As the regional heats of the UKBG National Cocktail Competition come to a close, we can quite confidently say how impressed we are by the standard and dedication shown by all of our competitors – alongside the brands and bars that have been supporting them on their journey. A huge heartfelt thank you to all of the venues that hosted us – The Yacht Club on the Queen Elizabeth (Maritime), Mango Thai & Tapas Cocktail Bar (Hampshire), The Domino Club (Northern) and ROKA (London).
The Ultimate Highball Round
For these semi-final rounds, our competitor brief was simply to create the ‘Ultimate Whisky Highball’. Why?
The Highball holds a very important place in Japanese beverage culture, and as such was also deemed an appropriate ode to our wonderful sponsors – the Akashi Tai Sake Brewery and Kaikyō Distillery.
As the Thrillist says:
The Japanese Highball is not your average Whisky Soda. This is a cocktail made with a fastidious attention to detail, zen-like focus, and the highest quality ingredients. Bartenders use block ice, which they carve into perfect cubes and stir in a glass until frost appears. After pouring out any excess water, the glass and ice is finally ready for the whiskey, which the bartender chills by stirring the liquor with ice precisely 13 times before adding more ice and topping everything off with soda water. The result is more art than cocktail. Plus, it’s the perfect drink to have at karaoke night.
Ice – The Unassuming Hero
Quite simply, a highball isn’t a highball without ice.
Ice is the balancing factor, ensuring perfect temperature, dilution and flavour to the beverage – and we had the perfect partner to assist – the industry leading supplier of ice – Hoshzaki.
Hoshizaki provided blocks and beautiful spears for all our venues and the results, as you’ll see below, speak for themselves.
A massive congratulations to all our finalists – we look forward to seeing you all in January, at the London Grand Slam!
Maritime Division Winners
We were delighted that our first heat gathered many from an unsung section of British hospitality – the cruise sector. Service expectations on board cruised is exceedingly high, however many workers never get the opportunity to showcase their skills for the industry due to scheduling and simply being at sea.
It is a point of pride that the UKBG is able to help uplift the sector and recognise its contribution to the art of bartending.
In addition, the gorgeous and refined setting of the Yacht Club was exactly what we needed to kick of the NCC!
Congratulations to Ryan Lapag Latumbo, who will be joining us in London.
A special shout-out to 2nd place Rakesh Murali, who despite being posted to sea during the final, managed to join us remotely and take us through his recipe.
1st Place – Ryan Lapag Latumbo
“ The Sailor’s Highball”
Perfect Long Drink Glass By Spiegelau
Accompanying snack – Fresh Pear fruit and Cream Cheese wrap in Nori Algae and dip it with sesame seed oil.
Fresh lemon juice represents the clean, fresh ocean smell. Fresh Pear Fruit (puree) represents a source of energy for sailors, balancing the flavours of the the Sailor’s Highball. The Kings Ginger Liqueur, a the cure for seasickness, with the ginger spice stabilising and giving warmth. Hatozaki Pure Malt Whisky represents the pride and culture of Japan, the lighthouse ensuring the safety and security of the Japanese coast, ships and the sailors.
2nd Place – Rakesh Kyatsandra Murali
Fresh Raspberry with Mint Springs
An ‘elixir’ is a potion made in middle-ages, believed to make a person live forever. An elixir is a magical item, guaranteed to induce love. In simple words – the gift of long life, in a sweetened aromatic solution.
3rd Place – Paurush Kaushik
Nutt 4 U
60ml Hatozaki Pure Malt
30ml Non-alcoholic Amaretto syrup
Top up with ginger ale
3 ginger candies on a cocktail pick
Hampshire Division Winners
Southampton gave the UKBG a very warm welcome indeed, at the Mango Cocktail Club. Not content with merely hosting us in their beautiful Thai-inspired bar, in an effort to cheer on their local guys and girls. The team created an amazing selection of cocktails for our competitors and locals who came to support.
1st Place – Horace Buckenham (Bank Bristol)
The Great Wave
The Great Wave was inspired by the Edo Period of Japan and the fantastic art work that came about in the era, in particular The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai.
Tied 2nd Place – Matteo Basso (The Malt)
Served in: Highball
Nashi pear chips
Highball – whisky and soda, and it’s perfect in this way. I didn’t want to modify the drink too much, so I’ve tried to create a soda suitable for the whisky with some ingredients that i love from Japan, which I believe help the whisky to stand up. I’m using Hatozashi blended containing a combination of malt and grain (aged up to 12 years) with its cereal notes highlighted by the geinmacha soda, with a hint of nashi pear and pandan leaves to make the drink slightly smoother. The inspiration for the use of the geinmacha is the presence of rise, used by Akashi Tai in its sake now and in the past for the shochu.
