G’Vine Gin Connoisseur Programme – Manchester Bartender’s Ball

17 Mar

I’m no gin aficionado. Christ, I only started drinking the stuff again several months ago, turned off in my youth by the complex botanical flavours and bitter tonic pairing, which sadly no lime or cucumber garnish could save. Mix in a considerable emotional response each time I took a sip (or two) of the aptly nicknamed mother’s ruin, I spent years convinced that one hit of the spirit would wreak a Jekyll and Hyde style transformation upon me, (turns out I was just a grumpy bitch), until I tasted a friend’s Tanqueray and tonic, and found myself to be both pleasant and pleasantly surprised.

Since then, I’ve been working my way through the major brands and classic cocktails, so when an invitation landed in my inbox asking me along to the G’Vine Gin Connoisseur Programme’s (GCP) Manchester Bartender’s Ball, it would have been churlish of me to refuse. An ideal way to extend my education, don’t you think? Sampling a new gin and quaffing the creations of some of the city’s best bartending talent – invited to compete in G’Vine’s global quest to find the world’s best gin bartender – the evening promised to be a sublimely sensory and highly educational experience.

Hosted at the spiffy Epernay Champagne Bar, (where most of The Liquorists trails end and the start of temporary memory loss begins), I walked in to a room of tables and crowds, with each bartender setting out their stall to pitch their cocktails creations to the gathering of gin-lovers. Using either the uniquely grape-based London dry style G’Vine Nouaison or softer, floral tasting Floraison, our regional contenders were tasked with creating something special for the crowds and locally selected judges to vote on in the hope of seeing them through to the GCP’s national heat.

Largely picking up on the earthier tasting notes in the Nouaison, we experienced a smoky, almost medicinal concoction of malt whiskey, apricot brandy and vermouth from the bartender at The Blue Pig, whereas the earnest bar keep from Browns muddled grape, ginger, lime and bitters into a perfectly puce coloured cocktail, garnished prettily with a rose and grated nutmeg. The Floraison expressed in a new take on G&T – named Cherry Vine on account of the inspired inclusion of cherry liqueur shaken with lemon juice and Benedictine – made for a refreshing and slightly sweeter take on an old classic.

A sophisticated smoky number from The  Blue Pig

A sophisticated smoky number from The Blue Pig

The Floraison proved to be the more successful choice of the night, with the first runner up and winner making use of this subtle, fragrant spirit. A Lily Fizz comprising the unusual but piquant flavours of rhubarb syrup, cardamom bitters, fresh ginger and rose lemonade made for stand out drink, winning the young gentleman from Room a case of the French brand’s finest, but the top prize went to Jamie Jones of The Yacht Club fame, who on account of the surprising ingredients in his carefully thought out and experiential cocktail will go on to the national meet later this year.

Pretty in pink... The cocktail offering from Browns.

Pretty in pink… The cocktail offering from Browns.

Home-made lemon sugar and egg white mixed with extra virgin olive oil provided the most exquisite mouth feel, shaken with St Germain, Martini Extra Dry and ground pink peppercorns to bring about an intelligently pitched sweet, dry and earthy cocktail, served up with a pink macaroon and a spritz of Jamie’s own rose and lavender perfume to elevate the floral notes in the gin. Clever stuff, and a seriously strong start to hopefully see him through to the G’Vine Summer Ball in Cognac to compete against 12 international contenders in the name of winning the title and role of G’Vine brand ambassador for a year.

G'Vine GCP Manchester Finalists, with winner Jamie Jones rocking the bow tie.

G’Vine GCP Manchester Finalists, with winner Jamie Jones rocking the bow tie.

Following the excitable announcement, the remainder of the evening was spent celebrating Jamie’s success. We finished the evening with one (or was it three) G’Vine Nouaison G&Ts. Dry, sweet and crisply clean, they were the perfect antidote to an evening of ambitious and excitingly flavoured cocktails, and not a bad mood in sight. I’d even go so far as to say, its one of the happiest hangovers I’ve had in a long time!

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One Response to “G’Vine Gin Connoisseur Programme – Manchester Bartender’s Ball”

  1. helenfrancesca March 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    SUCH a fun night! I’m so pleased you wrote up this account to remind me. X

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