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Earlier this summer, Cognac house Hennessy asked bartenders from 45 UK hotspots to come up with a cocktail using Hennessy Fine de Cognac. Compromising of a balanced blend, combining eaux-de-vies characterised by floral notes and accents of fruits and preserved by a subtle ageing, Hennessy Fine de Cognac is a perfect cognac to test the skills of the bartenders.
In September, the 10 regional winners will go head to head with their cocktails in the overall final, which will be held in Shoreditch’s Callooh Callay.
Tasting their drinks and picking a winner will be three industry insiders: Julie Sheppard, associate editor at Imbibe magazine (a sister publication to Square Meal); Max Helm, Hennessy’s UK brand manager, and Suzie Dowty, editor at bar guide barchick.com.
BarChick is the world’s leading guide to the best bars in the world, from high class cocktails to down-and-dirty dive bars. BarChick was impressed with how the delicate floral notes and fruit flavours from Hennessy’s Fine de Cognac lent itself perfectly to the cocktails.
But the judges aren’t the only lucky people who will get the chance to taste the bartenders’ creations: until 31 August, Square Meal readers can taste the cocktails in each of the competing bars. Here are the 10 cocktails that have been put forward for the final...
Ian Sanderson, from Glasgow’s Tiki Bar & Kitsch Inn, created the Fillioux Club for the Hennessy competition. The cocktail blends Hennessy Fine de Cognac, lemon juice, falernum (a spiced Caribbean syrup), St-Germain elderflower liqueur and Angostura bitters, shaken with an egg white and garnished with a twist of lemon, fresh elderflower blossom and star anise. Fresh, floral notes bring out the complexity of the Cognac, while the citrus zing cuts through the sweet spice in the falernum. The judges described the cocktail as ‘a dangerously drinkable blend’.
Mal Spence from Kelvingrove Café on Glasgow’s Argyle Street came up with this fruity, attention-grabbing cocktail. The drink mixes Hennessy Fine de Cognac with RinQuinQuin (a peach aperitif from Provence), byrrh (a red-wine-based apéritif) and sugar syrup in a martini glass with a black-grape garnish; the result, according to the judges, was ‘strong and powerful’, with herbal and fruit notes, and ‘a delightful cherry colour’.
For his cocktail, Martin Siska from the Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair mixed Hennessy Fine de Cognac with Poire William liqueur, vanilla syrup, cinnamon syrup, egg white and lemon juice to create a ‘fantastic-looking’ cocktail served in a martini glass and garnished with gold leaf and a cinnamon stick. The judges praised the cocktail’s excellent balance, and recommended it as a before-dinner drink.
Alessandro Porcedda, from L’Anima in the City, brought a touch of Italy and a splash of Ireland to the competition. Irish Officer mixes Hennessy Fine de Cognac with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, mint-infused Amaro Montenegro herbal liqueur and whiskey-aged bitters, all served in a teacup and garnished with a twist of lemon. The judges described the drink as ‘rich, deep and very fulfilling on the palate, with a delightful finish’.
Jefferson Coltro from Hakkasan, on London’s Hanway Place, added depth to his Hennessy Fine de Cognac base by stirring the spirit over hot water with star anise, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, and pouring the warmed drink into a smoked martini glass. The digestif-style cocktail comes garnished with a slice of orange peel. The judges enjoyed the ‘Christmassy feelings’ evoked by this cocktail and praised Coltro’s concise ingredient list.
Marlowe Harris from Evans & Peel on London’s Earls Court Road mixed Hennessy Fine de Cognac with Antica Formula red vermouth, Martinique rum, grapefruit bitters and coriander-seed bitters to create a complex, multi-layered cocktail that’s stirred over ice and served in a martini glass with a twist of orange peel. The result (pictured, top right) is a balanced drink whose fruity notes complement the Hennessy Cognac.
Sam Sareen from Aquum in Clapham infused Hennessy Fine de Cognac with Earl Grey tea and stem ginger, then mixed the result with chai sugar syrup and Angostura bitters before flaming it with a twist of orange peel. The cocktail is served in a teacup with a twist of lemon peel. The judges complimented the drink’s ‘beautiful spiciness’ and easy-drinking quality.
Michael Braun from Bibis Italianissimo, in Leeds, served the competition judges with his take on a traditional flip. The cocktail blends Hennessy Fine de Cognac with Crème d’Abricot liqueur, caster sugar, lemon juice, egg white and a homemade port, plum, clove and rosemary reduction. The mixture is shaken, served in a martini glass and garnished with rosemary. The result is a ‘lovely, fresh and subtle’ cocktail whose fruit notes marry well with the Cognac – the apricot complementing the Cognac’s sweet notes, and the lemon cutting through the richness at the finish.
Eduardo Arcesi from Manchester’s Epernay bar gave his Hennessy cocktail an Asian twist, shaking Hennessy Fine de Cognac with plum saké, homemade summer-berry and green-tea sugar syrup and lemon bitters. His cocktail arrives in a Chinese teapot with two teacups, and should be garnished with a twist of lemon. The judges admired Asian Fusion’s ‘beautiful presentation’, and said the floral and fruit notes built up to a ‘subtle yet full flavour’.
Dan Crowther from The Smokestack Bar & Club in Leeds came up with a ‘fantastically balanced drink’, according to the judges. The cocktail mixes Hennessy Fine de Cognac with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, lemon juice, gingerbread syrup and Eager apple juice, which is served in a tankard over crushed ice and garnished with mint sprigs and fresh apricot slices. The contrasting flavours ensure the drink has a long, complex finish in which all the ingredients play their part.