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The Cocktail & Signature Serve Masters 2021 results

Our inaugural cocktail competition put spirits brands’ signature serves to the test – and showed great potential for making bar-quality drinks at home.

The Cocktail & Signature Serve Masters
Our first cocktail competition showcased brands’ signature serves

For many spirits producers, having a signature serve allows them to engage with bartenders and consumers, while highlighting the base product’s flavours.

It has become increasingly important for brands to interact with consumers as they spend more time at home mixing their favourite spirits in cocktails. Providing recipes for recommended serves that are easy to follow has become key to a brand’s marketing.

It can also provide an easy incentive for shoppers to pick a particular spirit brand off the supermarket shelf.

With many brands offering signature serves and cocktails on their websites and social media pages, we sought to discover which recipes should be awarded for their high quality and well‐thought‐out methods in our new blind tasting last month. The inaugural Cocktail & Signature Masters competition was held at the Novotel London Bridge hotel, with all the necessary spirits and cocktail ingredients for each serve delivered and packed by Sensible.

Chaired by Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, the first panel included: Matt Chambers, spirits writer and founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog and North London Whisky Club; and Evan Prousaefs, bar manager and assistant general manager of Los Mochis restaurant in London’s Notting Hill.

The second panel was chaired by David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co‐founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, and comprised: Bernadette Pamplin, freelance spirits writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog; Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Business; and Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks.

The judges of our cocktail competition
The judges, l‐r: Melita Kiely, Matt Chambers, Bernadette Pamplin, Evan Prousaefs, Dimple Athavia, Kristo Muca (bartender), Nicola Carruthers and David T Smith

Signature serves and cocktails were expertly mixed on‐site by Kristo Muca, head bartender at Los Mochis, using the entrant’s recipe and presented to judges in spirit‐focused flights. Entrants had the opportunity to provide specific ingredients where necessary. Judges were not told what brand was used as the base spirit but were able to request the ingredients list of each serve.

The competition assessed entries based on their appearance, nose, palate and balance, and considered how easy and accessible the drinks were to make in terms of their recipes and methods.

The first flight of the competition tackled cocktails made using Vodka as the base. The successful flight produced the first two Master medals of the competition: Emperor Cucumber & Mint Gimlet and Pur Sang Select Recipe No.7. Judges praised the Gimlet cocktail, which was said to be “well integrated, quaffable and refreshing”. Athavia praised its “good balance” and said it would work served over ice in a pitcher.

Pur Sang Select Recipe No.7 impressed Pamplin with its “rich nose, good balance of chocolate and coffee with a hint of vanilla. It had a good balance of vodka, creamy smooth – quite sessionable”. It was also applauded for tasting exactly like a classic Espresso Martini.

Five Golds were also awarded in this flight, including four for Pur Sang Vodka and one for Emperor Beige Russian. The latter serve combined Emperor Chocolate Vodka, Kahlúa coffee liqueur, milk and vanilla syrup, and was described as “creamy and indulgent”. Smith said it offered “dusky chocolate, and a good texture, with notes of toffee, cocoa powder and milk powder with white chocolate. Maybe just a tad sweet – it needs a better coffee liqueur.”

Gold medallist Pur Sang Standard Recipe No.4 was lauded by Prousaefs for its “zesty aroma and pronounced raspberry acidity”. Pur Sang Vodka also grabbed five Silver medals in the flight.

Delicious and vibrant

Moving onto Gin, and three Master medals were discovered. The first was given to Pickler’s Prescription, which combined Stranger and Sons Gin with pickled apricot brine and dry vermouth. Chambers called the expression “delicious and vibrant on the nose, with vermouth and apricot, and herbal aromas”.

Winterful Mulled & Hot, a warm serve made with Martin Miller’s Winterful Gin, won a Master. The drink was lauded for its “lovely balance of sweet and spice” along with hints of cinnamon and orange. Smith praised its “rich flavours and balanced sweetness”.

The third Master of the flight went to No.3 London Dry Gin & Tonic for being “creamy and delicious” with an aroma of rosemary and spices. Smith said: “The grapefruit and rosemary are a nice combination. It was visually very appealing too.”

The flight concluded with three Golds, including one for The Irish Clover, mixed with Clover Gin and ginger beer with a Guinness stout float. A Gold was given to a second Martin Miller’s creation, Bees Knees, for being “juniper forward and having a great balance with hints of honey and citrus at the end”, according to Prousaefs.

