Monday, September 9, 2013

Getting Beef - Beefeater 24 Global Bartender Competion Sydney

Writing for the D.T.W.C. whisky blog sometimes gives opportunities to explore the greater world of spirits in general. Being a big GT (Gin and Tonic) fan for as long as I can remember drinking spirits, I was not going to say no when asked to attend the Beefeater 24 Global Bar Tender Competition Sydney Finals held at the swanky new The Barber Shop small bar. Neither had I had Beefeater 24 before nor had I visited The Barber Shop so looking forward to it I was. As opportunity granted more than one in attendance The Dog and The Proxy joined me for a fun filled night food, cocktails and even more cocktails.

So where to start... There is 3 prime things to note in this article. Firstly is Beefeater 24, secondly is the competition itself, and thirdly is location at The Barber Shop. Excuse me if I jump all over the place here because of course it is all intertwined.

Starting off it is good to get to know what Beefeater 24 is. I think you all at some stage have come to encounter the traditional Beefeater London Dry Gin. You know, its got the Yeomen Warder strutting along in the Tower of London getup? Go on, remember the one your grand parents probably kept on the shelf? Of course you do. Currently under the wing of global corporate Pernod Ricard, Beefeater has seen a modern revival of sorts with the introduction of Beefeater 24, launched in 2009. The term Beefeater 24 relates to the time in hours in which its unique combination of botanicals are steeped together before being distilled through pot stills (much like what is used for whisky). Though Beefeater 24 is not so different from the traditional Beefeater Dry being a 100% grain spirit with all the same botanicals, it has the additional Chinese Green tea and Japanese Sencha added to the mix to give it those nouveau sensibilities: new but borrowed, traditional but modern.

Some of the Beefeater 24 finalists in action
The Beefeater 24 Global Bartender Competition of course is in place for brand awareness but is also the celebration of the product Beefeater 24, the traditions of bar tending, and the refined skills of mixology. Skills all to often overlooked at the bar when your focus is just on the next drink. So this event saw the twelve finalists pitted against each other in a nail bitting affair. One after the other the finalists had a matter of minutes describe what they are doing while showing their bar tending skills. A 2 step phase saw the competitor create a classic cocktail using of course what else but the traditional Beefeater London Dry Gin. Then within the same timeframe, they also needed to transform and revitalise the traditional cocktail concept using a base of Beefeater 24 (very nouveau indeed), before presenting both to the judges for scoring. Some really amazing displays of skills, shaking, banter and creativity was apparent and a big clap to all involved for their involvement.

More competitors in actions
Never having been to one of these events before and arriving marginally late we entered The Barber Shop to a quietly packed room of guests, photographers, bloggers, writers, judges, production crews, flood lights, contestants. There under the lights and watchful focus was of course one of the contestants doing his thing for crowd and judges alike. Crooning at the mike was Ben Davidson, Spirits Ambassador to Pernod Ricard. Calling the shots and the occasional heckle to keep the spirits high Ben appeared to be born with a mike in his hand. No seriously it felt like a high rollers billiards comp with the crowd a hush, silence only broken with baritone interjections of emphatically, sentimental, and emotional calls as the cocktails were smashed, mashed, twisted, and shaken before hitting the bars edge. Nice work Ben, whens the album coming out?

So onto the The Barber Shop before we all fall asleep. This is not a bar review so I will ask you to be visiting our good friends at Gourmantic for a full breakdown of the bar, and yes there is a barbershop in front for a quick shave and drink.

Presentation and quality of food exceptional
In short though nice digs! Open airy but with a sense of sentimental nostalgia of a bygone era, but with that modern industrialised twist. Making the style their own this is one of the better bars to have pulled off the small bar interior trends. The high ceilings give the air that much needed movement in a packed environment. Every spirit A bar tender needs is in reach, including a gin tap. Yeah man, a GIN TAP! For a while I was thinking… is that water, ahhh no it's gin and it is awesome. I could not go by checking out the whisky shelves and note there is no top shelf because it is all top shelf stuff. Food… EXTRAORDINARY! No really outstanding in every way with the attention to quality it was like eating from buddha's hand. On call all evening staff served a delicious array snacks to die for. The line up included Cornichons (mini pickled cucumbers), house marinated mixed olives of all persuasions, a cheese board of Stilton, Brie (I think) and Manchego, mixed cold cuts of smokey Chorizo, Jamón Serrano (dry cured spanish ham) and a Wagyu Bresaola (air dried beef), all served with hand cut crusty baguettes. It was like a oral spanking!

Now let us not forget the cocktails being dished up through the evening. I love a good GT and these were great GTs. Beefeater 24 and Tonic, Green Tea and Grapefruit Collins as well as a Beefeater 24 Martini all saw ample bar to mouth traffic. Special praise to the Martini man, simply smashing and probably the best one I have ever had. Not to out do The Proxy in his appraisal check out what he had to say about it.

Jason Williams accepting his award
A mention should be given to competitors of course. Effectively the finalists were established initially by uploading their entry in the form of 2 cocktails via the global Beefeater website, and from the Australian entries, 12 finalist were selected to compete. It was good to see male and female competitors grace the bar but as the Highlander said "There can be only one". The winner on the night was Jason Williams. Last of the line up he took home the prize and will be flying off to London to take part in the global finalists challenge as part of a 24 country/competitor salute for Beefeater 24. Of course only the judges could sample the cocktails but all competitors put up a good challenge and I dare say it was exceptionally close all round. The crowd roared and the competitors cheered as Jason claimed his prize and it was great to see so many happy faces in one place.

Outstanding event all round and a swell time was had. Thanks to Beefeater 24, Cavcon, and Penrod Ricard for the invite. We will come again you can count on it.

The Baron

D.T.W.C. was invited as a guest this event. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated.