UK Finals – Martin Miller’s Cocktail Competition

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Martin Miller’s Gin has graciously brought me to London and Iceland for a week of gin education, touring, and merriment at some of the finest bars in the world.


While I can’t bring each and every one of you with me, I’ll be sharing everything I learn here with you over the next week. So continue to check back for updates and information as I experience them first-hand.

After a slow start this morning and some shopping for new clothing (thanks a lot, British Airways) it was time to settle in for some afternoon cocktails as I was judging the UK finals of the Martin Miller’s Mixology Competition. Seven contestants battled fiercely on the stage at Miller’s Academy of Arts and Science, an exquisite little lecture hall in Notting Hill that – over the course of the next four hours – would become a booze-fueled den of iniquity.

I was joined at the judges’ table by Martin Miller himself, fresh ray of morning sunshine Jon Santer, and fellow blogger Jay Hepburn. We braced ourselves for a round of seven different variations of the contestants’ take on the venerable English classic, the gin and tonic.

It wouldn’t be a modern mixology competition without molecular gastronomical techniques, so the first drink out of the gate was a plate of tonic gelée finished with a Martin Miller’s gin caviar and a dusting of citric powders. As we slurped away on our tasting spoons, one of the judges did note the problem of textural issues in molecular mixology. Personally, I feel that contrasting consistencies are an important element that many forget to address in molecular bartending.

Anyway, there were some highs and some lows, as there are in any bar competition, yet this was definitely the finest line-up of any competition I’ve witnessed so far.

As the crowd, fueled by cast-off remnants of drinks long judged, began to turn on host Liam Davy, he introduced the final round: the gin and tonic speed pour. Each contestant would have one minute to turn out as many gins and tonic as humanly possible, all the while making an enormous mess of exploding Fever Tree tonic bottles, discarded lime wedges, and ice.

Some of you may recognize Paul Mant above, who, while undisputedly the fastest bartender in the United Kingdom, is definitely not the tidiest. So as I sat staring at the mess that was accumulating around the contestants’ bar area, I thought to myself, “Whoa, look at the time!” and snuck out the door to rest up before dinner.

5 Replies to “UK Finals – Martin Miller’s Cocktail Competition”

  • Thanks for the recap, Jay. Much of the reason I was such a terrible judge was because I knew I’d be able to count on you to wrap up any loose ends after I bailed!

    And thanks, Eugenia. Encouragement is always appreciated.

  • Eugenia says:

    *Love* the photography on this post. The speed GNT, not so much. But I’m thrilled you’re having a blast in London and representing us well!

  • Jay Hepburn says:

    They weren’t necessarily decent G&Ts Blair, but they were fast! Of the few I tasted, they ranged from almost okay to pretty damn bad.

    The limes were ready cut, but contestants did have to open the tonic water bottles during the 1 minute. Each glass had to have ice, gin, tonic and a lime wedge, and vaguely resemble a G&T. Given the speed they were doing it at though, some glasses ended up with about two limes worth of wedges in them.

    Oh, and incase anyone wonders who the winner is (seeing as Jeff is a terrible judge and split early so didn’t know who won when writing this post), it was Rebecca Almqvist from The Lonsdale in London. She not only managed to come joint-first in the speed round with 17 G&Ts, but also made by far the best drink in the “Twisted G&T” round.

  • Chris Bailey says:

    We need video! Man, that’d be fun to watch I bet, would love to see it.

  • As many decent Gin & Tonics as humanly possible? Those are some definite Hiball Hi-jinks.

    Sounds like a Blast… but did cutting the lime count in the time? Curiosity abounds.

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