The London Cocktail Club’s Sam Boevey has been crowned the winner of the third annual 1800 Visionaries Cocktail Competition, which took place at Dalston Roof Park on 9 September.
All of the bartenders were challenged with serving their creation in front of an audience of industry experts, including last year’s winner, Callum Baines from Edinburgh’s Treacle Bar & Kitchen, and tequila educator, Oli Pergl.
This year’s brief? To create a cocktail inspired by an iconic artist from the art, style, design or music worlds. The other five finalists – Amy Crawford (Love and Death, Belfast), Theo Gordon-Boyd (Ava Wine Bar and Bistro, Bangor), Vladimir Alexandru (Monmouth Kitchen, London), Miguel Angel Talero Garcia (Hotel Gotham, Manchester) and Oliver Fairey (Room Bar, Lincoln) – all put up a good fight, but Boevey’s ‘Ceci n’est pas un Cocktail’ (meaning 'This is not a Cocktail') took top spot.
‘My initial reaction to the Visionaries brief was that I wanted to do a musician, as it’s usually my go-to to spark [my imagination],’ Boevey told Imbibe. In the end though, it was his background in philosophy (he studied the subject at Nottingham University) that saw his winning serve being inspired by the twentieth-century surrealist artist René Magritte. ‘I specialised in metaphysics and… he had this interesting point about the difference between perception and reality. The drink I made was inspired by that idea.’
All of Boevey’s ingredients were chosen in an effort to subvert expectation. ‘Kombucha was the second strongest flavour after the tequila,’ he explained. ‘You think it’s going to be light and effervescent, but it has that strange tang which is unexpected.’ Other ingredients included Aperol (‘which has been held back perceptually by the popularity of the Aperol Spritz’), kumqwat liqueur (‘part of the citrus family, but surprisingly delicate’), a mezcal mist (‘the hit on the nose contrasts with the taste of the drink’) and Tabasco-infused grapes, ‘that are woody and spicy rather than sweet’.
Boevey’s personal connection to the influence behind his cocktail was clearly a strong factor in him taking the win. ‘I think [success in a cocktail competition] comes from connecting to an idea and believing in it,’ he explained. ‘I’m learning more and more that having a personal attachment to what you’re talking about is so important. I studied philosophy for three years and the second I started creating a drink about a topic I really care about, I put more into the concept.’
Boevey has won the prize of £2,000, some of which will be put towards pursuing his passion of opening his own bar. Can he tell us anything about the future venture? ‘I wish I could, but there aren’t any concrete plans yet.’ Watch this space.