A bartender is off to Kentucky after winning a competition run for Rebel Yell bourbon looking for an adventurous cocktail “with a rebel spirit”.
Thom Solberg of whisky bar Black Rock in Shoreditch in London will be taken to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival which celebrates its landmark 25th year this September.
Thom’s cocktail was called Bakken (pictured above), inspired by one of the largest oil fields in the US. It combined Rebel Yell with Amaro di Angostura, velvet falurnum, walnut oil and lime zest, garnished with a side of flamed baby sweetcorn and fresh plum halves and cherries. See below for the recipe.
Bartenders across London competed in five heats, leading to the grand final this month at Mash London in Soho. The other finalists were Harry Knox of Boulogne Bar in Kentish Town, Lükas Gotze of Three Six Six in Battersea, Milan Kresan of The Churchill Bar in the West End and Tertius Wharton of Opium in Chinatown.
The judges included Greg Mefford, international sales director at Luxco in the US which owns Rebel Yell, its master blender John Rempe, and world whisky expert Dominic Roskrow.
Thom (pictured below) said: “My personal act of rebellion was to shake up the cocktail – needed due to the oil – whereas at my bar, Black Rock, all our whisky cocktails are stirred. But there is harmony. I chose the garnish so that every flavour in it reflects the nuances of taste within the Rebell Yell bourbon.”
Overall, a diversity of ingredients in the entrants’ “recipes for rebellion” included banana liqueur, absinthe, 31-year-old armagnac, Pedro Ximenez sherry, Chinato, peanut punch, seaweed and corn.
Caroline Pihoue, marketing manager for Rebel Yell at UK distributor Cellar Trends, added: “The competition brought some really confident serves. At times, one would think that the ingredients lined up by the competitor would clash, but then came the magic.
“Incredible aromas and taste sensations were matched with ultra-creative presentations. We enjoyed discovering such creative mixes in this inspiring collection of bourbon cocktails, and thank all the bartenders for taking so much time to dream up and perfect their serves.”
She also thanked the bars hosting the heats: Mash London, Shaka Zulu, Milroy’s and The Vault, The Worship Street Whistling Shop and Three Six Six.
Dominic Roskrow added: “We were all very impressed by the diversity, creativity and attention to detail of all five finalists, and thought the organisation of the event was first class.”
The Rebel Yell campaign will continue with a Twitter tasting in the UK of four Rebel Yell styles, taking place on November 7, the eve of the United States Presidential election.
The Rebel Yell range in the UK comprises Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve, Rebel Yell Small Batch Rye, Rebel Yell Cherry liqueur and Rebel Yell Honey liqueur.
Rebel Yell has distilled wheated whiskey since 1849 and is produced by the WL Weller family, the first distillers to produce Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey using wheat instead of rye in the mash.
Running from September 12 to 18, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is the highlight of National Bourbon Heritage Month in the USA, attracting 53,000 people from 44 states and 14 different countries.
Bakken by Thom Solberg
50ml Rebel Yell bourbon
15ml Amaro di Angostura
10ml Velvet falernum
5ml walnut oil
Zest of half a lime.
Shake hard over ice and double strain. Garnish with a side of flamed baby sweetcorn, and fresh plum halves and cherries. Add a torched ear of corn.