Winner of Naked Grouse challenge

John Collingwood makes The Naked Grouse cocktailJohn Collingwood, who runs bar No 28 in Newcastle upon Tyne, has been announced as the winner of a nationwide cocktail challenge to create the perfect Old Fashioned whisky cocktail.

His creation, The Bitter Sweet Grouse, impressed the judges as a complex, tasty and marketable winner for the competition which was run by Maxxium UK for its premium blended whisky The Naked Grouse.

Bartenders from across the UK were set the challenge of creating the perfect Old Fashioned following an authentic recipe from 1806 using only four ingredients: spirit, sugar, bitters and water.

John’s winning cocktail contained a double measure of The Naked Grouse, two dashes of grapefruit bitters, two dashes of Angostura Bitters, 10ml of The Snow Grouse whisky, 10ml of Aperol and a syrup reduction made from Wylam brewery beer. It was garnished with a twist of pink grapefruit.

All the competitors went to great lengths in their attempt to create the winning drink, with one using a fire extinguisher and another carefully transporting an ice ball from the south coast of England.

Mixologist Wayne Collins, manager of Maxxium’s training arm Mixxit and chair of the judging panel, said: “We have been hugely impressed by the standard of entries into our challenge. The creativity, imagination and skill shown by the UK’s bartenders has been incredible.

“Our aim is to create simple, authentic cocktails that let the unique characteristics of this quality whisky shine through. We were blown away by John’s creation, The Bitter Sweet Grouse, as it accentuates the whisky rather than diluting its flavours.”

John earned his place in the final by winning the northern heat of the cocktail challenge in May. He was joined at the final by fellow regional heat champions Ed Belshaw of World Service Bar and Restaurant in Birmingham, Mark Scott of Hyde & Co in Bristol, Jamie Jones of The Yacht Club in Manchester and Sam Sidgwick of Audio in Brighton.

This group were invited on a luxurious “back to basics” two-day cocktail boot camp in Crieff, Scotland, to decide the overall champion. Additionally one bar per region was able to nominate a bartender based on sales over a two-month period from April to May to also attend.

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