The sun was out in full force in Bristol for the final heat of Shakes & the City 2019 as Teams Bath, Exeter, Cardiff and Bristol converged on Filthy XIII to discover who would take the last slot in the final.
The host city stepped behind the stick first, with Lucas Roy-Smith of HMSS, Psychopomp and Circumstance distilleries’ Danny Walker, and Alex Godfrey from The Milk Thistle representing.
The challenge, as with the other heats, was to create a cocktail commemorating a historical event for their home city. And with a judging panel that included consultant Julian de Féral and cocktail historians Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller, with Miller having just finished two MAs on the history of drinks and distilling from Bristol and the surrounding areas, the pressure was very much on.
Inspired by the Bristol Blitz in the Second World War, the team mixed a Circumstance Distillery whisky, with Circumstance being the first distillery in the city to make a whisky since the Bristol Distillery on Cheese Lane was bombed in 1940.
Added to this was cocoa nib and butter-washed Angostura bitters (as a nod to the local Fry’s chocolate factory) and a blackcurrant, cassia bark, myrtle and artemesia-infused wine, in recognition of Bristol’s Ribena factories and the local abundance of blackcurrant fruit.
This was, the team admitted, essentially a Manhattan, which led them to their next point: Manhattan was actually built on the rubble provided by a bombed Bristol. ‘I was hanging on every word,’ exclaimed Miller.
Team Bath’s Billy Snipp of Canary Gin Bar, The Ivy’s Guy Hobley and Callum Rixson from The Hideout took the assembled crowd way back to 863 BC, when legendary Prince Bladud discovered a spring that cured both his and his herd of pigs’ leprosy. Once taken the crown, he founded the city of Bath on the spot where he was cured.
The team mixed Bath gin and Somerset cider brandy with lemon bitters and mulson – a precursor to mead – in a thrown drink that drew admiration from Brown, before garnishing it with some lovely pink pigs.
Sadly reduced to a team of two, Exeter’s Thomas Ryan from Board and Jacob Drew of Dr Ink’s Curiosities admitted they’d drawn a bit of a blank when it came to historical events due to the ‘boringness’ of their city.
They did, however, finally settle upon the poem Hickory Dickory Dock, which was inspired by Exeter Cathedral’s cat, who used to hunt mice and had its own little door in the clock tower. They created a smoked Daiquiri twist, mixing Havana Club 3 rum, acid-adjusted apple juice and orgeat mixed with liquid smoke.
Miller and Brown were particularly impressed with this drink. ‘On flavour alone this could be an international cocktail competition winner,’ exclaimed Brown.
Bringing up the rear were Team Cardiff, with Lab 22’s Max Haywood, Jamie Lock of Dead Canary and
Ed Hardy from Traders Llandaff, putting in a technicolour performance dressed as Roald Dahl characters, including an Oompa Loompa, in celebration of their local hero.
They pulled in lots of the author’s signatures, from jars of sweets to chocolate bars with a secret golden wrapper, all recounting Dahl’s real-life story of the Great Mouse Plot of 1924.
The drink itself was a brilliant mix of Dahl-ian ingredients: whizzpopping Welsh gin (a blend of Welsh gins), Snozzcumber oleo saccharum (lemon and cucumber oleo saccharum), whipplescrumptious fudgemallow liqueur (crème de cacao white), fizzwiggler Welsh wine (Ancre Hill Chardonnay) and plexicated peach tea (peach-blossom green tea).
‘It was an outstanding presentation!’ exclaimed Brown.
‘Unfortunately they championed a local hero rather than a historical event really,’ said de Feral.
The judges retired for one final time in this year’s Shakes & the City to discuss who had triumphed. In the end, Bristol took the crown. ‘They did an incredible job. Trust me,’ declared Miller.