G's Movers with Shakers
Luxardo Campione 2015 Semi Final
19 Oct 2015
Isn’t it great working with products you care about?
I’ve done my fair share of cocktail competitions since I moved behind the bar in 2010, but few have matched the quality and heritage put forward by Luxardo. Now, it helps that I’m a little bit in love with Luxardo Maraschino, which made experimenting with the liquid even more of a joy, but with such a rich history to delve into it’s easy to really throw yourself behind the brand.
The theme this year was “La Famiglia” or family, a nod to the fact that Luxardo is still a family run business to this day. I was fortunate enough to meet members from the 5th, 6th and 7th generation on my trip to Padua and with their passion and drive I now understand why they are still going strong.
I took the brief down the route of my bar family, as I’m very fortunate to work with a small team of likeminded bartenders in Beaconsfield (not to bring up the old hipster cliché but you’ve probably never heard of it). In our bar, The Treehouse, we constantly push ourselves to create new and interesting drinks and whilst the odd madcap creation does find its way on to the menu, our goal is simplicity and replicability. What’s the point in making a great drink out here if only a handful of people get to try it? So with this in mind, I tried only to use off the shelf products and regular techniques and at each stage checked that I was sticking to my theme of creating something that really represented my bar and the family we’ve made there.
This resulted in my “Home from Home”, a herbal mix of Luxardo Maraschino, Luxardo Fernet Amaro, lemon juice, egg white and chocolate bitters, which you should definitely go and try now by the way, I’ve heard it’s quite good.
With the drink in hand, I took on my heat and the UK semi-final with the usual combination of shaky hands and bad chat, met some fantastic bartenders from across the country and had a totally responsible amount of Maraschino with the incredible “Luxardo G” and co. (Anyone for a Nuclear Hemmingway Daiquiri?).
A big thank you needs to be said to the staff at both Opium and LAB on my behalf for their hospitality, and also to Bar Termini for helping get some last minute prep done, I’m incredibly grateful and proud of our industry and how it works together this way.
I was beyond excited to get through to the final and make my drink for the Luxardo family, a feeling I felt was shared by my fellow competitors Manacháin (Manny) and Troels (Guru). I massively enjoyed their company over the trip and it was incredible competing with people who actively try to help and want each other to succeed.
After a little time on the first evening enjoying the beautiful city of Padua, the next day we were thrown right into the fun and sent off to the market to create a second drink with whatever we could find. Here is where I wish I’d used the language teaching app on my phone instead of just downloading and forgetting about it. After some shoddy gesturing and apologies, I got my mixed bag of unusual ingredients and headed down to the venue to experiment.
The Pedrocchi Café held this years’ final, and it was an absolute privilege to work behind. The building is incredible, the staff delightful and the atmosphere was wonderfully intense. Using a little space off to one side we worked on our market drinks with whatever we could get our hands on and soon started settling down to the pre competition nerves.
The competition was difficult but incredibly rewarding, I always talk too fast which is a major problem when presenting to people whose first language isn’t English, but I was pretty sure I’d got everything I needed to say, understood and out in time. On top of this, I’d made the schoolboy error of bringing all my equipment but forgetting my shaker back home, unwise to say the least, so I’m eternally grateful to everyone at the venue for helping me out in my time of need and finding me one.
After the competition there was a long and nervous wait for the results, we went upstairs to the beautiful halls above the bar to meet and greet some more of the Luxardo family, close friends and associates. After the announcement, I was completely overwhelmed by the love and congratulations I received from everyone there. I remember a whirlwind of images; being lifted up by a beaming Manny, getting “knighted” by a 5th generation member of the family, hugs and handshakes from half of Padua, it was an unforgettable experience.
The following day saw us all tour the distillery, a wonderful prize in itself getting to see how everything is made. Tasting the Maraschino distillate right from the still was a rare privilege, though rather difficult early in the day at 70% ABV. The production line is staggering, especially when compared to the small room next door where the Maraschino bottles are still hand wrapped with a little help from a very interesting (and top secret I’m told) bit of kit.
It was a very inspiring trip and I was more than a little sad to be leaving the sunny Venetian countryside, though the thought of the prize money and airport shopping somewhat softened the blow.
I’d like to leave the following advice for anyone looking to enter in the future and in the process I’ll sound just like your Mum; do your homework, learn your Italian, and don’t forget your kit!
Talented bartender from The Treehouse, Beconsfield and the 2015 Luxardo Campione winner!