Cocktail, Competitions, Sydney

Drinking with Gentlemen

Diageo’s World Class program seems to be going from strength to strength this year, and I’m not just saying that because I keep getting asked to judge the NSW rounds‡. The contest asks bartenders from across the country, or at least the Eastern seaboard, to create a excellent cocktail featuring a spirit from Diageo’s Reserve range. Points are attributed for recipe and efforts in marketing the drink, both in venue and on the slightly more new fangled social medias. 10 are then chosen to take part in state finals, where bartenders are judged by the other nine to decide a top three who will face the esteemed panel of judges.

It should also be noted that points in World Class are not only awarded for the quality of the drink, the innovation of the recipe and skill of its production. The Reserve range are all tasty products alone in a glass, as such the contest rewards those who feature and improve the natural state of the spirits. A great way to think about making any drink, in my opinion, at least.

The final round of this years comp was the gentleman’s round, where contestants were asked to feature either the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, the Ron Zacapa Solera 23 or the slightly shorter named Talisker 10. The event itself was held at Tokonoma, to coincide with the launch of their own Diageo Reserve cocktail list, of which I stole a copy and will expound on in greater detail in another post.

The three who made it through to the final round were all gentlemen; Tim Philips from the bar no one can go to, Luke Reddington for the bar that always wins and Luke Ashton from a bar upstairs from another bar. It should not however be construed that only a Gentleman could win, as evidenced by the success of Krystal Hart from Canvas in the QLD round (more on that from Simon McGoram, over here)

The drinks they made were epic. Luke Ashton channeled a snake oil salesman with gentrified, clarified, with not all ingredients specified elixir, served up in custom printed vials too boot. Luke Reddington used the most exquisite collection of equipment to make his drink, and gave me my first ever quail’s egg flip. Tim Philips also bought quail’s egg to the party and promptly covered his shirt and much of the Tokonoma Bar with his emulsion in perhaps the most incredibly epic fail I have ever witnessed behind a bar, contest situation or no. To his enduring credit, he rallied. Cracking three more quail eggs, and whipping out his Autumnal flip again with a suitably epic poem, producing the winning drink and earning a place in the national final next month. 

Pictures and recipes below. 
Royal Autumnal Flip from Tim Phil(l)ips from Level 6 at the Ivy

Ingredients & Quantities: .5 Fresh Fig (or Tbsp Homemade Fig conserve if unavailable,) 10ml Lemon Juice, 40ml Talisker 10, 30ml Zacapa Honey Liq. (Homemade,) 1 Whole fresh quails egg

Method, Glassware & Garnish: Add all ingredients, dry shake, then shake. Serve up and garnish with atomizer sprays of ‘Zacapa Cinna-man Eau de parfum’

The Foppish flip from Luke Reddington at Eau de Vie

Ingredients & Quantities: 40ml Johnnie walker gold, 20ml Lairds bonded apple jack, Half a barspoon of branca menta, 15ml of maple & champagne reduction1 whole quail’s egg

Method, Glassware & Garnish: Add all ingredients with ice and shake. Strain into a refined gentlemans glass and garnish with a dusting of nutmeg & a spot of fanfare
Ashtons Elixir No. 23 from Luke Ashton at The Duke

Ingredients & Quantities : 45ml Ron Zacapa 23, 10ml Amaro Ramazotti, 4 dashes homemade ‘Muddy Moonshine Stomach Bitters’

Method, Glassware & Garnish: Combine all ingredients in chilled mixing glass and chill and dilute with large ice cube. Orange twist into the glass (dropping orange twist into glass) Strain drink into frozen miniature labeled bottles, No garnish

‡Just kidding, i love the fact I get to judge cocktail contests. Can’t wait for nationals….


World Class Sangrita Finals coming to Sydney

They’ve already been held in Brisbane an Melbourne, and on the 18th they’ll be coming to Sydney. Diageo’s World Class comp to find the best Sangrita ritual is uncovering some great looking drinks.

Sangrita is a traditional accompaniment to tequila in Mexico. It’s flavour is meant to tease more of the taste profile from the spirit, and probably assuage the drunkenness that pounding tequila straight for hours on end must inevitably deliver.

I’ll write more about the tradition later this week, but Monday 18th October at the Lincoln in the Cross, from 7, come down and cheer. I’ll be judging and trying to look as though I know what I’m doing.



