On Wednesday night the promise of a mouth watering ginternship brought me and a long lost partner in crime to the trendy Fade Street Social. Famed, not only for its home grown produce menu from the brain of celebrity chef Dylan McGrath, but also its trendy tapas bar and enchanting cocktail/winter garden. A perfect venue for a gin soaked, gin themed cocktail bartender competition, The Irish Final of the MIXLDN Bartender Competition 2015.
Before having the honour of tasting each unique creation offered by 9 very talented bartenders, we were treated to a gin tasting with Beefeater Master Distiller, Desmond Payne. Sat in the beautiful cocktail/winter garden, I and my fellow ginterns found 6 glasses numbered from 1 to 6 with samples of various gins that the master wanted us to experience before our judging skills were let loose on the competitors.
Desmond oozes passion for his craft and it is plain to see that he really does love educating the mortal community on the majesty, history and artistry attached to gin-making, in particular his guided meditation style of showing Joe Soaps like me how to identify the unique ingredients that are responsible for the many intriguing aromas and tantalising tastes each crafted gin has to offer. It really was a taste bud guided meditation as every smell and taste Desmond suggested you notice in his free flowing descriptive manner arrived just on time as the words left his mouth accurately and on time. I think myself and my GINger bearded friend was starting to fear more ludicrous scents and less salivating bodies. So hypnotic was Desmond Payne’s passion that if he had uttered the words “dead dwarf crocodile”, we just may have tasted that very thing.
Desmond walked us through the various botanical and earthy qualities of the gin classics. We were treated to an audio stroll down each gin’s creation path – for me some paths were bumpier than others. Some samples included Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks and Plymouth gins and, the one that stood out in taste for me, Beefeater 24. The labour of Desmond Payne’s love and expertise, Beefeater 24 is his creation – definitely a drink I would recommend to anyone by adding just a drop of water.
(You can find out all you want or need to know here.)
Competition Time! Things get Ginteresting!
Nine dapper bartenders from up and down the country took centre stage behind the Beefeater stocked bar one by one in pursuit of the crown of Irish champion. This champion will continue on to London and take on the Crème De Menthe of international mixologists. Each contestant very carefully explained the thought and creation process of their cocktail baby and when they finished making their GINuine (Oh lord – Ed.) originals, we all got a taste.
Each one had its own stamp and the competitors were charismatic, professional and informative. My personal favourite was bar tender Amy Joyce, “The Galway Girl” whose unique personal style matched her drink and, to me, appeared to be the whole package. As it happens, Amy did win the people’s choice award, so congratulations to her. That is not to say the winner was undeserving. In fact, I found all of the contestants to be deserving of progression in their art. The GINius to go and compete on an international level though is Cork based barman Carl d’Alton! Fancy take on the surname Dalton, Carl. Just like your fancy pants attention to detail when it comes to bourgeois booze. Congratulation sir and best of luck in the London finals from everyone at Krank.ie. Do Ireland proud!
Thanks to Nigel Goggins and the entire Conway Communications crew for a well run event. Thank you Fade Street Social by Dylan McGrath for the delicious food we had to keep us thirsty and many thanks to Desmond Payne and Beefeater for allowing us to sample some of the 500 varieties of Gin. Most importantly, congratulations to all that took part in a well fought battle of the Drink Druids that were our bartenders. You left me and my companion on Planet Juniper. Note that I used a special Gin filter on my camera, which hopefully explains the images.