits suffered a devastating fire. However, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes Jack Daniels, Stokes Croft and Dead Rabbits have risen to triumph and reach new heights. The apples in our cordial are squeezed from the blackened and charred shells to reveal a soft, beautiful and smoky flavour.
Last but by no means least, every tale needs an ending. Now this particular story end with a Somerset Damson vinegar. There are many tales and arguments to why Jack Daniels called his famous whiskey Old No.7. No matter which you choose to take as the truth, one thing is known for sure, Jack Daniels loved a Damson in distress.”
By Eric Tinca of Satan's Whiskers, 343 Cambridge Heath Road, London.
Garnish: Mint and freshly grated nutmeg
Method: Swizzle all ingredients with crushed ice and serve in a chilled glass.
• 45 ml Jack Daniels Old No.7
• 5 ml Yellow Chartreuse
• 3 dashes Galliano Vanilla
• 1 dash Angostura Aromatic Bitters
• 12 ml Coconut syrup
• 10 ml Lemon juice
Inspiration: “My creation is a combination of traditional methods with a modern thought. The Lincoln County Process brings a toasted coconut character to the whiskey, and this is what I aim to highlight with my cocktail. This is achieved by combining a Jack Daniels Old #7, a simple coconut syrup with a small amount of yellow chartreuse for complexity. These flavours are swizzled in a traditional way to achieve a refreshing balanced drink.”
By Desmond Chaminda Yatigammana of Laki Kane, 144-145 Upper Street, London, England
Method: Stir all ingredients (without ice) and strain through coffee filter paper. Once clarified pour back into clean mixing glass, stir with ice and strain into chilled glass.
• 50 ml Jack Daniels Old No.7
• 15 ml Peach liquor
• 15 ml Muscat wine
• 3.75 ml Pimento dram
• 20 ml Milk
Inspiration: “I took inspiration from Chris Fletcher the Assistant Master Distiller at Jack Daniel’s. He describes how Jack Daniel's is one of the world’s most consistent whiskies. With this in mind, my drink can be batched in large quantities and be consistent in the way it’s been made and tastes the same no matter where it’s been made... London or Lynchburg."
By Juris Kenins of The American Bar, The Savoy Hotel, Strand, London
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and fine strain into ice-filled glass.
• 55 ml Jack Daniels Old No.7
• 15 ml Dry sherry
• 60 ml Coconut water
• Coconut water sugar syrup
• 10 ml Eu De Vie
Inspiration: “Beautiful long drink, highlighting the Jack Daniel’s fruity notes.”
By Kamil Szuchalski of Soho House Farmhouse, Great Tew, Chipping Norton, England.
Garnish: Orange zest twist (discarded)
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and fine strain into ISI nitro whip and charge with two CO2 chargers. Strain into rock glass and smoke with oak wood.
• 50 ml Jack Daniel's Old No.7
• 20 ml Cynar
• 20 ml Red verjus syrup
• oak wood smoke
Inspiration: "Jack Daniel's is the whiskey with soul and family heritage. During the Tennessee Calling seminar Mr Chris Fletcher repeated many times that all about Jack Daniel's whiskey was the passion, mission and a constant pursuit to perfection. Those three characters encountered many difficulties. One of those inconveniences was Prohibition.
During Prohibition production and sale of liquor was illegal with some exceptions for medicine purpose. Some of winemakers came up with ingenious way to sell their grapes and still legally make wine. Grapes could be grown if were used just only for non-alcoholic consumption. So that wine still could theoretically be turned into alcohol. Winemakers created brick wine which was a concentrated grape juice. Every brick wine had warning instruction “Not leave in cool cupboard for 21 days it would turn into wine”. What if Jack Daniel's did same with corn malt? “There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking'' Benjamin Franklin"
By Ethan Youel of Mark's Bar, Hix Soho, 66-70 Brewer Street, Soho, London.
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: Beetroot crisp
Method: Stir marmalade with other ingredients in base of shaker until dissolved. Shake with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.
To make the beetroot molasses, take equal parts (1kg:1L) of beetroot and water, roast until the beetroot is soft and the flavour has been released into the water. Leave to cool slightly then add 1kg Demerara sugar and stir well. Add 1tbp citric acid to act as a preservative and once complete, fine strain.
• 1 tsp Orange Marmalade
• 40 ml Jack Daniel's Old No.7
• 20 ml Beetroot molasses
• 15 ml Lemon juice
Inspiration:“When I was younger I would spend a lot of time with my grandparents. My Grandfather was a keen gardener and my Grandmother would love making jams and marmalades. I would spend a lot of time helping them with both activities. I enjoyed helping my grow beetroot in the garden, watching them develop from bulbs to being fully grown. I would also enjoy helping my Grandmother experiment with different fruits and sugars to make jam. I have also taken inspiration from Mark Hix's winning dish from The Great British Menu, called "Heaven & Earth". I have taken one ingredient from the heavens, the orange, one ingredient from the Earth, the beetroot, and used an alcohol to combine the flavours perfectly. I have created a simple, yet flavourful drink that is a true, British libation with a Tennessee twist.”
By Alex Staynings of The Woods, 1 Park Street Avenue, Bristol, England.
Garnish: Apple shapes
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled absinthe rinsed glass.
• 50 ml Jack Daniels Old No.7
• 25 ml Lemon juice
• 15 ml Oak moss syrup
• 15 ml Manazana verde
• 2 dashes Orange bitters
• Absinthe rinse
Inspiration: "Starting with a base of Jack, made me use the oak moss syrup as Jack's tasting notes run with oak. This syrup is inspired by Cam, who introduced me to it the first time I met him by reciting a funny story about it. Due to the season and the Jack Daniels winter edition I went with the lush apple flavour of the manazana Verde. I found it a good compliment to Jack's rough flavour. Using lemon for the sharpness and the bitters for an additional flavour. The absinthe rinse came into play because I felt the cocktail missed that little kick and didn't have a lingering flavour. And thus the old saloon was born.
For the garnish I wanted something that went with the cocktail. But at the same time showed something of Jack's history. So I chose apple garnishes shaped as a white rabbit and a red dog. These represent the white rabbit and red dog saloons which were opened by Jack Daniel."
By Thomas Hay-Owens of The Venner Bar, The Bull Hotel, 34 East Street, Bridport, Dorset, England.
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: Flamed grapefruit zest twist
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled glass.
• 40 ml Jack Daniels Old No.7
• 10 ml Averna amaro
• 15 ml Dark ale reduction
• 10 ml Citric acid solution
• 4 dashes Hopped grapefruit bitters
• 1 dash Tabasco
Inspiration: "The Nashville Sound was a genre of music created in the 1950's, which combined the rough heart and grit of 'Honky Tonk', with smoother elements such as crooner style vocals and string sections. The sub-genre of country music was invented in RCA Studios in Nashville, Tennessee and was lead by producer Chet Atkins. This genre of music redefined country, became a landmark for all musicians of multiple genres, and set the tone for the music that we now know today as country rock/pop.
In 2014, The New York Times wrote an article when RCA Studios were facing the threat of being demolished: ""As Music Row Shifts to Condo Row, Nashville Cries in It's Beer"". This powerful headline rallied the entire music industry. One of the main arguments to keep the studios, was Mike Kopp, an artist manager, simply playing Jolene by Dolly Parton, who had used the studio previously to record the song. Other famous Artists to record in the studios include Elvis Presley, Dottie West, Chris Stapleton and Jim Reeves.
This inspiring show of community spirit, friends and family reminded me of the trials and tribulations that Jasper Newton Daniels, Nathan ""Nearest"" Green, Reverend Call, Lem and Jess Motlow all faced during the story of how Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey became the single most identifiable spirit on the planet.
Jack Daniel's has been tied to music in so many ways, from Frank Sinatra to the Rock and Roll era. It even has direct ties with Nashville, with a Nashville reporter being one of the first to report on, admire and adore the now iconic Jack Daniel's Black and White motif.
The Nashville Sound Cocktail combines hearty flavours such as Jack Daniel's, Hops, Ale, Grapefruit, Italian Amaro and Tabasco, but when combined delivers them in a smooth and sophisticated fashion, just like the music the cocktail is named after. Whilst the drink also combines the stories of Lynchburg, Nashville and New York, It's also a nod to one of the end goals of this competition: The Dead Rabbit, with it's three floors and three key areas of Craft Beer/Ale, Whiskey and Cocktails being represented within the drink. Add to this the brand representation of Tabasco being aged in used Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey Barrels and the fact that, due to use of citric acid, this cocktail can be batched for high volume events, creating a constantly consistent serve with minimum wastage, you find a cocktail that I hope you agree has heart, soul and spirit. The Heart of Honky Tonk. The Soul of Smooth style music and The Spirit: Jack Daniel's."
By Benji Davies of Little Mercies, 20 Broadway Parade, Crouch End, London.
Garnish: Lemon slice
Method: Pour ingredients into ice-filled glass and briefly stir.
Cordial - poach 5 white peaches in 500ml of Water and 5g of black tea for 3 hours at 52 degrees. Juice peaches and mix with poaching tea 1.5:1 ratio. Mix in 1500g caster sugar, 27.5g citric acid and 10 drops kaffir lime oil.
• 30 ml Jack Daniel’s Old No.7
• 10 ml Martini Ambrato
• 25 ml Tea poached peach cordial
• 70 ml Soda water
Inspiration: "Iced Teas quickly became a staple house hold beverage in the South- West of American in late 1870’s, one of the first written down recipes was in book named “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” which acted as a almost how to, tricks and tips book for housekeeping as much as a recipe book.
This is little almost how to documentation is very similar to how we and other bars approach our set up, the rules of practice and our database of how we go about our business. At Mercies we have an online database where anyone can view how to make our drinks and how we prep our ingredients.
Out of all sweet and iced teas a peach flavour is one of the most iconic and mixing that flavour with floral vegetal flavours like kaffir lime and the tannin from tea pairs great with Jack Daniels.
The drink is very much leaning towards low abv more social style of drinking great for when you need a break from the housekeeping."