A magic clock, virtual views of Central Park, porridge oats and a cordial made from freshly cut grass – it’s the third heat in London and the last of the six stops on the Chivas Masters UK journey.
When: 27 April
Where: 7 Tales at Sosharu, London.
Who (competitors): Jerome Allaguillemette, Sexy Fish; Benji Davies, Hawksmoor; Christian Maspes, Gong Bar at Shangri La; Geoff Robinson, 7 Tales at Sosharu; Rob Simpson, The Clove Club; Shaun Teeluck, The Arts Club and Ilias Tsiavlis, Park Chinois.
Who (judges): Josh Reynolds, Chivas Masters Global Winner 2015, Phil Huckle, Chivas Brand Ambassador and The Cocktail Lovers.
The 3rd London Journey
The battle for the coveted places in the Chivas Masters UK Final saw seven bartenders assembling, rather appropriately, at 7 Tales at Sosharu. As in all the previous heats, the bartenders were challenged to come up with three serves: The Classic Way, The Local Way and The Shanghai Way. And, as this was the last of the regional heats, the pressure was really on to claim a place in the national final. Make no mistake the competition had reached a pretty impressive climax.
Jerome Allaguillemette from Sexy Fish got things going with the aid of his ‘magic cloc’, which he used to take us through the three eras of his drinks: 1905, 2015 and 2017. Although glimpsing into the past and future were appealing it was the present that produced his stand out drink. For The Local Way he took inspiration from afternoon tea in Mayfair. Not only did the combination of soya milk, honey, lavender bitters and orange and honey blossom tea work extremely well with the Chivas, it also created an authentic tea colour which worked perfectly in its tea cup serve. The Local Way also produced the best drink from Rob Simpson of The Clove Club, as he combined a homemade nettle cordial, made from weeds in his front garden, along with ingredients such as cucumber from his local grocery store. The resulting ‘Corner Shop Cooler’, complete with nettle garnish, was a complex drink which showcased the Chivas to stunning effect.
When he’s in his bar Christian Maspes undoubtedly has one of the very best views in London. After all Gong Bar at Shangri La has its home in London’s tallest building, The Shard. However, it was another view entirely that he wanted to share as he prepared his drink for The New York Way. Courtesy of a clever piece of virtual reality on his iPad Maspes was able to create the illusion of us sitting in New York’s Central Park. A perfect setting for his drink ‘Scotsman in Central Park’, a very nicely balanced creation which introduced green tea and apple shrub into his twist on a Rob Roy.
Interestingly a key ingredient for Ilias Tsiavlis from Park Chinois was yuzu liqueur. Although the geographical accuracy of a Japanese ingredient for The Shanghai Way was questionable it did make for a good mix with Chivas in his ‘Shanghai Crusta’. Representing the home team at 7 Tales, Geoff Robinson had an interesting take across all three of his serves – presenting two versions of each to demonstrate their versatility including on the rocks and straight up serves for ‘Alien Jones’. This drink for The New York Way was a twisted Whisky Sour which included coffee-infused Cocchi Americano and bamboo charcoal for a rich and very satisfying drink.
The standard across the board was extremely high, possibly the highest of all the heats. So much so the judges decided that as well as a winner they would also elect a wild card for the final (an extra chance for a bartender who has made an exceptional presentation but didn’t quite come out on top in their heat). The wild card in question was Shaun Teeluck from The Arts Club. Along with some good Chivas knowledge, he illustrated each of his serves with elaborate stories and accompanying images. As for the drinks they each demonstrated some very nice touches. Adding porridge oats to his ‘Alexandra Brothers’, a twist on a Brandy Alexander, for The New York Way delivered extra depth to the flavour. There was an exquisitely cut orange garnish in the shape of a fox for ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Amusement’ for The Local Way. And ‘The Huangdi Highball’ delivered a perfectly balanced combination built around honey infused with Chinese 5 Spice, King’s Ginger and iced tea which complimented the Chivas beautifully.
Edging the top spot was Benji Davies from Hawksmoor. As with Shaun he demonstrated good Chivas knowledge and engaging stories across all three of his serves. The drinks themselves were felt by the judges to simply be on another level. ‘Life After Dark’ for The New York Way was a deliciously balanced combination of Chivas 12, Lillet Blanc, pomegranate shrub, black coffee liqueur and Peychauds Bitters, which celebrated late night drinking at the Metropole Cafe in New York and true to its name, would round off an evening very nicely. Benji followed this with ‘Regal Serve’ for The Local Way. Inspired by the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship in London he wanted to evoke the occasion, hence combining the Chivas with a syrup of cut grass and homemade strawberry vermouth which was topped with a little Perrier Jouet. Describing it as delicious is an understatement. His final drink for The Shanghai Way was again an extremely clever and flavoursome combination which subtly evoked Asian flavours. Combining a homemade sweet and sour cordial with a little sesame oil worked harmoniously to showcase the depth of the Chivas in his complex S 2 S (Strathilsa to Shanghai).
Wise words: the judges
“There were massive performances from everyone today. In my opinion it was the strongest of all the regional heats. So strong that we had to put through Shaun as a wild card. With The Chivas Masters I want to see storytelling matched with flavour, and I also want to be entertained. Benji is the winner for me because he did all of this and made the Chivas shine in each and every drink. I’m really looking forward to seeing him in the national final!” Josh Reynolds, Chivas Masters Global Winner 2015.
“Wow what a heat! This was by far the strongest of all the heats. So much so that we put two people through because they were both fantastic. The final is shaping up be very exciting indeed with eight outstanding bartenders. May the best man or woman win.” Phil Huckle, Chivas Brand Ambassador.
“This was an outstanding heat in the Chivas Masters. Every bartender was engaging and they all created fantastic drinks. Shaun did a great job to claim a place in the national final, while Benji delivered three astoundingly beautiful drinks.” The Cocktail Lovers.
Wise words: the winner
“This is definitely the hardest comp I’ve ever put myself through. I didn’t expect to win because the standard today was so high. This is my first competition since moving to London so I wanted to enter something that I really wanted to be part of, plus I really liked the criteria for this competition – having the three different aspects of bartending was a real challenge but really exciting. I can’t wait for the final!” Benji Davies, Chivas Masters London (3) heat winner.
The Chivas Masters journey
The Chivas Master heats run throughout March and April, leading up to the final in May.
Follow the journey on thecocktaillovers.com, via Twitter, Instagram and on Facebook.
Chivas Twitter Chivas Instagram
The Chivas Masters UK Final, London, 26 May.
Benji’s winning drinks
The Classic Way
Life after dark
45ml Chivas 12
10ml Lillet blanc
7.5ml pomegranate shrub
5ml mr black coffee liqueur
2 dashes peychauds bitter
Stir over ice and strain into a chilled compete. Garnish with an orange twist.
The Local Way
25ml Chivas 12
25ml strawberry vermouth
25ml centre court syrup (cut grass)
25ml lemon juice
25ml Perrier Jouet
Shake all the ingredients except Perrier Jouet over ice and strain into a coupette glass. Top with the Perrier Jouet.
The Shanghai Way
S 2 S
50ml Chivas 12
10ml sweet & sour cordial
10ml manzanilla dry sherry
Stir over ice and strain into a port glass. Spray with toasted sesame oil and serve with green tea soda on the side.
7 Tales at Sosharu sosharulondon.com/seventales-board/#tales
The Arts Club theartsclub.co.uk
The Clove Club thecloveclub.com
Gong Bar at Shangri-La gong-shangri-la.com
Park Chinois parkchinois.com
Sexy Fish sexyfish.com