There are lot of cocktail competitions throughout the year and sometimes when you submit an entry, you don't really think about it too much after you hit the "submit" button. For me, that was the case with the Bols Genever Classic Competition - I sent in a drink called the Stuyvesant and didn't hear anything back for a while and so it slipped off my list of immediate concerns.
That changed a couple of months ago, when representatives from Bols Genever and Maxxium UK got in touch with the general manager at Sygn looking for a venue for a Scottish final for the competition. After a couple of meetings, they agreed a date in early November and selected six finalists - Grant Neave from Monteiths, Tom Walker from Bramble, Ryan McDonald from the Voodoo Rooms, Jo Karp and Byron Abbot from Bond No. 9, and me. The final was covered by two intrepid correspondents from Imbibe magazine and is due to be featured in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue.
After we'd all presented our original online entries, word came down that the judges had picked two competitors to face-off for the prize - a trip to Amsterdam with the winner of the English final and Bols brand ambassador John Clay. The two finalists were Tom and myself and we were given fifteen minutes to come up with a contemporary style cocktail using Bols Genever.
I was keen to keep the genever at the forefront but I also wanted to complement it with ingredients that don't require too much buy-in from a customer. One of the things I'd talked about with John Clay earlier in the day was the difficulty in getting the idea of genever across to a customer in, say, two sentences. It's a really interesting category, but it takes some explaining and that can be tough to do in a busy bar environment.
I opted to make a long drink and I opted to make a sour-type drink; for all their qualities, aromatic-type drinks lack the same degree of accessibility, particularly for people are massively into cocktail culture. As I put the ingredients together, I realised that I was making a pale drink with a ginger top so I named it after a painting by another famous son of the Netherlands, Vincent Van Gogh.
35ml Bols Genever
15ml apricot brandy (I used the Bitter Truth)
25ml lemon juice
25ml apple juice
2 bsp acacia honey
Top with ginger ale
Shake the first five ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with ginger ale and garnish with an apple fan.
Tom went down a different route, taking his inspiration from the New York scene and the work of Sam Ross in particular. It was an impressive drink and hopefully he'll get something up on his blog about it. Ultimately, I think that my focus on making something consciously accessible to people unfamiliar with the category helped; I won, by something like one point between three judges.
It's alway nice to do well in comps, and it's extra special to be able to do it on home turf. Thanks to John and everyone at Bols Genever and Maxxium UK, and to the guys from Imbibe for taking the time to check out the Edinburgh scene.