The Southern Showdown winner: Q&A with Nicole Sykes

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Location: UK

Last month, Nicole Sykes took home the title in the Southern Comfort Southern Showdown. 

Representing Scotland and The Voyage of Buck in Edinburgh, she took top spot with her Off The Cuff cocktail, combining Southern Comfort with Sazerac Rye, Branca Menta, Peychaud’s Bitters and Ardbeg. The drink was a take on the Vieux Carré, and named in reference to Southern Comfort’s original name, Cuffs and Buttons.

Off to New Orleans this week, we grabbed a spare moment with Sykes to talk all things cocktail culture and competitions. 


What inspired you to enter this comp?

‘I participated in the competition last year, it was actually my third competition and I had so much fun doing it I entered again this year. I have always dreamed to go to New Orleans and love everything about it so to create a drink around it was something I couldn’t miss.

‘Researching the city, its history and culture was really interesting and made me want to visit even more. The fun surrounding the competition and the fun on the actual day of the competition is amazing and I would encourage anyone to enter!’

What is your bartending history?

‘This will be my 6th competition. I have been bartending three years this past June.’

How did you prepare for this competition?

‘I had a lot of support from my bar team at TVOB. I researched the history of New Orleans and its classic cocktail culture to construct a “chat” I practiced that “chat” to my team for a good two weeks. I’ve had to thank them for putting up with it.’

What’s your top tip for holding your nerve?

‘Be yourself. If your trying to be something else nerves will only be more obvious so just be the biggest version of yourself and you won’t have anything to be nervous about because it’s all natural.’

How supportive were your bar team at home?

‘Very supportive. The team compete like me so the support we give each other is strong. We are a very small team and I’m lucky that we are all great friends so I have professional support and friendship.’

Edinburgh seems to be taking the cocktail world by storm lately – how does it feel to be a part of that?

‘I’m honoured. Edinburgh has such a great cocktail scene and i’m happy people are starting to notice us. We are a very small community but very talented and we deserve to be talked about!’

Finally, what’s next for you?

‘Myself and my team are currently working on our new cocktail menu which is where i’m focusing all my attention right now. I’m travelling to Canada in May next year to see where that takes me!’

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Imbibe Editorial

With a core team that includes Chris Losh, Julie Sheppard, Laura Foster, Holly Motion and Isabella Sullivan, plus an impressive roster of columnist bartenders, sommeliers and specialist journalists, Imbibe collectively boasts hundreds of years of on-trade drinks industry experience and knowledge.

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