The Four Pillars Australian [Gin] Open was back for a second year, with a nail-biting final on Imbibe Live’s Centre Stage
Taking the top spot in the annual UK Four Pillars comp doesn’t just mean winning a trip to the brand’s home in Australia’s Yarra Valley, it includes the chance to make a gin while you’re there. After a series of regional heats, the final of the Four Pillars Australian [Gin] Open at Imbibe Live culminated in two bartenders taking the prize.
Six bartenders competed in the final, but it was Joseph Brown of Lady Libertine in Edinburgh and Tom Hughes of Hide Below in London who emerged triumphant.
For his cocktail entitled Captain Cook’s Endeavour, Hughes drew on his experience of living and working in Australia, as well as taking inspiration from the ship captain’s famous trip. A pea soda represented the origin of the journey in England, with a vanilla syrup for Tahiti, while Four Pillars itself represented Cook’s stop in Australia. The competition’s judges sported various nautical props provided by Hughes, including squid-related headgear for co-founder Stuart Gregor.
Meanwhile, Brown, in a kilt, dedicated his drink Paid Fourward to his fellow bartenders. ‘We spend a lot more time with our bar families than we do with our real families,’ he explained to the audience. He combined Four Pillars with Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato, a grapefruit sherbet and more, serving the finished cocktail in a traditional Scottish quaich.
‘The final of the second Four Pillars Australian [Gin] Open UK was an absolute dream,’ said Four Pillars’ European trade relations manager Joe Worthington. ‘We had a crowd of about 80 come along to watch the final live.’
The four other finalists taking part were Jason Knüsel of The American Bar at The Savoy, Adam Smith of Jake’s Bar & Still Room in Leeds, Kylie Shannon of One Percent Forest in Liverpool, and Alice Morrissey of Panda & Sons in Edinburgh.
‘Alice, Tom and Adam were up first and fiercely competitive with props and poems galore,’ said Worthington. ‘Next up, Joe, Jason and Kylie rounded things off, absolutely crushing it.’
Gregor described the decision-making process with fellow judges Nate Brown and Eleonora Biason, last year’s winner, as ‘agreeably contentious’ – the culmination of more than 100 entries.
In addition to creating their own gin, Hughes and Brown will spend a week in Australia with Four Pillars, visiting both Melbourne and Sydney and dining at the famous Icebergs restaurant at Bondi Beach.
The Four Pillars Australian [Gin] Open will return to the UK in 2020.