Forest heritage inspires UK winner in Goral Vodka Master competition

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A hot cocktail made with forest flavours including birch leaves, liquorice bark, angelica root and eucalyptus has won the UK final of a competition run for Goral Vodka Master.

Alfonso del Portillo from The Natural Philosopher in London used the ingredients for his winning cocktail (pictured), called Lamiak, which was inspired by a Basque mythical creature called a lamia.

As well as being awarded the title of UK Goral Vodka Master, Alfonso will represent the UK in the global final of the competition at the end of January in Bratislava in Slovakia – the home of Goral Vodka Master.

Ten bartenders were selected for the final of the UK competition after the team at Goral Vodka Master set the challenge to create a cocktail inspired by “forest heritage” – both elements of the forest and its biodiversity. This was chosen because Slovakia is famous for its rich natural heritage, with forests covering around 40% of the country.

The final, held at Dry Martini in London, was judged by Javier de las Muelas, the founder of the original Dry Martini bar in Barcelona, alongside Alessandro Palazzi from Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel in London, award-winning bartender Simone Caporale and Mike Sweetman, vice president of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild.

In second place was Claudio Iucolino from Dry Martini, who got the attention of the judges by wearing a traditional Slovakian folklore outfit. His drink, Rover, paid tribute to “gorals” – the “wanderers” who settled in the northern region of Slovakia in the 14th century. The cocktail, based on pear-infused Goral Vodka Master, honey and figs was served with bryndza, a traditional Slovakian sheep cheese.

The third spot went to Jakub Lesaj from Oblix in London, and originally from Slovakia, with his King of the North cocktail, which was a twist on a classic Vesper, complemented by lavender, rosemary and lemon and garnished with red wine-infused salt powder.

The other seven finalists were Loic Cretel from Hampton Manor hotel near Birmingham and six from London: Yveta Bobáková from Bar Termini; Michal Kobza from Oblix; Michele Reina from Smith & Whistle; Simone Sacco from Artesian; Angelo Sparvoli from The American Bar at The Savoy hotel; and Filip Stříbrný from Duck & Waffle.

The International final of the Goral Vodka Masters of Master Bartender Competition will take place on January 25 during the Danubius Gastro International Fair at the Incheba Expo Bratislava, featuring bartenders from all over the world.

Pictured (left to right): Claudio Iucolino, Alfonso del Portillo and Jakub Lesaj

Goral Claudio Alfonso Jakub

Pictures by Jolly Thompson.

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