A bartender from Liverpool has won a competition at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky which sought to find British twists on classic American cocktails.
Joe Ballinger from Berry & Rye came first with his Old Fire on the Meadow – a twist on a Julep that connects Kentucky with his home area of the Cotswolds. It combined Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Peychaud’s Bitters with home-made redcurrant wine, oak-smoked nettle cider syrup and mint.
Joe, who is pictured making his cocktail, was taken with five other winners of regional heats to the home of Buffalo Trace by owner Sazerac Co and distributor Hi-Spirits to compete in the UK final.
The other regional winners were Oliver Cush of City Social in London, Charlie Thomas of Amoeba Lounge Bar in Bristol, Charles Roche of The House Of Coco Tang in Nottingham, Tim Pryde of The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh and Jake Goldstein of The Plotting Parlour in Brighton.
The judges included Buffalo Trace master blender Drew Mayville, Sazerac Co brand manager Elizabeth Hurst, Buffalo Trace UK brand manager Tim Giles, and Hannah Lodge of BarChick.
They were looking for an exciting British twist on a cocktail classic, judging drinks on flavour, cocktail knowledge and flair.
Joe, who won £1,000, said: “It was fantastic to be in Kentucky and have the inspiration right in front of you. It was an honour, and very nerve-wracking, having Buffalo Trace’s master blender as one of the judges. I’m delighted to have won, as the interest in the competition was really high. The trip was first class and very inspiring.
“The standard of other finalists was extremely high. I was really impressed with all the other drinks and the way everyone presented them.”
Drew said: “The bartenders produced some amazing twists on the American cocktail. They were truly imaginative in the way they related both their own experiences and the history of Buffalo Trace to their cocktails.”
Tim added: “UK bartenders love working with Buffalo Trace and so we challenged them to bridge the Atlantic by putting a British twist on a classic American cocktail. All five finalists produced cocktails to a very high standard, and so Joe’s achievement in winning was very impressive.”