Belfast bartender wins global gin challenge

Beefeater International Brand Ambassador Tim Stones, Beefeater 24 Global Bartender Competition Winner Nathan O’Neill, Beefeater Master Distiller Desmond Payne and Beefeater International Brand Ambassador Seb Hamilton-Mudge.Nathan O’Neill of The Merchant Hotel bar in Belfast has won this year’s Beefeater 24 Global Bartender Competition grand final.

He beat 13 other competitors from around the world at an event in London last week, where they were given a number of challenges that tested them on the variety of areas that make up a well-rounded bartender.

These included a cocktail photoshoot to test the finalists’ styling skills, an interview with an international blogger to assess their knowledge and charisma, and a timed food-pairing task to test their resourcefulness and understanding of flavour.

The grand final culminated in a cocktail-tasting event in which guests, including leading bartenders from around the world, voted for their favourite Beefeater 24 tea cocktail.

The winner was chosen by an expert panel of judges headed by Desmond Payne, the creator and master distiller of Beefeater 24. Nathan and Desmond are pictured above, centre, with Beefeater international brand ambassadors Tim Stones (far left) and Seb Hamilton-Mudge (far right).

Desmond said: “The competition has provided a thrilling example of the creativity and skill of the bartending community around the world. I have been delighted by the passion of the competitors and the way in which they have combined an in-depth knowledge of cocktails with innovative new techniques. This year’s competition has highlighted how far cocktail making has evolved to create truly remarkable drinking experiences.”

Nathan, who has secured a job at Milk & Honey in London since winning the UK final, will be added to the Beefeater 24 “Hall of Fame” at the Beefeater Distillery in Kennington, London. He will also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Japan with Beefeater international brand ambassador Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge. During the trip Nathan will experience at first hand the Japanese tea and local bartending culture that inspired Desmond Payne in the creation of Beefeater 24.

The other finalists, pictured with Nathan below, came from Austria, Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Serbia, The Nordics and Hong Kong

Nathan won the UK final with his cocktail, Mr Burrough’s Reviver, inspired by the history of Beefeater Gin which was first made by chemist James Burrough in London in 1862.

Mr Burrough’s Reviver by Nathan O’Neill

2 dashes Absinthe infused with Lapsong tea (1g to 75ml, cold infused for 15 minutes)
2.5ml Almond water
10ml Green tea syrup
15ml Fresh lemon juice
10ml Aalborg Taffel Akvavit
40ml Beefeater 24
Garnish: Lemon spiral on side of glass
Glass: Coupette

The absinthe is infused with Lapsong tea – 1g of Lapsong tea is infused into 75ml of absinthe. This is then set in a bath of ice and left to infuse for 15 minutes. The almond water recipe is 600ml of water and 250g of almonds: blanch these and allow them to sit in water for two hours. Blend or blitz and allow to simmer for three hours. Strain off the almonds and reduce the almond water by half. Once this is done, add 10ml of orange flower water and 180g of caster sugar. Monin Orgeat may also be used, but allow for a slightly different texture. The green tea syrup is 200g of Sencha tea in 500ml of sugar syrup, simmered on a low heat and removed before boiling and then allowed to cool before bottling. To create the cocktail itself, add all ingredients into a Boston tin and shake using large blocked ice, before double-straining into a 3oz coupette glass and garnishing.

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