Only in Scotland would you hear a bunch of bartenders complaining about the heat when the mercury tickles 18°C.
‘It’s boiling out there!’ declared a hot and bothered Jamie Moran from Glasgow as he walked into Panda & Sons for the Scottish heat of this year’s Shakes & the City. Team Aberdeen, meanwhile, trudged in looking as if they were going to melt into a puddle.
Once they’d freshened up with some No 3 G&Ts courtesy of competition sponsors FMV, everyone was ready to get down to business. This year sees teams from Aberdeen and Inverness join the fray for the first time, alongside stalwart cities Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Following Sheffield’s triumph in the northern heat, it was time to find out which team would join them, facing the challenge of making a drink for a famous face from their city.
From pop queen to jungle themes
Up first were Aberdeen, who were blasting out a bizarre-sounding pop song while the crowd got settled. It turned out this was a big clue, for their chosen celeb was none other than Annie Lennox.
Twisting a Missionary’s Downfall – tying in with Lennox’s song Missionary Man – Cameron Woodger, Ryan Mackie and Daniel Elphinstone mixed honey syrup, lime juice, fresh pineapple, The King’s Ginger (linking the royal connection to the fact that Lennox is called the Queen of the Brit Awards) and their mint-infused house blend rum.
Elphinstone encouraged the crowd to sing along to Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) instead of cheering their shake, which was impressively loud.
Their cocktail was served in a giant hollowed-out pineapple, much to the delight of judges Elliot Ball from Cocktail Trading Company and Buck and Burch’s Miran Chauhan. Fruity, funky and fresh thanks to the mint, the assembled bartenders were soon passing the pineapple round the room and swigging straight from it.
Inverness took a rather avant-garde approach to their entry, getting the judges to drink a mystery shot before Max MacDonald declared: ‘Welcome to Jumanji. You’ve just drunk poison, and we’ve got seven minutes to find the antidote.’
‘The only famous person to ever come out of Inverness is actress Karen Gillan from Jumanji,’ explained Andy Farquhar, laying clear the link for the bamboozled crowd.
Their drink was consequently jungle-themed, mixing ‘jungle honey’, The King’s Ginger (as a nod to Gillan’s auburn hair), Glenrothes Peated Whisky, Monkey Shoulder and ‘jungle citrus’. An antidote element was added in the form of a mystery liquid that changed the colour of the drink.
The team garnished it with a massive peg and a clipping of a supposed Tweet from Gillan herself. ‘We did ask her over Twitter if she would come with us today, and this is what she said,’ Conor MacDonald claimed. Her response? ‘Absolutely not.’
The drink, meanwhile, was rather funky and wild, a bit like the Jumanji experience itself.
A grizzly operation
This year’s Edinburgh team had a lot to play for, following the 2017 team’s disaster with their salt n sauce-inspired punch.
‘We’ve created a drink for not one but two famous people, but because they’re both called William, we thought they could count as one. Their names were Burke and Hare, and in the 1800s they were prolific murderers who sold the bodies to the anatomy department of Edinburgh University,’ said Sian Buchan.
As Lachlan Rooney started making the drink, Buchan revealed that she was going to play the board game Operation… and every time she buzzed the game, the team had to reveal a fact about Burke and Hare.
BUZZ! ‘When Burke has hanged, Mme Tussaud was in attendance… and waxworks of the duo were soon in her museum!’ Cackled Jemma Scarr. BUZZ! ‘Did you know there’s a strip club named after them?’ Errr…
Their drink was a twist on a Corpse Reviver No 2 – see what they did there? – incorporating entirely local ingredients Pickerings Gin, Chuckleberry liqueur, Great British Vermouth and fermented rhubarb shrub. ‘We stole all the ingredients in the way that Burke and Hare stole lives!’ laughed Buchan. Served in a skull-shaped vessel over hibiscus ice, it certainly looked gory as the ice started to melt and disintegrate.
Team Glasgow pulled up the rear. Ryan Mowat kicked off with a caveat to declare, ‘This character is on the list of the most influential people from Glasgow City Council.’
With a city brimming with such luminaries as Billy Connolly, James McAvoy and Sir Alex Ferguson, they have an embarrassment of riches, the world really was the team’s oyster. ‘We’ve chosen Glasgow’s favourite uncle, Scrooge McDuck!’ announced a delighted Cal McMillan, before they started playing the theme to 90s cartoon DuckTails.
Having mined McDuck’s Wikipedia page to discover that his favourite drink is nutmeg tea, while his favourite food is quail eggs, the team weaved the tale of McDuck’s adventures across Scotland, towards the Caribbean.
Mixing quail eggs, Johnnie Walker Gold (because, according to Jamie Moran, ‘Forbes magazine is still trying to calculate his worth. They reckon it’s £600 trillion,’), nutmeg cordial, Bitter Truth Pimento Dram and lemon juice, it was a delightfully frothy, light drink with richness and a distinct nutmeg thread running through it.
Thus concluded one of the weirdest cocktail competitions that Imbibe has been witness to.
And the winner is…
The winning drink
A Stiff Drink
By Team Edinburgh
Glass: Huge skull glass
Garnish: Hibiscus ice block and Compass Box Peat Monster whisky spray
Method: Shake and strain.
25ml Pickerings Gin
25ml Lucky Liqueurs Chuckleberry
25ml Great British Vermouth
25ml fermented rhubarb shrub
The judges retired to deliberate. ‘All four of the presentations were really strong. The general standard of presenting is genuinely some of the highest I’ve recently seen,’ stated Ball.
‘It was the epitome of Scottish hospitality,’ agreed Chauhan.
When pushed for a decision, it was Edinburgh who triumphed. ‘They demonstrated a lot of knowledge without being ham fisted,’ said Ball. ‘And even though they had the Operation game happening in the background, they timed their presentation perfectly,’ agreed Chauhan.
We’ll see Edinburgh face off against Sheffield and the winning team from the Southern heat at Imbibe Live on 3 July.