The on-trade appears to be in a purple patch at the moment, with top competitions drawing bartenders from far and wide to take part. One that’s piqued some of the most interest is The Naked Grouse contest, which requires bartenders to make their twist on an Old Fashioned using the respected blended whisky, as well as bitters, sugar and water.
Imbibe went along to the London heats to judge, and watched Sam Sidgwick from Audio in Brighton romp to victory. He impressed with his attention to detail, having made The Naked Grouse chocolate bars to accompany his drink, as well as his showmanship – which saw the ingenious use of a fire extinguisher to produce an alternative to dry ice.
Runner-up Michael Stringer’s simple yet beautifully balanced drink deserves a special mention, which saw him combine the whisky with honey and homemade bitters (made with a Peychaud’s Bitters, dark chocolate, star anise, vanilla pods and black cherry).
Nightjar’s Martina Brezanova delighted the judges with her detailed drink, called the Caramel Nest, which saw a spun caramel bird’s nest placed atop it, which customers could use to adjust the flavour of the drink.
With the other regional heats in the process of wrapping up, the rest of the finalists due to join Sidgwick will be announced shortly.
All the winners from the heats will go to the UK final at the start of July, which will take place during a bootcamp-style trip to Crieff, Scotland.