Imbibe Live was brought to a close with the national final of Imbibe’s Shakes & the City competition, with teams from Bristol, Leeds, Dundee and Birmingham facing off to see which is the best cocktail city in the country in 2019.
The winning teams from four regional heats took to Centre Stage to present a drink that represented a historical event from their hometown, with proceedings being shepherded by the ebullient Jake Burger.
Up first was Bristol, who commemorated the city's bombing during the Blitz by creating a Manhattan that celebrated Bristol’s local food and drink history. The team also drew on the fact that parts of New York's Manhattan are built on the rubble of the bombed-out English city. Smashing a huge block of ice to symbolise the rubble, Burger looked concerned when team captain Danny Walker suddenly wielded a large metal hammer.
Leeds then took to the stage, bringing the party to proceedings with their homage to Europe’s first ever carnival, presenting a prebatched rum punch with coconut oil-washed Duppy’s Share, pineapple and sorrel juice and strawberry and meadowsweet cordial, all passed out from a handy ice cooler in reference to the local stalls that sell their wares during the event.
Taking to the stage to the raucous sounds of Electric Six’s Gay Bar, Team Birmingham celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Nightingale, Birmingham’s first gay venue, with a punch that mixed Absolut Vodka with ingredients that are classed as aphrodisiacs – a clarified matcha syrup, watermelon juice, Aphrodite Bitters and champagne. Served with rainbow-coloured mini cupcakes, it was a celebration of all things LGBTQ+ right down to the name of the drink: Spill the Tea, a sentence used in the community when someone wants to get the gossip.
Closing proceedings was Dundee, who commemorated the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879, when a huge storm caused the bridge to collapse while a train was travelling over it. Not so far away, at Lindores Abbey, a giant pear tree was also knocked over in the same storm. The team mixed a highball with Lindores Abbey, pear cordial, fresh-pressed apple juice and citrus and soda water, serving it on a 3D-printed replica of the bridge.
Judges Laura Foster from Imbibe, consultant Julian de Feral, Sly Augustin of Trailer Happiness and Fam Bar’s Megs Miller deliberated intensely before naming Birmingham as the victors. ‘I loved the subject they chose and the fact that their presentation was political, and the drink was great. All the ingredients made sense and related back to the theme,’ said Miller about the victors.
A delighted Birmingham celebrated their win of the £1,000 prize in t-shirts that were the colour of the Pride flag. This is the second time the city has won Shakes & the City in the four years since the competition started.
‘I’m quite in shock,’ said Luke Morgan of The Vanguard. ‘This is my first national win, it was great to work in a team with the guys [Matt Birks of The Edgbaston and Glenn Eldridge of Nocturnal Animals]. To be up against the calibre of bartender in all the teams and to win is mindblowing.’