James Bridges of Hausbar has been crowned Bristol’s whisky cocktail king in a nationwide competition run by The Naked Grouse Premium Blended Whisky.
This year’s event challenged Bristol’s leading bartenders to re-imagine the Old Fashioned – a classic whisky cocktail dating back to 1806. Made by muddling dissolved sugar with bitters then adding whisky and serving over ice, contestants were only permitted to work with the four original ingredients. However, it was with the last element – ice – that they were asked to get creative.
Held at The Milk Thistle, there was no shortage of innovation with competitors making Old Fashioned iced lollies and using compressed air to create ice. However, it was Bridges’ Old Smokey that impressed the most. His use of a custom-made ice maker that uses gravity combined with the friction and heat capacitance of aluminium to transform a large cube of ice into an ice ball was applauded by judges.
Amanda Humphrey, Maxxium UK Mixologist, who chaired the judging panel, commented: “Ice is such a simple ingredient but it’s an integral part of a properly made cocktail. Like the characteristics of our whisky, we wanted to celebrate this simplicity, and James did that in style. His Old Smokey let the unique characteristics of this quality spirit shine through, but thanks to his creative use of ice, he created a truly innovative cocktail.’
James will now represent Bristol in the finals. Joining bartenders from London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester who won their respective regional heats, he’ll take part in a two-day back-to-basics cocktail boot camp this July in Crieff, Scotland – at the end of which the national champion will be announced.