Three bartenders will be heading off to New Orleans after impressing judges with their cocktails in the Southern Comfort Southern Showdown 2018 contest.
Lee Jones from Smokestack in Leeds was the overall winner at the UK final held on board the Dixie Queen, a New Orleans-style riverboat cruising on the Thames, this week. He was one of six winners from regional heats around the country.
His cocktail, the Whitesmith Cobbler, combined Southern Comfort 100 Proof, the 50% ABV variant that is exclusive to the on-trade, with Absentroux herbal wine and gooseberry cordial.
He will now compete against Southern Showdown winners from Ireland and Australia in July at the international final in New Orleans, the birthplace of Southern Comfort.
He will be joined on the New Orleans trip, which coincides with the annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, by second-placed finalist Sarah Berardi from Draffens in Dundee, and third-placed Thomas Hay-Owens from The Seaside Boarding House in Bridport in Dorset.
With the Southern Showdown in its third year in the UK, bartenders were challenged this year to recreate the spirit of their home town in a cocktail, just as Southern Comfort captures the spirit of New Orleans.
Cocktails had to include the classic 35% ABV Southern Comfort Original, the newly launched 40% ABV Southern Comfort Black, or Southern Comfort 100 Proof.
Lee said: “The contest involved a lot of hard work, both in creating the cocktail and making it for the judges at the final. I’m delighted and surprised to have won against such great competition, and looking forward to the international final in New Orleans.”
Julian de Féral, drinks director of consultancy Gorgeous Group and chair of the judges, said: “All the finalists showed a huge amount of flair, knowledge and imagination. There was real debate amongst the judges, but we agreed that Lee gave the best all-round performance, from his product knowledge and presentation right through to serving a great cocktail.”
The judges also included Nicole Sykes, the 2017 Southern Showdown winner and bartender at Satan’s Whiskers in London, and Tom Hodgkiss, national accounts manager with Southern Comfort’s distributor, Hi-Spirits.
The other three finalists were Charley Carrington from Last Chance in Nottingham, Giacomo Brunelli from Scarfes Bar in London and Thom Solberg from Black Rock in London.
The final on board the Dixie Queen was also an opportunity for around 300 guests from the bar trade to enjoy cocktails made with the newly launched Southern Comfort Black. The 40% ABV blend has a bold, whiskey flavour inspired by Southern Comfort creator MW Heron’s original blend of whiskey with fruits and spices.
Whitesmith Cobbler by Lee Jones
40ml Southern Comfort 100 Proof
20ml Absentroux herbal wine
20ml Gooseberry cordial
1 dash Champagne acid
Shake ingredients and double-strain into a Nick & Nora Coupette glass. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon.