Updated: Mar 29
There isn't one bartender living or dead who hasn't dreamed of being a rockstar. We have often compared being behind the bar as like being on stage in our own way, making drinks & talking to guests can be compared to interacting with an audience. So when Chase Distillery called Cocktails For You & mentioned that they were bringing back their legendary - Rock the Farm - concept we jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.
Rock the Farm The idea is very simple, host a free festival at the Chase Distillery featuring a fantastic line-up of DJ's & bands. To sweeten the deal they offered camping on-site, had food & drink trucks parked to take care of the amenities & most importantly this is where they held their global final of the Chase International Cocktail Competition.
The whole concept in itself is genius in its simplicity but hardcore in execution. There were 13 finalists in total from all corners of the globe present at the competition who were champions in their own right. The concept introduced for this years final was - Farm to Bottle - based on the ethos of the Chase Distillery itself.
There was no bullshit or fancy marketing involved because you're right on-site where everything happens. Here's where they plant the potatoes, here's the two Chase brothers who spearhead the company, here's the still & here's the final product. True honest people making best use of what they have to make true honest spirits & delicious spirits to boot!
The Rockstar Moment
Veteran bartenders who've attended a competition know that the schedule is pretty straightforward. Get up behind the bar, make a drink & tell a story to the judges. The premise is easy enough for those that do it enough times in their career's. Now what if they threw you on a stage in front of around 1000 people? Then there's the lights, the energy & suddenly its NOT SO EASY.
We spoke to Sandrae Lawrence of The Cocktail Lovers who was one of the judges for the final. Considering the added difficulties of presenting in front of the crowd she said all finalist rose to the challenge. The heritage of the Chase Distillery was put on show & showcased in their drinks with many of them channeling their inner rockstar when having to present in front of such a large crowd. Every bartender stepped outside their comfort zone & thought outside the box in both execution of drink & crowd control. Special shout out to Alex Ko from DraftLand in Hong Kong as he had prepared 4 canisters of carbonated cocktail for the crowd to enjoy after he made his for the judges!
Sandrae mentioned she was even more surprised by how attentive the crowd was in the festival. They'd been drinking, they'd been dancing & they were still cheering on every competitor regardless of where they're from whilst listening to the chat. The concept of a festival combined with a cocktail competition is a unique hybrid & completely unique to the Chase Distillery. It's definitely something worth expanding & exploring!
More than just a festival
The ladies & gentlemen at Chase didn't just stop there though & went even further ahead with a selection of workshops & seminars from some leading figures in the industry during the festival also. Tim Judge of HealthyHospo was on site to talk about 'How to be a healthier bartender', James Fowler from Terroir Tapas discussed 'Sustainability in the Industry' then there was also a barbershop, yoga at dawn, a Hackett Pop-Up & a whole talk about BBQ Championships.
Of course the star of the show was the Chase Distillery but it shows they don't just talk the talk but also walk the walk. Present were local brewers & cider makers also to share their love of local product with those present. Commitment to a cause was here & hats off to Chase to promote this practice.
The Magic Final Moment
So we move on to the magic final moment where all 13 competitors have faced off on-stage. They're ushered into a small preparation room to face their second challenge of the day - The Mystery Box - where their skills are put to the test. This is where the fine line between 'playing it safe' & 'going crazy' lies. The time is short & you need to be able to pull a winner out of the bag in order to progress to the final.
A top 3 was chosen to the screams of the crowd but there was no time or chance to celebrate as they were quickly rushed into the main distillery to present their drink at the next challenge - The Mystery Box. Keeping the variables completely the same they just came in, made their drink & tried to improvise any chat they could possibly muster with all that adrenaline. Then it was back on the stage to announce the global champion in front of the now ecstatic audience.
THE WINNER WAS GEORGE COOK from Australia!
Wrap-Up Winner is announced, there's laybacks of vodka & the next band lets it absolutely rip. All the competitors get loose into the crowd as hugs are exchanged with beers. It is important to note that even though of course bartenders aren't rockstars but for a tiny moment the people behind Chase Distillery give them the opportunity to feel like it. That is a unique opportunity & we can't wait to see next years bartenders attempt to tackle the stage at Rock The Farm.