Three teams from across the UK competed to take part in the UK fi nal of Licor 43’s Bartenders & Baristas Challenge. Who clinched the top spot? A packed audience found out at Imbibe Live
With a trip to Gran Canaria for the global final and the chance to win a career progressing course on the line, the stakes were high for the third Licor 43 Bartenders & Baristas Challenge final, held at Imbibe Live back in July.
This year, for the first time, the premium liqueur company invited baristas to team up with bartenders to create their take on the ultimate coffee cocktail. After heats in Leeds and London, it came down to three teams for the showdown in Imbibe Live’s Cocktail Lounge: Cast Iron Bar & Grill and Paddy & Scott’s in Leeds, Tigerlily in Edinburgh and Goldfinch in London.
The judging panel was made up of both bar experts and skilled coffee professionals: Craig Chapman (Cellar Trends), Will Crawshaw (head bartender at Tattu in Leeds and last year’s UK winner), Nate Brown (The London Bar Consultants and representative) and Paul Ross (Kiss
the Hippo and UK Barista Champion) were treated to three very different serves using Licor 43. They judged participants on criteria such as brand knowledge, presentation and choice of ingredients.
Despite valiant efforts from Edinburgh and Leeds, it was Nick Hannigan and Janis Burka from Goldfinch in London that took the title with their cocktail Breakfast of 43 Champions. Made up of 40ml Licor 43, 25ml Sambewe AB single-origin Tanzanian espresso, 15ml Luxardo Maraschino, 3 dashes white wine vinegar and 2 dashes saline solution, it was presented in cut-glass stemware and garnished with a twist of orange. ‘You want a good cocktail with your breakfast – whether it’s a croissant or a cigarette,’ said contestant Hannigan, who, along with Burka, gave a confident and knowledgeable performance.
Every ingredient was justified and delivered with coherency and efficiency
‘What impressed the judges about the Goldfinch team’s performance was the balanced collaboration between the spirits and the coffee,’ judge Brown told Imbibe. ‘Both elements complemented each other, with a clear premise to the drink. Every ingredient was justified and delivered with coherency and efficiency. They promised a breakfast cocktail, and that’s ultimately what they delivered.’
Second place went to Kieran Madden and Henry Russell from Cast Iron Bar & Grill and Paddy & Scott’s in Leeds, with La Familia. A riff on a Sangria, it comprised ingredients including unaged tequila, Fernet Branca and dry-aged madeira, and took inspiration from Madden’s own family link to Spain, the home of Licor 43, and the originality of the country’s terroir. The drink was skilfully presented, with the coffee floating on the top to represent soil and the golden liquid beneath staying true to the colour of the Licor 43 spirit.
Third place was awarded to Matthew Galloway and James Rawcliffe from Tigerlily in Edinburgh, with their serve The Last Voyage. Rum infused with lemon zest was shaken with cold-brew coffee and Licor 43, before being topped off with an orange and lemongrass foam.
The Imbibe Live final was the culmination of two heats held earlier in the summer, which saw eight teams overall compete. The northern heat was held at Dough in The City in Leeds, while the southern heat took place at Craft in Greenwich.
Perhaps surprisingly, all the teams in these semi-final rounds steered away from the classic Espresso Martini format, including Tom Finding from London Cocktail Club, who impressed with his Golden Heritage cocktail: a homemade banana and papaya purée shaken with Licor 43, cold-brew coffee and vanilla, served on the rocks with a Guinness top.
Another of the best serves of the semis belonged to long-time bartender David Hamilton-Boyd, who stirred Licor 43 with clarified tomato water and cold brew before garnishing with diced watermelon. The resulting drink was a hugely impressive curveball created in homage to gazpacho.
But it was the team from Canary Gin Bar in Bath who narrowly missed out on the final. Ali Bartley and his colleague Stephen Lunn had both previously held positions as baristas, and their passion for coffee was apparent in their inventive, delicious serve. The Cherry Roast Shake contained cherry whey, which wowed the judges – Brown even dubbed it his ‘ingredient of the day’. The duo wanted to explore the mouthfeel demonstrated by Licor 43 and their favourite coffee from the nearby Roundhill Roasters.
The winning team took part in the global final this October in Gran Canaria, competing to win a professional course each, worth up to £1,350 per person. Follow the team on social media @Licor43UK to see who took the title.