Bombay Sapphire names UK’s most imaginative bartender

Richard WoodsRichard Woods (pictured) has been named as winner of the UK and Ireland final of the Bombay Sapphire World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition.

He was one of 15 bartenders who were challenged to create two serves – a re-imagined twist on a gin and tonic and an imaginative cocktail using Bombay Sapphire.

Held in Shoreditch House in east London, the competition culminated in five finalists being sent out to forage for ingredients in the local area for making their final imaginative drink.

Richard, who is head of spirit and cocktail development at Duck & Waffle on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in the City of London, will represent the UK and Ireland in the global final in London in June.

He and the other 15 finalists from around the world will visit the Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire to learn about the brand. They will be encouraged to use these experiences as inspiration for an imaginative cocktail to win the title of World’s Most Imaginative Bartender 2014.

Richard will also have the chance to take over the JubJub bar at London’s Callooh Callay in May with a one-week pop-up bar. Offering a full menu of Bombay Sapphire cocktails, he will showcase his winning serves throughout the week, working with Bombay Sapphire UK brand ambassador Sean Ware who will be hosting a series of consumer-facing gin masterclasses.

The finalists were selected from 70 entries from across the country. The semi-final and final, held over one day, were judged by Sean, last year’s UK winner Joe Wild of Jenny’s Bar in Liverpool, chef Simon Rogan who takes over the restaurant at Claridge’s this spring, and global Bombay Sapphire brand ambassador Raj Nagra.

The other four bartenders to reach the final stage were Lee Hyde of Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous in London, Luca Corradini of The Savoy in London, Jon Hughes from Bramble in Edinburgh and George E Fellowes of Newcastle upon Tyne bar Popolo.

Richard impressed the judges with The Royal Bounty, which was inspired by the spirit of China where the Bombay Sapphire botanical liquorice originates from. The serve was to encapsulate the hidden botanical aroma representing the bounty within a sealed box or treasure chest. The botanicals were the treasure while the chest would have held the “bounty” paid as a reward during the days of Queen Victoria’s empire.

The box was layered with moss that had been scented with lemon essence, concealing a thin layer of dry ice. The box was then filled with the botanicals from Bombay Sapphire and, with the lid almost closed, a cassia and liquorice smoke was pumped into the box.

The lid was then sealed and presented to the judges. On opening the box, the drinker is hit with the cinnamon and liquorice notes of the smoke. On pouring a small amount of warm water over the ice, the aroma of the lemon scented moss follows through.

Richard also impressed with his re-imagined twist on the Bombay Sapphire Ultimate Gin and Tonic, called the English Garden Gin and Tonic, which combined Bombay Sapphire compressed with garden peas and mint with tonic water.

His signature drink was The Cheese Course which saw sweet and savoury flavours and different mouth-feels combined to make an unusual and unique serve. This was presented with grapes which were injected with blue cheese-infused oil.

Sean said: “It has always been the ambition of the Bombay Sapphire brand team to create a platform that nurtures and develops the most promising talent from behind the bar and that is what the UK and Ireland Most Imaginative Bartender achieves.

“Throughout the competition process we look to inspire and educate bartenders from across the country and aim to support them on their journey to becoming the most imaginative bartenders in the world.”

Richard added: “I cannot wait to represent the UK in the global final of the World’s Most Imaginative especially with the final being hosted in London.

“I’m thrilled that the judges loved my cocktails as the competition was very tough and really stretched the competitors. There were really imaginative creations of a high standard.

“I’m really looking forward to experimenting further with flavours and imagination to create something worthy of the global final.”

Updated April 1, 2014

Click here to see the latest news stories from

Previous Heineken UK announces new products and support
Next Smaller brewers report sales growth for local beers