A single Rum entry saw a Gold medal go to Moore House Cocktail Company’s Daiquiri. The serve had a “lovely aroma with some hints of elderflower”.

The Tequila/Mezcal flight awarded a Silver medal to Mezcal Mirror Margarita from London bar Hacha and made with The Lost Explorer Mezcal. It was said to be “very smoky with some citrus”.

Wine-like aromas

Next up, a single Whisk(e)y entry was assessed, with Scotch producer Douglas Laing & Co securing a Gold medal for Scallywag Boulevardier Cask Aged Cocktail. Chambers said of the serve: “The nose is full of orange and wine‐like aromas, with hints of bitterness. It’s soft and velvety, and the developing herbal bitterness combines well with the citrus.” Kiely enjoyed the product’s “malty and fruity aroma”.

The penultimate flight of the day – Liqueurs – delivered a Gold to Villa Massa & Tonica, and a Silver to Carajillo 43, a classic Spanish cocktail popular in Mexico. Kiely said of the Villa Massa serve: “There’s lovely sweet lemon on the palate, with some nice carbonation from the tonic.” Of the Silver medallist, Chambers noted it had a “creamy quality” with an aroma of “almonds, chocolate and coffee” however, the recipe was deemed as having a “very complex and complicated set of ingredients”.

The final round of the competition was Low & No, a burgeoning space for creative serves as bars dedicate more menu space to them and consumer seek out lighter drinks.

The flight saw a Gold go to Peruvian Sour, made with alcohol‐free ‘gin’ Bôtan Citrus Spice, and praised for its aroma of “black tea with a nice balance of sweet and sour”.

As with all our competitions in The Global Spirits Masters series, it was time to reassess the Master medallists to pick the recipe worthy of the title of Taste Master.

Walking away with the top accolade was Emperor Cucumber & Mint Gimlet, made with Emperor Mojito Vodka. Judges enjoyed the product’s vibrancy and freshness, as well as its cucumber note, which added a “nice weight to the drink”.

Chambers said of the overall competition: “There are obviously a number of brands trying to be very clever, but that creates confusion in the final drink, with mixed results. Generally, the simpler mixes make it easier, with accessible ingredients that consumers are likely to have at home, and therefore people are more likely to feel less intimidated, rather than a serve with a weird syrup or ingredients that would take time to make or to find.”


Company Brand and cocktail Medal
Horizons Group London Emperor Mojito Vodka –
Emperor Cucumber & Mint Gimlet
Master & Taste Master
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Select Recipe No.7 Master
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Standard No.1 Gold
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Standard No.3 Gold
Horizons Group London Emperor Chocolate Vodka – Emperor Beige Russian Gold
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Standard Recipe No.4 Gold
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Standard Recipe No.5 Gold
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Select No.8 Silver
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Standard No.2 Silver
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Select Recipe No.9 Silver
Pur Sang Vodka Pur Sang Vodka – Pur Sang Standard Recipe No.6 Silver
Horizons Group London Emperor Watermelon Vodka –
Johny’s ‘Margarita’


Company Brand and cocktail Medal
Third Eye Distillery Stranger and Sons Gin – Pickler’s Prescription Master
Martin Miller’s Gin Martin Miller’s Gin – Winterful Mulled & Hot Master
Berry Bros & Rudd No.3 London Dry Gin – No.3 London Dry Gin & Tonic Master
Martin Miller’s Gin Martin Miller’s Gin – Bees Knees Gold
Hepple Spirits Company Hepple Gin – Martini Gold
House of Clover Clover Gin – The Irish Clover Gold


Company Brand and cocktail Medal
Moore House Cocktail Company Havana Club Añejo 3 Years Old – Daiquiri Gold


Company Brand and cocktail Medal
Hacha Bar The Lost Explorer Mezcal – Mezcal Mirror Margarita Silver


Company Brand and cocktail Medal
Douglas Laing & Co Scallywag Whisky – Scallywag Boulevardier
Cask Aged Cocktail


Company Brand and cocktail Medal
Villa Massa Villa Massa – Villa Massa & Tonica Gold
Licor 43 Licor 43 – Carajillo 43 Silver

Low & No

Company Brand and cocktail Medal
Bôtan Distillery Bôtan Citrus Spice – Peruvian Sour Gold

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