Updated: Mar 29
We are living in a resurgence period of cocktail competitions & one of the more inspiring ones we've seen this year was none other than the Drinks Come True cocktail competition we were privileged to attend as judges this week. 7 Champions from 7 different countries battled it out for the title of Champion in 2019. Nazar Makarov from Ukraine took home the final prize with Russia & Romania coming in 2nd & 3rd place respectively. This wasn't the whole trip though as the final itself was being held in the Laverstoke Distillery that produces the entire Bombay Gin range.
Drinks Come True The competition itself is sponsored by Bombay gin & tests the bartenders skill in 2 major ways & produce 2 different cocktails with different requirements. Firstly, they had to combine bartending with an existing art form be it music, painting or sculpture for example. Inspired by their particular specified art they would need to combine drinks based on the theme of "Stir Creativity" with that particular art form. It was highly inspiration to see all the different approaches to this task with many being inspired by highly niche artists from very different talks of life. A particular shout out to the Russian champion with his focus on a modernist Manga artist.
The second drink although it could be linked to the first was completely different in its approach. Each champion was paired with a different botanical present in Bombay gin & can to use that specific botanical as a shinning star of his second cocktail. It was very interesting to see how each of the bartenders combined their different chosen botanicals & combined them into a final cocktail. The key here was the expression of the botanical as well as the gin without losing it all in the final mixture.
The Laverstoke Distillery There's something to be said about said about this magnificent place that is the home of Bombay gin. From the 2 stills - Henry & Victoria - so the fact they have received an international award for their efforts towards sustainability & clean practices. To the giant beautiful greenhouse in the middle if the location that houses all of the botanicals present in Bombay gin. I've never been to a distillery that has trout & otters living on the grounds due to the quality of the land surrounding the operation. We were given an internal tour of the entire thing by Bombay Ambassador Sam Carter from everything from the stills, to the lab as well as the botanical loading rooms. The secrecy surrounding the recipe & the botanicals is what makes Bombay gin particularly interesting for us at Cocktails For You. All the botanicals are premixed & shipped over from they facility headed by Ivano Tonutti a Master Herbalist. With Sam Carter being at the company over 10 years it was cool to see how he is one of the 10 people in charge of signing off batches of Bombay gin for the mainstream market. Apparently the last time it wasn't good enough was over 22 months ago of this article!
There was lots of fun packed detailed information from the wisdom of Sam with explanation of both the faults of trial & error when creating Gin as well as all the experimentation they do at the Laverstoke Distillery. From the specific order they load the botanicals on the steam vaporiser trays to the mistakes they made when they tried to switch from copper to stainless steel for the baskets. If you get a chance to go to the Laverstoke Distillery I highly recommend it!
The Seminars There wouldn't be an event like this without some educational seminars for the champions on hand. In this case we had Chris Moore of Coupette bar in London talking about flavour & creativity whilst showcasing some of the drinks made with Bombay gin at his bar. What particularly stood out to me was his mindset of "I hate Science in drinks because it doesn't have emotion". Dear bartenders please don't take this out of context but here us out here as we divulge the meaning behind this phrase. Chris spoke of how when we break things down completely to the last molecule, measurable degree & scientific method it doesn't necessarily produce the best final result. In the end for Chris the final resulting flavour is the key of any cocktail.
He doesn't neglect other aspects or bash other ideologies/movements such as Tiki, Molecular Mixology or Classic drinks but rather he believes in himself & his own palette more than he trusts a dial on a machine to tell him what is good. This was a refreshing seminar & we loved this approach because if we truly do go down the road of science we all might as well be replaced by robots!
The Champion In the end we had the competition itself for the bartenders to show their stuff. Although there were 7 final competitors only 1 could take the grand prize home & even with all the arguing between the 4 judges in the background we could only pick 1 winner in the end. I could write another novel about all the different performances going into details of how they presented but I'd like to focus on the winner for the Drinks Come True competition in 2019 - Nazar Makarov from Barvy Restaurant in Ukraine!
A confident presentation that linked both his cocktails together with his link being the heritage of Ukraine & local traditions of his country. He specifically when into a term he himself created called a 'Monotail' where a cocktail is 'cooked' or 'finished' all as one using a technique such a sous-vide or in this case using a Sonic Homogeniser. This blends all the flavours together in such a way & so quickly that they become something new altogether. The second drink was a homage to a local Ukrainian apple pie & utilised Kvass as the lengthening ingredient. Kvass traditionally is made from bread & is a sort of low-abc bread beer/soda. With drinks that impressed all judges across the board & a presentation to boot he was a clear winner in all eyes! Nazar hinted that he is going to be opening his own bar soon in Kiev, Ukraine. If these drinks are anything to go by then we can't wait to see what he has in store next!
For more pics of the trip see here!