Tied 2nd Place – Gabor Molnar (The Pig on the Beach Hotel)
Served in: Highball
50ml Hatozaki Pure Malt
Top up with the ‘Ultimate Godai Mixer’ – Fennel & Lemon Verbena, Raspberry, Myoga Ginger, Shitake , Coconut Water
Godai is inspired by the 5 elements ( earth,wind,fire,water,space), represented by 5 ingredients creating the ultimate mixer for Hatozaki Pure Malt.
Earth: Mushroom cordial
Wind: Lemon verbena & fennel liqueur
Fire: Myoga Ginger
Water: Coconut Water
Tied 3rd Place – Alex Young (Ginger Viking)
“See the light”
Thin lemon rind
The line of inspiration for “see the light” was that I wanted to design a drink that was for everyone, and that encompassed the akashi tai brand history culture.
Tied 3rd Place – Gergorio Soriente (The Hedgerow at Conrad St James)
“A Light of Connection”
Tomato vine, cherry tomato
The inspiration for the drink comes from Bloody Mary, Mary Tudor, oda nobunaga and the stone lighthouse
Northern Division Winners
Leeds is always a great place to come back to – although, we might be a little biased given that a good proportion of the UKBG board are either from, worked in or went to uni in this fine city!
The Domino Club is hands-down one of the city’s coolest venues – a speakeasy themed cocktail bar with live music, found hidden behind the frontage of a barbershop. T
he lighting and the decor takes us back to the prohibition era, albeit vibes and atmosphere are infinitely more welcoming and inclusive.
We were lucky enough to be able to host an ice-breaker event with our competitors the night before, and our bar takeover after the local heat was something else!
Our president, Claudia Carrozzi and Scotland West Chair, Adam McLellan jumped behind the bar to serve our competitors and locals alike.
Big shout out to our judges, Lawrence, Manny, Nicolas, and Kit!
1st Place – Thomas Kirk (Below Stairs)
40ml Hatozaki Blended Whisky
Fill with Sticky Mango Rice Soda
Sticky Mango Rice Recipe
Pour 3 parts boiling water over 1 part glutinous rice. Leave to sit for 10 mins before straining. Cool rice water completely. Blitz 1 tin sliced mangoes in syrup with a third the amount by weight in sugar to create a syrup. Mix 4 parts rice water to 2 parts cold water with 1 part of mango syrup. Chill mixture before carbonating.
Sticky Mango Rice Crackers
My inspiration – Looking at where I’ve come from and how I can use that as a way to make new drinks combined with the heritage and tradition of Akashi Tai, specifically flavours of my childhood growing up in the rice paddies in the Philippines.
2nd Place – Alex Holmes (Hedonist/Liquor Studio)
“Honor & Harmony”
40ml Hatozaki Blended Whiskey
20ml Sugar Puff Distillate
15ml Jasmine inf. White Miso Caramel Syrup
75ml White Peach & Jasmine Soda
Sugar Puff & Sesame, Miso Caramel Brittle
My drink was called ‘Honour & Harmony’, using ingredients which symbolise bliss and harmony in Japanese culture, to honour the Hi Ball cocktail in its complex simplicity. With a bit of nostalgia from the sugar puff note of the whiskey I used the Hatozaki Blended, Distilled Sugar Puffs, Jasmine Infused White Miso Caramel and White Peach & Jasmine Soda, built and garnished with a Sugar Puff, Sesame and White Miso Brittle.
3rd Place – Tom Bowen (Tattu Leeds)
50ml Hatozaki whisky
30ml Peach & bamboo cordial
5ml Eucalyptus hydrosol
Peach & Bamboo cordial Recipe
1g malic acid
Sous vide for 60 mins at 80 degrees
Boil vodka with eucalyptus for 30mins
Catch the steam it produces
Bottle, cool for 24 hours
Peach Bug (kefir fermented peaches), grated lime skin
300g of sugar
800ml coconut milk
10 fresh peaches chopped
3g Kefir yeast
Leave in a container for 1 week in a stable temp room, grab the peaches,blend, add to syphon and add 2 canisters of nitrogen dioxide
Inspiration for my drink was the perfection of the fundamentals, temperature control, balance and an understanding of the popular classic.
4th Place – Alex Fryday (The Domino CLub)
“Opportunity and Reciprocity”
50ml Hatozaki Blended
15ml Miso and Honey syrup
Top 85ml Ginseng and Matcha Green Tea Soda
Miso and Honey syrup Recipe
100g Yorkshire honey
25g white miso paste
Heat until solids are dissolved then filter through a coffee filter
Ginseng and Matcha Green Tea Soda Recipe
2 bags Pukka Ginseng matcha green tea brewed in 1 litre boiling water
for 5 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly then carbonate in a soda siphon using a carbon dioxide charger.
