Take eight up and coming young bartenders, put them behind the bar at the smart new Monin Studio in Hoxton, give them a choice of over 100 premium syrups, then challenge them to define the UK in a cocktail. Welcome to the UK Monin Cup 2014.
“What would the United Kingdom be if it were a cocktail?” That’s the question that was posed to young bartenders in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in recent months. Having created their answers in a glass in
regional heats, eight finalists descended on the Monin Studio to recreate their definitions. At their disposal was pretty much the entire Monin range of Premium Syrups. And when we say ‘range’ we’re talking upwards of 100 flavours. With them all on display at the Monin Studio we’ve never seen a back bar like it.
Syrups may add a touch of sweetness to cocktails but in the case of Monin they also add a whole lot more in the flavour department. Yes, there are the staples like Gomme, Orgeat, Raspberry, Vanilla and Grenadine. But how about Kiwi, Morello Cherry, Lemongrass or Red Sangria? Not to mention Tarragon, Rosemary, Mango Spice,
Chocolate Cookie and Tiramisu. We could go on but you get the idea. We’re talking choice on a major scale.
Alongside the seemingly endless choice of syrups the bartenders had a fairly free reign, choosing from any base spirit, juice or homemade ingredient. The key thing though was that the finished drink showcased the syrups whilst being well balanced and not overly sweet. The judges would also be looking for originality in the drink, brand knowledge and an engaging performance. Oh, and just for good measure our bartenders also had to identify ten Monin syrups in a blind tasting. No one said it should be easy, but then the prize is a trip to the home of Monin in France and a place at the Global Final.
One of the aims of the Monin Cup is to encourage emerging talent in the drinks world, so all entrants have to be under 27 years. Having come through regional heats there were eight young hopefuls on the big day.
Conor Brennan Love & Death Inc, Belfast
Benjamin Campbell Alchemist, Manchester
Alastair Fraser London Cocktail Club, London
Kieran Grieves Whisky River Cocktail Bar, Leeds
Joe Macbeth The Lacehouse, Nottingham
Jake Mellish Boilermaker, Nottingham
Dai Wakely Fancy a Rum? Cardiff
Joe Wild Jenny’s, Liverpool
The tough job of tasting and assessing went to William Humphery, Event Manager at The Bartender Hire Company and Monin Cup UK winner 2012; Darril Ling, Monin UK Brand Manager and us.
So, what would the UK be if it were a cocktail?
Over two hours or so we got a lot of answers to the UK question. And trust us, they were far more interesting and tasty ones than those offered by current politicians.
British nostalgia came in the form of the Royal Flippin’ Mess courtesy of Joe Macbeth. His drink was a delicious
pudding in a glass thanks to Macaroon and Praline syrups backed up by Plymouth gin, blackberry and lemon juice, and rhubarb bitters. There was another dessert style drink from Benjamin Campell who combined Vanilla,
Grenadine, Citron and Vanilla syrups with Aperol, Zubrówka vodka and apple juice for his Rhubarb and Custard.
Britishness was taken to the max by Alastair Fraser. He slipped into a Geri Halliwell style Union Jack mini dress (something we won’t forget in a hurry try as we may) before mixing up his Coston’s Spiced Cocktail featuring
Lavender and Hibiscus syrups along with Ban Poitin and strawberry-infused Hendrick’s gin. At the heart of Conor Brennan’s drink was the classic British teabag, but we’re not talking fancy or builder’s. This little bag was
homemade, containing pomegranate and ginger, and designed to complement the Ocho tequila base and gomme and pomegranate syrups by being dipped into the cocktail to the drinker’s taste.
Joe Wild had a very personal view on what makes the UK unique. Cleverley combining and representing different cultures through his choice of four of the more unusual syrups available: Caribbean Rum syrup for the West Indies, Spicy Mango for India, Lemongrass to represent China and Rose to express England. He also made a point of using an English vodka as the base spirit, but chose not to reveal which brand, preferring to keep the focus on the Monin syrups. The result was an exceptionally well balanced drink, All For One & One For All.
Beer, that staple of UK drinking featured in Jake Mellish’s Beer And Monin in Gin City. Served in a half-pint tankard and combining the beer with lemongrass syrup as well as Portobello gin, apple juice, grapefruit juice and malt
extract, made for a full flavoured drink which would be equally at home in your favourite cocktail bar or local pub. Kieran Grieves evoked countryside aromas and flavours with Basil and Grapefruit syrups, fresh thyme and Beefeater 24 in his Escape To The Countryside. And for Dai Wakely it was all about his Welsh home with Hazlenut and Cinnamon syrups complementing the Penderyn whisky and the accompanying Welsh cakes for his Of Heaven.
Frankly this was no easy decision and things were very close amongst the top spots.
The judges liked the inspiration, serve and sheer tastiness of Beer and Monin in Gin City from Jake Mellish from the Boilermaker in Nottingham. He also impressed with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the Monin brand – enough to secure third place. Nottingham also grabbed the second position care of the Lacemaker’s Joe Macbeth for his exceptionally delicious Royal Flippin’ Mess.
All For One & One For All though was the drink of the day. The judges loved this cocktail from Joe Wild, from Jenny’s in Liverpool and were taken by the creativity of the idea, the balance of the ingredients, in particular the four
featured syrups, and for the resulting drink itself.
James Coston, Monin UK Brand Ambassador, summed it up: “It was another great year travelling the UK finding the best young bartending talent with all eight competitors producing great cocktails at the final. It was fantastic to see the passion and dedication everyone put into their presentations. Huge congratulations to Joe Wild who delivered a confident and professional performance, producing a cocktail that showed a unique interpretation of a modern United Kingdom. I’m confident he will be the one to watch at the international final in Paris.”
Judge and former winner William Humphery agreed. ‘Having competed in the UK Monin Cup in 2012 it was
fantastic to see such a wide variety of drinks, with some unusual flavours employed to great effect. Joe executed an unusual drink matched with an eloquent presentation. I’m sure he’ll do the United Kingdom proud at the Global
As for us, Joe was quite simply the complete package from idea to execution. Bring on France to show what the UK is all about.
All For One & One For All
5ml Monin Caribbean rum syrup
5ml Monin Lemongrass syrup
5ml Monin Rose syrup
5ml Monin Spicy Mango syrup
15ml egg white
25ml lemon juice
Prosecco to finish
Shake ingredients and serve straight up in a Coupette topped with Prosecco and garnished with a rose bud.
Royal Flippin’ Mess
10ml Monin Praline syrup
20ml Monin Macaroon syrup
25ml homemade blackberry and lemon Juice
62.5ml Plymouth gin
1 whole egg
3 dashes rhubarb bitters
Shake and strain ingredients with ice and fine strain into a small knickerbocker glass with two retro, spiral-pattern, coloured paper straws. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, mini meringue, blackberry and a rhubarb and custard sweet.
Beer and Monin in Gin City
25ml Monin Lemongrass syrup
60ml Portobello Road gin
100ml cloudy apple juice
35ml pink grapefruit juice
20ml lemon juice
15ml dilute malt extract*
*prepared to a 1:1 malt extract to water ratio
Shake and double strain into a chilled 1/2 pint tankard. Garnish with lemon zest over top of drink.
“Winning the Monin Cup felt awesome, especially as the competition was of such a high standard. I enjoyed seeing my colleagues’ expression of the UK as a cocktail and the different ways in which we all expressed the flavours.” Joe Wild
Watch highlights of the UK Monin Cup Final 2014
The Monin Cup Global Final takes place in Paris, 1st December.