Don Julio 1942

Possibly my favourite spirit in the world right now, Don Julio 1942 is a commemorative release for the brands founder, Don Julio González-Frausto Estrada.

Don Julio started making tequila at the tender age of 17, during 1942, hence the name of this variety. It is an Añejo tequila that has been aged for two and a half years after being twice distilled. It is finished in a pot still, which gives it a few unique and subtle characters, especially a vanilla note.

This is incredibly smooth tequila, designed to be sipped. It’s also mind-blowingly good in a Tommy’s Margarita.

I think the bottle is beautiful, but the plastic screw cap under that ball of wood does feel a little down-market for a couple a hundy bottle.

Web Cellars look to have the cheapest offer I can find, at $170 for a bottle or just shy of a bag of sand for a case. It’s products like this that make me wish I could buy wholesale…

It is only surpassed in the range by Don Julio Real, which undergoes the same distillation but is Extra Añejo, aged 3-5 years in American Oak. They also handpick estate grown agave for the Real, a claim that is not made for the 1942.

I can’t wait to try the Diageo Sangrita Ritual drinks tonight. I hope that someone makes it through with one matched with 1942…

NOM 1449

Competitions, Event

I went out the other night and it was World Class.

World Class has wrapped in Australia, as I mentioned in my last post, with Adam Brewer taking the ticket to fly to Greece and perform in the finals.

This competition takes the Diageo Reserve portfolio and tasks the contestants in making drinks that feature the products flavours and provenance. The cocktails produced are the things my dreams are made of, tasty expositions that extend the flavour profiles, challenge the palate and most definitely balanced but booze forward.

The portfolio itself features many stars; Tanqueray 10, Ron Zacapa, Pampero, Don Julio 1942, Cuervo’s new Reserva de Familia, Johnnie Walker Blue, Talisker, Lagavulin, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore.

The awards ceremony at a private house last night was magic. Food matches, fine drinks, and blazers on the terrace to finish.

Truly World Class.

Competitions, Event

World Class Results

Adam Brewer of Brisbane’s Sling Lounge is going to Greece, after pipping last year’s winner Adi Ruiz of The Black Pearl to take the honours at last night’s Diageo World Class finals.

Click on the link above, if you’ve got a spare twenty minutes, and read through the epic 67 page cocktail list, it contains 266 cocktails, plenty of mistakes and a host of contradictions. I’d heard Brisbane needs education on the cocktail scene, but this seems a little ridiculous.

I’ll write more on the event last night once I’ve got some images to go with it.

Cocktail, Competitions, Sydney

The Whale

Pierre Fajloun is old beyond his years. The 24 year old isn’t showing premature signs of aging, his boyish smile and complexion are very much a product of his youth.

Where his age becomes apparent is in the way he mixes drinks. I went and visited him to try the cocktail that won him the Australian leg of  the Ketel One section of Diageo’s World Class series.

While I was in New Zealand at Cocktail World Cup, Vernon Chalker of the Gin Palace gave a talk about the martini. His rules were Two ingredients, three at the most, with a garnish that adds to the drink. This, then, is very much a martini.

The Whale is named for the large windmill that sits atop the Ketel One Distillery in Holland, and Pierre’s choice of glassware echoes its size perfectly. I didn’t ask Pierre for the measures, but hopefully my memory serves me well enough and you can have a crack at this at home.

The Whale.

50mls Ketel One, 10mls Lillet Blanc, 1 dash Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters. Stir over ice and pour into a licorice rimmed glass.

The licorice rim is made by combining fresh ground Fennel and Star Anise with Demerara Sugar. Pierre used lime juice to increase the adhesion on the rim.

Pierre has matched the aniseed note in the drink to make an intoxicating vodka martini. The two ingredients with the aromatising bitters are teased further by the garnish and the crunch of sweet demerara sugar as you lick your numbed lips clean is truly delightful. If all vodka martinis tasted like this one, I’d see the point in drinking them.

Definitely a drink worth tracking down…

The full press release is after the jump.

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Smirnoff Black

I wrote a while back on the Smirnoff Black event I attended and the efforts that felt a bit like a brand relaunch of the Black bottle here in the Australian market. I didn’t mention much about the product itself so I thought I’d dive in a little deeper and let you know my thoughts.

