The latest bartender to win the role of innovation champion with cocktail specialist Funkin has been announced as Aisté Valiukaité.
She won not only a £500 prize but also a part-time, paid contract for one year, worth upwards of £6,000, to support Funkin’s ongoing efforts to stay ahead of trends in the cocktail market.
Aisté (pictured), who works at Original Sin in Stoke Newington in north London, won the Innovation Champion competition at a final at east London bar TT Liquor. The other two finalists were Dom Saunders of The Cinnamon Club in Westminster, London, and Solomon Sanderson of Bill’s in Hoxton Square, London.
They were challenged over three rounds that included a presentation of an innovative product they had come up with for the on-trade. They also had to make an original Funkin cocktail and, as a surprise, they were given the new Funkin Pro Apricot Purée to make into an innovative cocktail.
Inspired by a raspberry cheesecake, Aiste’s Berry Cake cocktail featured Funkin Pro Raspberry Purée and white chocolate liqueur while her Blaine Road, a twist on a traditional sour, showcased Funkin Pro Apricot Purée and Funkin Pro Citric Syrup.
The judges included Luke Crighton from the Funkin brand ambassador team and bartender Elliot Ball, co-founder of bar group The Cocktail Trading Co.
The judges liked Aisté’s idea for a line of unique nut syrups which she argued would provide bartenders with the opportunity to have a consistent-quality ingredient that allowed them to put a twist on classic cocktails like a Piña Colada.
Aisté said: “Funkin Innovation Championship is a unique competition that provides bartenders with a platform to develop and present the idea for a whole new product, a product which would be a great addition to our industry.
“I believe it is a great opportunity to combine creative and business-forward ideas. Honestly, I was over the moon when I found out I won and will be able to continue working with the Funkin team in the future, learning more about one of the industry’s most versatile companies.”
Funkin managing director Andrew King said: “This year’s innovation champion continues our tradition of looking for the most innovative bartenders who are forward thinking and understand the industry in which we work. We had a great line up of contenders and the competition was inspiring.
“Innovation is at the heart of what we do and we take pride in listening to and working with the bartending industry so that we can provide them with the products they need to make outstanding cocktails.
“Aisté successfully demonstrated her industry knowledge and showcased two fantastic cocktails that really let our purées and syrups shine. We look forward to working with Aiste and the exciting year ahead.”
Aisté Valiukaité’s winning cocktails
Blaine Road (pictured above)
25ml Funkin Pro Apricot Purée
35ml Teeling Small Batch whiskey
15ml Somerset Cider 3 Year Brandy
15ml Funkin Pro Pure Pour Lemon
15ml Funkin Pro Citric Syrup
1 barspoon Sugar
Top with 5% ginger beer
Dry shake all ingredients except the ginger beer and then wet shake. Serve over ice in a rocks glass. Top with ginger beer.
Berry Cake (pictured below)
30ml Funkin Pro Raspberry Purée
40ml Mozart White Chocolate and Vanilla Liqueur
25ml Dolin Rouge
15ml Funkin Pro Pure Pour Lemon
1 barspoon Greek Yogurt
Shake, serve over crushed ice. Garnish raspberry and orange meringue