Wenneker Swizzle Masters Japanese Whisky Highball results

4th August, 2016 by Nicola Carruthers

Last month’s Wenneker Swizzle Masters heat challenged bartenders from around the world to put their own mark on the classic Japanese Whisky Highball.

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NT’s bartender Alex Dos Santos

In high summer, the sparkling freshness of a Highball adds an extra special touch to the holidays. A tried and tested mix of whisky, sparkling water and plenty of ice, it’s no surprise the classic has become a sunny day staple. For Round Seven of The Wenneker Swizzle Masters, bartenders were tasked with using Japanese brand Nikka From The Barrel to recreate the serve with a signature twist.

The Japanese Highball first became a popular way to enjoy whisky in Japan in the 1950s, thanks largely to Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii and his chain of ‘Torys bars’. The cocktail made a comeback in 2009, when Suntory released a TV commercial featuring Japanese actress Koyuki and even launched canned ready-to-drink versions of the serve in Japanese convenience stores.

Ready to inspect the calibre of our Swizzlers’ Highballs, judges gathered at east London haunt NT’s, where bartender Alex Dos Santos crafted the top selected recipes to exacting specifications.

Ciaran Duffy, general manager at The Sun Tavern; Stuart Binks, owner of The Victory Mansion; Martine Chantiam, head of accounting at Background Bars; James Leggett, operations manager at Background Bars; and Kristiane Sherry, editor of The Spirits Business, were charged with tasting the recipes.

“While the standard of the drinks throughout the competition was consistent, the winner was a clear stand out for me,” said Binks. “The entries largely met the brief, but I would say that more specific detail should be offered with the methodology on making the drinks, as some entries were quite vague.”

Deemed “very fresh and appealing”, with the “Champagne adding a invigorating spritz”, the “classy and strong” winner was Charlie Nash’s Sideball, created by combining Nikka From The Barrel with Wenneker Triple Sec, grapefruit juice and Champagne.

“Beautiful. It’s like summer in a glass! Gorgeous, with a lovely texture and mouthfeel – it feels so luxurious,” said Sherry.

Duffy added: “This fits the ‘Highball’ profile but takes it further. I love the variation on a Sidecar and it does have the familiarity.”

Bartender Alex Dos Santos garnishes a cocktail

Bartender Alex Dos Santos garnishes a cocktail

Second place was awarded to Kriss Kovy’s Lost Pagoda Highball,an adaptation on a Sidecar that had “sweet and lemony” flavours which were “long-lasting on the palate”.

“This looks like a whisky Highball,” said Duffy. “I was concerned about the amount of ingredients and the method, but after a sip, this all changed. It’s sweet at the beginning, then the tonic dries it up nicely and the Nikka is present.”

Third place was presented to Karaoke Highball by Trinh Quan Huy-Philip, deemed “the most creative drink of the round”, consisting of Nikka From The Barrel combined with Wenneker Apricot, lime juice, vanilla syrup, a dash of Bob’s Orange and Mandarin Bitters and topped with matcha soda.

“The cocktail looked great with a nice colour and garnish,” mused Duffy. “The tea adds a nice tannin to the palate, the whisky is there but it’s not obvious. It may be a little too diluted, but it is refreshing when you go back for another sip.”

Leggett added: “The presentation is lovely and there’s a great dryness from the tea, but it perhaps needs a little more depth.”

Summing up, “it was an interesting round with a diverse range of concoctions,” considered Duffy. “It is no easy task to present a twist on a drink that is revered for its simplicity. It was important that the Nikka didn’t get over-shadowed but instead was complemented by the additional ingredients.”

Sherry added: “It was generally a strong round dominated by refreshing, easy-to-sip serves. The most successful entrants were the ones that let the spirit really shine through – and the winning cocktail Sideball was just stunning. It is a hot day today and the serve is irresistible.”

Nash’s recipe will now go through to the semi-final in October, when all nine winning drinks from throughout the year will be recreated once more and judged against each other. Five drinks will then be chosen to go through to the grand final in November. The bartender behind the winning recipe will be crowned Wenneker Swizzle Master 2016 and scoop £1,000.

The next Wenneker Swizzle Masters round is Art Deco Cognac. Look back to the ‘roaring twenties’ and create an elegant, classy and aesthetically pleasing cocktail using Courvoisier VSOP Cognac as the base spirit. Bartenders have until 18 August to submit their recipes online at www.swizzlemasters.com.

Click through to the next page to discover how to recreate the winning recipes from the latest round.

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