One of the perks of being a blogger in Liverpool is that there is always something there to be explored. This week, I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a very exciting event at one of my favourite venues. Alma de Cuba is the basis of most of my ‘I have a full-time job now, I have my life put together!’ nights out with work-mates and pals alike, so being invited along not only to try out some brand new cocktails but also to be a judge for a cocktail challenge is probably one of my proudest moments.
Those that know me well will know that I am not a big drinker: I’m normally far too sleepy to get too involved with a bev and nights out occur less and less frequently now that responsibility has hit. In spite of this, I was up for a good old fashioned taste-test of some delicious cocktails and of course, took my partner in crime along with me for the ride. I’ve been to Alma de Cuba for review before now so my expectations were quite high – and rightly so.
The premise of the night was simple enough: Alma’s talented bartenders would take centre stage and present their very own summer cocktails using specific spirits and mixers- the event was sponsored and the challenge set by Huyton-based Halewood Wines and Spirits. Competitors were asked to use gin and vodka from Whitley Neillor else premium Dead Man’s Fingers rum. Mixers should be incorporated- more specifically, those sanctioned by Lamb & Watt, made with Lake District spring water. There were prizes for the successful mixologists, including a stay in a prestigious Liverpool hotel for the night. The stage was set and the competitors were ready, but who would be crowned the Alma ultimate mixologist? I, for one, was excited to find out.
Settled down at the bar with a pen in hand to judge, we were considering each cocktail in five ways: how humorous the mixologist’s presentation was, the story behind the cocktail, the taste (of course!), the look of the cocktail and how original the cocktail was. Each category was marked out of 5 giving each cocktail an overall score out of 25. Simple? Simple.
Choosing a winner was a little bit less simple – the cocktails were all fantastic. Made with a range of ingredients including (although not limited to) egg whites, blood red orange gin, marmalade, grenadine, star anise and garden peas (!!!), no two cocktails were the same and it was fantastic to be able to see how experimentation can go really right (or really wrong). I could spend all day detailing the information behind all of the cocktails so I’ll just stick to my personal favourites and the winners so as to keep this post as focused as possible! One of my favourite cocktails of the night wasn’t actually one of the winning concoctions, funnily enough. My favourite thing to drink when I need something refreshing is ginger ale (the non-alcoholic kind, although I do love a Crabbies!) so the cocktail created by Jonathan, the Mora Star was one of my clear favourites. Made with a combination of Blood Orange Whitley Neill gin, ginger and Lamb and Watt Ginger Ale, the cocktail not only stuck to the brief but did so in a charming and inventive way.
The top three cocktails were all showstoppers and it was difficult to decide between the three of them for sure, although I would argue that the overall winner was the best by a mile. Flowergirl, created by Ste, combined Elderflower gin, prosecco and Basil tonic to produce a sharp and refreshing drink.
2ndplaced Rosemary’s Ruibarbo, Gareth’s masterpiece, was definitely one of the nicest ‘fruity’ cocktails that I’ve tasted in a long time and Whitley Neill have definitely got a new fan of quince gin – I love quince jelly with my cheese but was blissfully unaware that there were other uses for quince flavourings! Rosemary’s Ruibarbo combined the aforementioned quince gin with pineapple and lemon juice and was topped delicately with raspberries.
Last but definitely not least – the winner. Rhubarb Stilt Skin, humorously named, definitely had the last laugh as it romped away with the title. The mixture of rhubarb and ginger gin with marmalade, egg whites and pineapple and grapefruit juice left little to the imagination and much to be desired. A clear and fair winner, and my favourite of the night by a clear mile.
I’d like to extend my thank yours to Georgie, who invited me over to the event, to Gemma who played a massive part in seeing the event through and finally to Haywood Wines & Spirits group who not only contributed the spirits for the evening but put together beautiful goody bags with our own little gin tasters to take home with us! The event was a huge success and we had a ball – I can’t wait to recreate some of these winning cocktails at home. I believe that the winning cocktails will be available to try on the Alma de Cuba cocktail menu for a limited time so if you fancy seeing what all the fuss is about I recommend getting your butt down to Seel Street to try it out for yourself.
I was invited along to this event by the organisers and was free to taste the cocktails as I so wished. Any and all opinions remain my own.