The team at Buffalo Trace came around to Manchester once again to host their annual cocktail competition, but armed with a twist that saw the bartenders of the North West face a variety of challenges in a couple of unique settings.
Hosted at El Gato Negro, the competitors found their way to the final by offering a unique Buffalo Trace serve, but knowing that if they got through, a set of challenges awaited them. Hailing from the likes of Epernay in Manchester, Salt Dog Slims in Liverpool and Filter and Fox, also in Liverpool, the competitors were joined by UK Brand Ambassador Tim Giles, who alongside his team at Hi-Spirits (the UK distributor of Buffalo Trace) of Ross and Jack, set the day off with a ‘Buffalo Migration Tour’. Asking the bartenders to work on their starting clue, this led them to one of four venues across the city of Manchester, where once found, they were set a task that would test the knowledge of each individual when it came to the world of Buffalo Trace.
Tasks included getting the correct barrel maturation letters and numbers out of a series of 8 to choose from, a blind tasting of a selection of the Sazerac whisky range, including Buffalo Trace, as well as the family tree of the company itself. If correct, the competitor receives the key to the mystery box that contains items that can be used within their migration cocktail, if wrong, they have to pick an item, but not one you would necessarily find within a classic whiskey cocktail!
Once all 4 challenges have been completed, a rendezvous back at El Gato Negro kicked off the main portion of the cocktail competition, as each competitor had to re-create their Pioneering American cocktail that they entered with, as well as a Buffalo Trace cocktail using the ingredients won (or lost) over the four challenges.
With myself, Tim and last years competition winner Joe Ballinger judging, each competitor showed off their skills in creation, as well as their knowledge of Buffalo Trace and the links from this to their ideas, both in the original recipe, as well as their quick-fire migration cocktail.
The top three will be showcased here today, so in third place saw Liverpool represent with Beth Leigh of MOJO Bar. Her original Pioneering Creation saw her create the ‘Trial by Jury’, which saw Buffalo Trace mixed with a spiced porter syrup, Giffard’s dark cacao, almond milk and egg white, served with an atomiser which contained White Dog whiskey, almond and chocolate bitters. Her Mystery Migration cocktail though saw her create the ‘Bloody Long Derby’, offering up Buffalo Trace, fresh tomatoes, lemon juice, mint, Antica Formula and sugar, topped with San Pellegrino Lemon and garnished with a mint sprig and fresh cherry tomatoes.
Anthony Hogan of Epernay, Manchester earned second place with his two cocktails. His Pioneering Cocktail, named the ‘Bottle Shock’ saw Buffalo Trace built with a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon juice and blueberry with bluebell soda, garnished with mint and fresh blueberries. His on the spot Mystery Migration recipe, named ‘Hunters of Kentucky’, saw him build a recipe with Buffalo Trace, peach and Red Bull syrup, fresh tomato juice, Antica Formula and Peychaud’s Aperitivo, garnished with a peach fan and lemon zest.
The winning serves though, both seen as equal and of a high-standard when we were discussing the drinks in general, came from Will Meredith of El Gato Negro. His original entry saw him show off the ‘New Orleans Fizz’, a blended serve containing Buffalo Trace, egg white, milk and cream, homemade Creole New Orleans ketchup (fig, date, prune and cayenne pepper flavoured) and a corn, malt and rye syrup. His Mystery Migration serve saw a thrown creation of Buffalo Trace, Peychaud’s Aperitivo, a mango and Dijon mustard syrup, topped with Stella Artois, capped with the fantastic name of ‘Celine Dijon’.
So congratulations to Will, who wins himself a trip to the home of Buffalo Trace in Kentucky! A great idea for a cocktail competition, really getting the competitors to immerse themselves in the brands history and heritage, bringing it to the forefront in their Pioneering America cocktail, and testing their skills with the Mystery Migration serve. All whilst having their knowledge tested, really bringing out the best bartender in the North West and earning their stripes as they head to America.
Enjoy Kentucky Will!
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