2 Drops Chilli Oil
My cocktail was inspired by the Hatozaki lighthouse Which is the oldest lighthouse in Japan and was constructed as a beacon of safety and openness to the outside world. I used ingredients from the UK and Japan to tie the two countries together, all of which enhance a different flavour profile within Hatozaki Blended.
5th Place – Simone Ciambrone (Brown’s Hotel)
30ml Hatozaki Single Malt
Top up with Homemade Blue Tea Soda
Blue tea Soda
700ml Blue tea
150ml Akashi Tai Shiraume Ginjo Umeshu
50 ml Simple syrup.
The inspiration for my highball, Susanoo, comes from japanese mythology and Japanese style of mixing drinks . In fact, Susanoo is the name of the good of Storms and seas, hence why I opted for the blue colour. Also as a symbolism of the darkness of the night for which sailors would need the Hatozaki lighthouse to get home. It’s simply a built cocktail with 30 ml of Pure Malt, and topped up with Umeshu and Blue tea Soda, with a spray of Orochi, cocktail that I have presented for the first stage of the comp.Garnished with a stroke of brush with blue edible paint that symbolizes the drawing of kanji.
London Division Winners
Our largest heat featured eighteen competitors and kicked off in the stunning surroundings of the Shochu Lounge, set beneath ROKA Restaurant, London.
Huge shouts to Bar Manager, Lorenzo and his crew who hosted us with the utmost sincerity.
Our guest judges of the evening were Russell Burgess, co-founder and Director of bartending consultancy, Wet&Dry; Leanne Ware, co-founder and MD of Distinctly Aware and UKBG’s Director of Marketing; MihoKomatsu, Global Sales Director for the Akashi Sake Brewery; and Salvatore Castano, Best Sommelier of Europe& Africa ASI 2021.
The standard of competition was extremely high – London clearly had sent their best. We were also treated to an Umami Masterclass from Satomi Dosseur Okubo of Enshu Sake, whilst the judges totted up their scores.
1st Place – Marco Maiorano (Red Room at The Connaught Hotel)
Nude Finesse Highball
50ml Hatozaki Blended Whisky
120 ml Nashi Pear & Tonka Bean Soda
5ml Osu Apple Cider Vinegar
Homemade Nashi Pear & Tonka Bean Soda
500g fresh nashi pear pulp
1 tonka bean
1000 ml water
1.1g of Sanpin Cha jasmine tea
2gr citric acid
Blue Cocoa Butter logographic “Tabibito” characters and Wood coaster with LED light
- Place 500 gr of fresh nashi pear pulp, 100 gr of white sugar and 1 tonka bean with 1000 ml of water into a termomix.
- Blitz all the ingredients for 3 minutes at power level 10 to extract the flavours from the ingredients.
- Change the power level to 0.5 and add 0.1 gr of Sanpin Cha jasmine tea and cook at 75 degrees for 20 min to pasteurize the mixture obtained.
- Filter the mixture through a coffee filter to separate the liquid compounds from the solid compounds and add 1 gr citric acid to stabilise the shelf life.
- Pour the aromatised water into the Isi Twist & Sparkle to obtain the Nashi Pear & Tonka Bean Soda.
2nd Place – Hyppolite Civins (Quaglinos)
50ml Hatozaki Blended Whiskey
150ml Homemade Pandan and Wasabi soda
White chocolate hat, wasabi paste and Red edible flower, discarded lemon zest
This cocktail is a Highball – it’s meant to be drunk from the glass in order to unleash all the flavour. The combination of wasabi and pandan are meant to match the mizuwari tradition, so you can enjoy this highball alongside with some Japanese food, or by itself to enhance the whisky
3rd Place – William Dinsdale (The Yard, St Albans)
45ml Hatozaki Pure Malt Whisky
20ml Damson Liqueur
10ml Akashi-Tai Umeshu Plum Sake
5ml Oak Smoked Plum/Date Liqueur
80ml Soda Water
Oak Smoked Date
This drink is named in homage to one of the seven Japanese Gods of good fortune. Specifically, the God of Fisherman and Luck (Ebisu).
The flavour of the drink is heavily inspired by the tastes and sensations of early autumn, reinforced with the bold, mildly smoky, and unique character of Hatozaki Pure Malt.
4th Place – Alex Mateo Garcia (ROKA Mayfair)
-Hazotaki pure malt
-Barley Shochu infused roasted chestnut
-Akashi Tai Plum sake
-Roasted chestnut kokuto
Dried barley flower
Earthy notes coming from chestnut, delicate plumy touch of freshness with a combination of Autumn’s warmness flavours.