I remember my first taste of the Black being around the James Bond film, I think I even remember the Martini Briefcase that was rolled out to support the brand and the movies launch.

Smirnoff have saved a bit of money on the bottle, bring costs down so the product can compete more squarely against the others in the mass premium category (namely 42Below and Absolut). Produced in the UK at the Diageo distillery that also knocks out my favourite gin, Tanqueray.

This is not tasteless, odorless spirit. The use of a pot still imparts a sweetness and depth that sets it apart from the others in its class. (42 probably wins on the traditional notions I have for vodka, but this is a vodka that has got me excited in mixing to accentuate the boozy flavour, not its additives or infusions.)

Try it over ice with a dash of orange bitters, or maybe with a teaspoon of orange liqueur for something approximating a vodka Old Fashioned. Garnish with a thick orange peel.


Arrrrrgh, Rum Pirates.

Wharrrr, there’s trouble brewing down the Spanish Main.

Her Majesty’s Privateers, Diageo, today released a 13 page document detailing the dogged dealings of the Miami-Cuban Pirate conglomerate, Bacardi. Apparently, the Puerto Rican rummies have been trying to scupper Diageo’s moves to take Captain Morgan from the aforementioned quasi-state to the calm and defensible tax haven of St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Forty-fourth American President, Barack Obama has dispatched treasure ships to ensure that production of intoxicating liquors is not diminished, despite stormy conditions in the Economi Americas. By pushing the Privateers out of U.S. Sovereign territory, bot Bacardi and the Protectorate of Puerto Rico stand to reap ‘huge government subsidies’.

Bacardi is described as being ‘in league’ with the Governor of Puerto Rico and there are rumours about night moves regarding his daughter. Paul ‘Speake No Evil’ Rodriguez, a spokesman for San Juan-based Bacardi, had no comment to make on the matter.

I suppose that just in case there are any lawyers reading this, I had better include the original wire release for balance as well. I like mine better though, everything goes better with a few more pirates.


by. Ryan J. Donmoyer

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) — Diageo Plc, the world’s biggest liquor distiller, accused rival Bacardi Corp. of “working behind the scenes” to sabotage tax incentives Diageo would receive for moving production of Captain Morgan rum to the U.S. Virgin Islands from Puerto Rico.

London-based Diageo, in a 13-page press release, said Bacardi is lobbying to kill Diageo’s deal to move production of the rum to St. Croix. If the agreement collapsed and Diageo were forced to move outside the U.S., Bacardi and Puerto Rico would stand to reap “huge government subsidies” under a federal tax program, Diageo said.

Bacardi, “which received tens of millions of dollars a year in annual government rum subsidies, has made a calculated decision to try to drive a competitor out of the United States even though it would be a disaster for the U.S. citizens of the Virgin Islands,” Guy Smith, executive vice president of Diageo North America, said in the release.

Diageo stands to receive as much as $2.7 billion in direct and indirect U.S. tax incentives by producing Captain Morgan rum on St. Croix under an agreement with the U.S. Virgin Islands government. The tax incentives were approved last year as part of a broader rescue of the financial system. The provision expired Dec. 31 and the U.S. Senate may consider extending it this week.

Paul Rodriguez, a spokesman for San Juan-based Bacardi, which has the world’s best-selling rum brand according to Euromonitor International Plc, which tracks such information, said he didn’t immediately have a comment.


Back to the Club

Well, its taken me a full week to get around to it, but I thought I’d quickly run through what went down at Rum Club last monday.

It was the Ron Zacapa tasting, and the team from Diageo’s Reserve brands did a great job, (although, when you pour Zacapa over ice, there is very little else you have to do really) We tasted the 23yr old and the XO. Before the tasting a little lesson on where the rum is made and what makes it special, with a freshly charred barrel stave and some botanical samples passed around, activating the nose before the tasting certainly improved the flavor of the spirits. I have a draft of a post on the XO going so I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice to say it was a truly fine experience.

There were a few new faces there. James Hudson, of the Rum Diaries and Curtis York from Quittin’ Time. Curtis imports a stack of rums from around the world. Brinley (St.Kitts), El Dorado (Demerara), LA Mauny (Martinique) and Riviere Du Mat (Madagascar) to name them. Prices go up quite high, but you’re getting top quality for your dollars.