As with Glasgow Pizza Week, Glasgow Cocktail Week was followed with a Cocktail Battle. Six mixologists from Glasgow’s best cocktail bars stepped up to the challenge of mixing 30 people a cocktail to be judged. The participants were: Blythswood Square, The Hard Rock Cafe, The Atlantic, Porter and Rye, The Trading House and McPhabb’s.
Oh, we were in for a treat.
The very first cocktail, though, wasn’t in the competition. It was an Aperol Spritz prepared to celebrate 150 years of Campari. It was quite sweet, not too strong and a perfect summer drink. Although frankly, given that we had already committed to tasting 6 cocktails that night, it was probably a touch unnecessary. Fortunately we weren’t going to drink full sized cocktails, but smaller taster-sized versions, but still…
The first cocktail to be judged, and my favourite by far, was A Touch of Glass, it was a twist on the already fantastic Blythswood Belter from Blythswood Square. Jide had us taking a morsel of popping candy before sipping his rose champagne and Irn Bru concoction and it was as delicious as it was fun.
This was followed by an offering from the Hardrock Cafe. We were warned we might find it a little dry, and that it was mixed with Cointreu, Blue Curacao and Aperol… so, why’s it going to be dry? To offset the “dryness” our barman added mango bubble tea bobas. Yeah, really. It was just weird. Super sweet and very reminiscent of student parties where people would make “punch” by just pouring together whatever they had and inevitably someone would suggest adding gummy bears. I won’t be visiting Hard Rock to try this (although they do make some cocktails I like).
Thirdly, The Atlantic served us up a wine and pear liqueur cocktail. This was very divisive. I found it muted and drinkable – the ideal palate cleanser after the bubble tea sugarfest. It’s was fresh and crisp and the kind of thing I could drink all night. I think others found it too dry in contrast to the previous saccharine option, which is a shame.
Next up was The Trader by The Trading House. I’d had a go at making this myself the week before and I have to say, it loses something in being turned into a taster sized cocktail. Whereas the full-sized version had been fresh, if a little sweet, this was far sweeter, presumably because it wasn’t packed with so much ice. It did however, still manage to be very pretty and many of the judges declared it to be their favourite of the night.
Fifth was the Porter and Rye (guess who made that one) and this was definitely one I’d go to that bar specifically for. They had reduced a porter and mixed it with rye whisky and… something? By this part in the evening my memory wasn’t as sharp as it usually is. Ooops. Ah well, it was rich, strong and delicious. An ideal after dinner drink and a proper cocktail with none of this nonsense about pouring in five different types of sugar.
Speaking of sugar, the final cocktail was, very appropriately, the salted caramel hard shake by McPhabb’s. This really is desert in a glass so it makes sense that it should go last. I’m glad to have been able to try a taster sized version, it’s very sweet and very creamy and now I know that I could never finish a whole one. It’s definitely delicious, but it’s also definitely just a milkshake with booze in it.
I feel like there’s some advantage to going last in a competition like this. At the start of the night everyone was carefully considering the flavours and appearance of the drinks, wondering about the inventiveness and complexity and whether they’d ever really order them. By the end of the night people were far more forgiving; if it was sweet and alcoholic it was going to score points. I’m sure I’m as guilty as anyone in that respect.
So it was that McPhabb’s took home the prize, very closely followed (seriously, there was one point in it between each cocktail) by The Trading House and Porter and Rye. My favourite Blythswood Square came fourth, and in my heavily biased opinion they were robbed. That’s democracy for you.
So now I have a whole bunch of favourite cocktail bars and a whole bunch of favourite cocktails and I should probably give my liver a rest before I take advantage of any of this new knowledge. That said, I’ll be back to the Blythswood as soon as I can for another cocktail and to tell Jide I think he should have won the day.