Shakes & the City 2020 winner crowned



21 December 2020

Fourteen teams, six finalists and one winner: we can finally reveal who has won this year’s Shakes and the City competition

 This year marked the fifth and final outing of Imbibe’s Shakes & the City competition, challenging teams across the UK to create a drink based on a local unsung hero.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we asked teams to first compete virtually, with an online presentation of their drink and the inspiration behind it to our judges before we whittled them down to the final six (with a public vote determining two of the finalists). Teams London, Norfolk/Norwich, Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool and Exeter made it through.

Finally, the finalists sent our three judges (Millie Milliken, deputy editor Imbibe; Nicole Sykes, Satan's Whiskers; Ben Reed, Cocktail Credentials) their bottled cocktails for the decider. This was a real test of how the bars embraced the nuances of delivery cocktails – a format that has kept many of them afloat during 2020. 

After much deliberation (some QR codes, props and misplaced Yodel packages), we have our winner and runner up....

Shakes & the City 2020 winner: Spirit of Birmingham, Birmingham (Klára Kopčiková, Leonardo Filipponi & Emily Larkin of The Edgbaston)

 The drink that took the top title this year was inspired by Lisa Clayton, the first British woman to single-handedly sail around the world on her boat, The Spirit of Birmingham. From the delivery packaging, to the grapefruit spray garnish, sailor-inspired stickers, paper hat props and even a QR code that led through to that seafaring classic song Drunken Sailor – and, of course, the drink itself – everything about team Birmingham’s (main picture) entry was on the money.

The judges thought the drink, combining Bloom Gin infused with grapefruit zest, fermented grapefruit and sharon fruit shrub, Monin Violet syrup, saline solution made from sea salt, Bitter Truth lemon bitters and blue food colouring, was delicate, floral-forward and fun. Not to mention that it was a true showcase of what bars can do to really elevate their delivery cocktails.

‘The story, the detail, even the colour of the drink – this just hit the brief so hard and I had a really evocative reaction to all of it,’ commented Milliken.

Sykes enjoyed the fact that each of the ingredients was explained to represent a part of the unsung hero, and Reed hit the nail on the head when he said that, ‘what we all need right now is a bit of fun and whimsy, and this is just that.’

Cocktail storytelling at its best - bravo team!

Shakes & the City 2020 runner up: Cavell Highball, Norfolk/Norwich (Chaz Hardy of Gymkhana & Karl Gillings of The Vault at Milroy’s)

It was a close second for the Norfolk/Norwich team (who were back home on furlough at the time of entering) with their homage to Edith Cavell, a heroic nurse who worked during WWII, who the team wanted to particularly commemorate during 2020 the International Year of the Midwife and Nurse. Presented in a bottle with beautiful branding, an explanation of their inspiration and ingredients, the Cavell Highball was a more reserved serve than the winning drink, but no less flavourful.

The cocktail combined The Norfolk Parched Single Grain Whisky, Eastgate Larder Medlar Cheese, Whin Hill Norfolk Cider Dabinett Medium Sparkling Apple Cider, 1:1 sugar syrup.

Milliken pointed out the, ‘beautiful presentation with the labels and the detailing. Really professional and what I would expect presentation-wise from an RTD. Delicious drink too – not too sweet with a pleasant drying effect from the cider. I think it ties in so well with the NHS and Covid-19, staying local and representing your area. Simple and elegant.’ 

Reed thought the local ingredients and presentation were ‘provincial, but provincial is good!’ while Sykes thought the flavour was ‘lovely, like a nice natural cider,’ while she also loved ‘the tribute to the city by using ingredients from there.’

A very worthy runner up indeed.

Congratulations to all of our finalists, and indeed to everyone who entered this year, in what was a truly memorable edition of Shakes & the City. We can’t wait to come and visit you all IRL when we’re allowed…

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