Winchester Cocktail Week started in style on Monday 4 February with the annual Winchester Cup bartenders’ competition held at the Guildhall. Four bartenders from across the region were shortlisted to compete in a live final in front of an audience, which included the Mayor of Winchester and local hospitality professionals.
The bartenders competing were:
Gabór Molnar, the Pig
James Edwards, Wild Carrot
Mihai Burca, Chewton Glen
Sapphire Blomfield, Incognito
The judging panel comprised Salvatore Damiano (President of the UK Bartenders’ Guild), Susie Barrie MW (Winchester Wine Festival) and Gary Whiter (Winchester Cocktail Week Director). The trio looked on intently as the bartenders each took their turn to make their cocktail within a 10-minute time slot. Points were given for the name, appearance, flavour and aroma of the drink and also for the creative use of local ingredients.
Festival Director, Gary Whiter, explained to the crowd:
We introduced the Winchester Cup four years ago to celebrate creativity and to promote the use of local produce. It’s always a highlight of the year for us to watch some of the best bartenders outside London mix up innovative and exciting drinks at the Guildhall.
Gabór made a ‘Forager’s Highball’ using whiskey, New Forest apple cordial and a homemade pineapple sage, shiso and basil soda. Wild Carrot’s bartender then created ‘the Garden’ for the judges using gin, homemade sloe gin, créme de violette, lemon juice garnished with chocolate soil and and locally sourced vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Sapphire Blomfield made her ‘Grandma’s Secret Recipe’ using a home infused apple crumble rum, Armagnac, blackberry, cinnamon and nutmeg syrup, shaken up with lemon and egg white. Finally, Mihai served the judges an impressive spin on a negroni called the ‘Signature’ using gin, homemade bitters, homemade vermouth and a homemade rose and squid ink reduction, garnished with an orange jelly.
Susie Barrie, who has been on the judging panel since the festival started in 2016, said:
This has been the most competitive year ever at Winchester Cocktail Week’s Winchester Cup. It was not easy to choose just one winner from such a brilliant line-up of cocktails and creators.
After much deliberation among the judges, Gabór Molnar was announced the winner for his ‘Forager’s Highball’ which was described by the judges as “heart-warming but also refreshing and uplifting.” Gabór was rewarded with a gin making experience for two and a hamper of gins courtesy of event sponsors, Nectar Imports.
To finish proceedings, the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Frank Pearson, also spoke to the room about how the hospitality industry in Winchester has developed over the years and the impressive level of professionalism in the city, demonstrated at the Winchester Cup by the competing bartenders. He presented the winner with the Winchester Cup trophy, which will be displayed at the Pig in Brockenhurst until the next competition in 2020.