Edinburgh bartender wins Southern Comfort New Orleans challenge

Nicole Sykes

A bartender from Edinburgh has won Southern Comfort’s UK-wide Southern Showdown competition seeking New Orleans-inspired cocktails.

Nicole Sykes (pictured) from The Voyage of Buck impressed judges with her drink, Off the Cuff, which combines Southern Comfort with Sazerac Rye whiskey, minty Branca Menta and Peychaud’s Bitters in a smoky Ardbeg whisky rinse.

She was one of six finalists who competed in the final held last night on the Dixie Queen riverboat on the Thames, which also saw the official on-trade launch of Southern Comfort’s new 50% ABV expression, 100 Proof.

Nicole said: “My cocktail is a twist on the classic Vieux Carré, which was created in 1938 in New Orleans by a bartender named Walter Bergeron. The name is French for ‘Old Square’, which is how the famous French Quarter of New Orleans is also known.

“My cocktail is inspired by the French Quarter nightlife and the laid-back lifestyle in the city, and the name, Off the Cuff, comes from the original name of Southern Comfort, Cuffs and Buttons.”

All six finalists, as well as a seventh winner selected from social media, win a VIP trip to New Orleans, the birthplace of Southern Comfort, in September. As the overall winner, Nicole also wins a trophy for The Voyage of Buck, the bar opened in Edinburgh’s West End by Big Red Teapot group last year, as well as a supply of Southern Comfort 100 Proof.

In second place was Ashton Williamson of Little Bat in Islington, London, while David Langley of Last Chance Saloon in Nottingham was in third. The other finalists were northern heat winner Calum Adams of Barlounge in Chester, West Midlands winner Rob Wood of Bar Smultronställe in Birmingham and David White of The Dead Parrot in Horsham in West Sussex. The winner via social media was the Mardi Gras created by Thomas Hay-Owens of Tom’s Champagne Bar in Manchester.

Organised by Southern Comfort’s UK distributor Hi-Spirits, the Southern Showdown challenged bartenders to create a Southern Comfort cocktail taking its inspiration from New Orleans and the cocktails that the city is famous for. It attracted 150 entries from around the UK.

Southern Comfort 100 Proof is available exclusively to the on-trade in the UK. Featuring the distinctive Southern Comfort blend of whiskey, fruits and spices devised by Southern Comfort creator MW Heron, the more robust Southern Comfort 100 aims to inspire bartenders to create even more interesting new cocktails and mixed drinks.

Off the Cuff by Nicole Sykes
40ml Southern Comfort
20ml Sazerac Rye
5ml Branca Menta
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Ardbeg rinse
Stir over a block of ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Southern Comfort Original and 100 proof

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