An unusual post for us today. I have been lucky enough to be involved with a number of cocktail competitions in recent years, with my biggest success being winning the UK heats and making it to the global final of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge. I am now involved in another Global cocktail competition and as the thought process we go through in creating menu drinks is very similar to what we do with competition drinks, I thought it a good time to share what that experience is like.
The competition in question is the “Bols Around The World 2017” cocktail competition. You may or may not have heard of the Bols company before, but I can promise you that any cocktail bar you have been in … EVER … will have had a Bols product. They are the oldest spirits company still i operation in the world, they make 37 different types of liqueur, are a pioneering, creative company and the heart of their offering is the wonderful, delicious Bols Genever.
Genever is the original gin. Whilst gin might be considered an especially British past-time, in fact it has its origins in Holland. The history of gin is long, storied and exciting, but that’s a story for another time. For now i’ll just impart that the hearty combination of malt spirit distilled with juniper was first done in Holland, that during our wars with the Dutch the British got a taste for it, and that the term ‘Dutch Courage’ comes from the act of partaking in a little Genever before battle.
For the first heat of Bols Around The World we were asked to create a cocktail for the future - 2025 to be precise. For my serve I predicted that certain esoteric techniques would be come the norm (namely making foams from untraditional ingredients), that ‘sustainability’ would become more important and that the idea of just putting some liquid in a glass wouldn't cut it anymore and that we would in fact seek more immersive and emotive experiences when indulging in a cocktail. From this I created my first cocktail - “The B Cocktail”.
As it says on my Instagram account it uses “Bols Genever Original, Wild Flower Honey, Bee Pollen infused Vermouth, Bitters and a Sloe and Rose Foam, all dusted over with powdered golden bee pollen.
The drink invites the imbiber to use their phone to connect with the moment (rather than disconnect with it) by opening up a website created for the cocktail (www.bcocktail.com) where the drinker can listen to the sounds of a wild flower meadow whilst sipping, and learn a bit about the current plight of our bees who are experiencing decline in massive numbers. Without the bees there's no grain, no fruits, and by proxy no delicious cocktails. The website also invites you to engage with charities around the world to help #SaveTheBees
Some will think this all horrifyingly pretentious, and fair enough, but if just a few people experience something positive from it, and we can help some bees in the process then I'm happy”
The next heat required us to get through a ‘Knowledge Test’. From there the scores were added up and I was lucky enough to make it through to the Top 10 in Northern and Western Europe and invited to create a ‘Signature Serve’ and show that off in a 1:30 minute long video.
I was even luckier that my good friend and wonderful videographer Mr Mo El-Fatih agreed to film and edit the video with me. We sat, had a coffee and discussed the aims of the video. It was super important to me that the video be original and creative - if nothing else, I wanted it to stand out from the other 69 videos being submitted and be memorable. The drinks inspiration was Pantones 2017 Colour of the Year - Greenery. Explaining that to Mo, we agreed that we should film the video amongst the great, glorious greenery of the Goat Valley (alliteration for the win!). A days doing a reccy, a day filming and a day editing and the video - thanks to enormous, incredible work from Mr Mo - and the video was done. I can’t thank Mo enough for his work, his patience and his vision - it really has made the video.
This drink is about 3 things - championing the pioneering spirit (inspired by Lucas Boss own determined innovation), sustainability and the ability a drink has to bring people together in a moment and in nature.
As it says on our Youtube account: “Inspired by Lucas Bols determined innovation and pioneering spirit, with this menu we have aimed to create a new way to order and experience cocktails.
Starting with "Greenery", a cocktail designed to reconnect us with nature, with each other and with the greater ecological purpose of 'sustainability'.
With the woody, floral and honeyed notes of Bols Barrel Aged Genever at its base, basil, Galliano, peppermint and ginger are all added for a verdant vibrancy.
The cocktail also utilises one of the industries biggest waste products - juiced lemon husks - combined with subtly spiced and sweetly floral Mace, sugar and flavour enhancing malic acid to add depth and complexity.
Finally this drink is designed to be batched-up and served from the bottle. We encourage the mix to be quickly pulsed in a blender before being bottled with a spring. A quick shake before pouring recreates the welcome, light effervescence of a traditionally shaken cocktail - whilst still allowing you to be simply in the moment.
Garnish with a seasonal, aromatic herb, sit with friends - preferably outside somewhere - and enjoy.
35ml Bols Barrel Aged Genever
25ml Strong-Brewed Peppermint and Ginger Tea
10ml Acidic Lemon and Mace Syrup (Recipe Below)
4 Basil Leaves
*Pulse Ingredients together very quickly in a blender. Pour in to an empty Bols Original Bottle with the spring from a cocktail shaker and chill in a fridge. Shake before service. Garnish with an aromatic, seasonal herb*
Acidic Lemon and Mace Syrup Recipe
Place 8 juiced lemon halves (rather than throwing them away) in a heat proof jug with 300ml of granulated sugar. Add 2.5ml Malic Acid powder (if you can’t get any Malic Acid just use some leftover lemon juice from the night before). Add 5ml Powder Mace. Pour over 400ml of just boiled water. Stir together and steep for 30 minutes. Fine strain and bottle.”
And now…cross your fingers for me, and hopefully i’ll make it through to Heat 4 and get to throw an awesome Bols Genever Event at Monk!
Thanks for reading. The support of our regulars and visitors at Monk means the world to me.
With love and gratitude,
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!