22 OCT

Bristol Cocktail Cup 2014


Portobello Road Gin & Herradura Tequila, proud sponsors of the

‘Bristol Cocktail Cup 2014’ 

Held on Monday 20th October, this was truly a night to remember! Congratulations to Bristol’s Bartender of the Year - Emilio di Salvo and Runner-up James McGovern both from RedLight.

Many thanks to all the organisers at Bristol Cocktail Week for such a fantastic event. 



"Bristol's cocktail kings: Staggering through speed rounds and speakeasies with city's master mixologists" 

For the full article on 'Bristol Post', please click here




It is 1.15am on Tuesday morning and there is barely a movement on Whiteladies Road. The remnants of some tropical storm thousands of miles away have come to little but a few trees rustling at the top of the street where it meets the Downs.

But while the city sleeps gently there is a violent cacophony of noise rising from underneath an Indian restaurant – at one of Bristol oldest-running speakeasy-style bars where this year's bartender of the year has just been crowned.

Fists thump tables, drinks rattle on the packed bar at Hausbar and the winner of the Bristol Cocktail Cup, Emilio Di Salvo, beats his chest and roars. It has been a long night. And a long day.

This year's competition started at 2pm on Monday, the day before Bristol Cocktail Week opened to the public. The bars and bartenders which make the week happen met behind closed doors at Pata Negra, one of a growing number of high-end cocktail bars to have popped up in Bristol over the last few years. The aim is simple: to crown the city's best mixologist through five rigorous rounds, testing everything from inventing drinks on the spot to knowledge and technical speed.


At first glance it is a wonder why it was scheduled at the beginning of what is likely to be one of the busiest weeks of the year for many involved.

A more careful look at what the competition entails confirms that this is madness. Each round is held at one of five of the city's premium bars and each round is sponsored by a different brand which provides an unending supply of spirits for anyone lucky enough to be invited.

I joined the gin round at The Doghouse, a dark and cavernous basement bar on St Stephen's Street. Greeted by a swaying Sam Kershaw (an award-winning bartender, I am told) on the steps, I walked down underground into a sea of bartenders and drinks crowded around the bar awaiting their fate.

It's dark, like a lot of the "door-knock" bars to have emerged in Bristol recently, and the already slightly raucous bunch looked like they could do with a decent helping of Vitamin D with their drinks.

The 'scenario round' saw bartenders pick out a scenario – someone coming to the bar having had their marriage proposal rejected, to give one example – and think on their feet to create a drink to suit.

The ten who were remaining (from the 14 that started in Pata Negra) were judged by the brand ambassador from London-based Portobello Road gin who duly whittled them down to six. The six became four at Unity Street's Red Light, owned by previous Bristol Bartender Of The Year Richard Tring, one of the organisers of Bristol Cocktail Week.

The speed round under the low lights of the stylish speakeasy tested the remaining bartenders on their ability to mix four classic cocktails – a Manhattan, julep, old fashioned and whisky sour – as quickly as possible.

Amoeba bar in Clifton Village was the next stop for the staggering troupe. This round was the Boilermaker, a short mixed drink as a chaser for a beer.

The competitors were judged by their ability to match their drinks with a beer from the fridge by the man behind Bristol Beer Week.

The final round saw two competitors surrounded by whoever was still awake, whoever had been dragged in from the other bars along the way and a few who had finally finished work elsewhere at the top of Whiteladies Road in Hausbar.

Sponsored by Chartreuse, the brand ambassador sat in the heart of the mayhem as the final drinks were mixed from a 'mystery box' of ingredients before the winner was announced amid the chorus of cheers, applause and the occasional scream.

The red-eyed 23-year-old, dishevelled but just about held together by his braces, looked like a man who didn't need an interview. Fortunately I managed to catch the Red Light bartender earlier in the night, when he could still spell his name. I made my excuses and slipped out into the quiet night, leaving the Cocktail Cup celebrations, which I can imagine were only just starting...


Read more: