Bartender wins Kentucky trip with barrel-aged cocktail


Jefferson's Barrel Aged Comp finalists

A cocktail aged in a barrel for 45 days has earned a trip to Kentucky for bartender Jess Cheeseman in a competition run for Jefferson’s Bourbon.

Jess, who works at the new Big Easy Bar.B.Q and Lobstershack in London’s Canary Wharf, created The Jefferson’s Experiment that mixed bourbon with malic acid and agave plus a hint of apricot brandy and dry vermouth. It was enhanced by being aged in a barrel for 45 days.

It impressed judges in the Jefferson’s barrel aged cocktail competition run by UK distributor Cellar Trends which challenged bartenders to explore the effects of ageing drinks in five-litre American oak barrels for 45 days.

Jess’s prize is a trip to the home of Jefferson’s in Louisville, hosted by Trey Zoeller who is the founder and master blender of Jefferson’s Bourbon. The prize also includes a never-released bottling from Trey’s personal archive.

Jess was one of five bartenders who made it through to the final at The Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch. The others were Dan Garnell of Happiness Forgets, Fabio Immovilli of Red Bar at Grosvenor House and Daniel Kaizen of Loves Company – all in London – and Lawrence Woodrow-Smith from Pintura in Leeds.

They presented cocktails that used innovative ingredients such as their own hay-smoked cassis and maple syrup salt.

Explaining his own cocktail, Jess said: “I chose to make sour and citrus unexpected partners to the Jefferson’s bourbon. There is malic acid plus agave, a hint of apricot brandy and dry vermouth. I like to experiment but I am still a big fan of drinking straight-up bourbon, perhaps with a little water and ice.”

The judges included Daniel Fagan, brand manager for Jefferson’s over from New York, who has judged Jefferson’s barrel aged competitions in several locations in the US. He was joined by whisky writer Greg Dillon, aka Great Drams, and Katie Warren, group marketing manager at Cellar Trends.

Daniel said: “The finalists showed great knowledge, skill and enthusiasm in understanding the effects and surprises of barrel ageing, and how it adds new layers of flavour and character.”

The competition was inspired by Jefferson’s The Manhattan Barrel Finished Cocktail, which is a Manhattan made with Jefferson’s bourbon, dry and sweet vermouth and barrel-aged spiced cherry bitters. The liquid is aged for 90 days in oak barrels before being bottled at 34% ABV.

Pictured (left to right): Dan Garnell, Fabio Immovilli, Jess Cheeseman, Daniel Kaizen, Daniel Fagan, and Lawrence Woodrow-Smith.

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