The Pre-Mixed Masters 2014 results
The inaugural Pre-Mixed Masters has shown that bartenders have what it takes to bottle their drinks, but that simplicity is key, writes Melita Kiely.
Cocktail culture is continuing to flourish all over the world and with that has come an interest from consumers to recreate the experience with ease in the comfort of their own homes.
As such, the industry has experienced a sudden surge in popularity for ready-to-drink (RTD) offerings, with the trend proving fiercely popular in countries such as Australia and the US. In response, The Spirits Business launched the inaugural Pre-Mixed Masters blind tasting competition.
Joining me on the judging panel at Drake and Morgan’s Refinery was Guillaume Le Dorner, bar manager of 69 Colebrooke Row; Charlie McCarthy, drinks consultant; and Becky Paskin, editor of The Spirits Business and chairman for the afternoon’s tastings. The first category to be presented before the panel was Classic Cocktails, which saw Tails Dutch Bramble win the highest accolade of a Master medal due to its tart, fruity flavour.
“The stand out was the Dutch Bramble for me,” said McCarthy. “It was refreshing and original, managing to retain a citrus edge, which is very difficult to do in an RTD.”
A second Gold medal was also awarded to Tails Ginger Old Fashioned, which delighted the panel with its fresh ginger aroma. “Considering these are cocktails you would buy to drink at home or on the move, they were surprisingly fresh and vibrant,” noted Paskin. “I would be very happy to be served this in a bar.”
Next to pass the judges’ lips were the Contemporary Cocktails, which sadly got off to a shaky start. As the drinks were rolled out the first few disappointed in their lack of complexity and balance. Throughout the day, we endeavoured to follow the serving instructions as closely as possible, but with so many variables such as ice, citrus and serving temperatures affecting the end product it became evident that producers had a problem on their hands.
“The average consumer doesn’t know what the serving suggestions should be,” expressed McCarthy. “The quality of ice in people’s homes is going to be completely different to what you’d find in a bar, which is going to affect the drink. So perhaps it would be better to have a bottled Old Fashioned for instance that doesn’t need ice; you just grab it out the freezer and it’s good to go.”
Nevertheless, as the round developed, a smattering of entries stood out from their competitors. One Master was awarded to Aske Stephenson’s “utterly delicious” The Reverie. A further three Golds were also dished out to Aske Stephenson’s Peanut Butter and Jam Old Fashioned along with the Leather and Walnut Old Fashioned, as well as World of Zing’s Bordeaux Barrel-Aged Negroni.
“The Negroni was one of my absolute favourites of the day,” commented Le Dorner. “The highest scores were given to the ones that had no citrus or juices. It seemed they were easier to bottle than citrus – as soon as you add fruit it’s just not as good.”
However, reflecting on the day’s events drew the panel back to the problem of serving suggestions and alleviating the number of variables dependent on a consumer’s cocktail knowledge, which was especially apparent in the Contemporary Cocktails category. As McCarthy mentioned: “The standard in Contemporary was quite high but the impression I was left with was that, in terms of quality control, to make it easier for a consumer it would be better to have a bottle they simply put in the freezer and then pour into a glass.
“Don’t put the onus on someone who is not a bartender to make something you’ve put so much love into, to make something as good as you can.”
It seems the key to the future success of the pre-batched cocktail category will come down to the mere matter of simplicity.
Click through to the next page to see the results of The Speciality Spirits Masters 2014.
|Tails Ltd.||Tails Dutch Bramble||Master|
|Tails Ltd.||Tails Ginger Old Fashioned||Gold|
|Aske Stephenson||The Reverie||Master|
|Aske Stephenson||Peanut Butter and Jam Old Fashioned||Gold|
|Aske Stephenson||Leather & Walnut Old Fashioned||Gold|
|Aske Stephenson||Bordeaux Barrel-Aged Negroni||Gold|