Marblehead Brand Development threw down the gauntlet to mixologists nationwide for its third annual cocktail competition, held at the Atlantic Bar, London. This year it was called Back to Basics - in other words, not too many ingredients. Wodka Wyborowa or Zubrowka Bison Grass Wodka, Maker's Mark Bourbon and Bisquit Cognac were the ingredients that had to be used. The finalists from five regional heats were: Ilario Pogliani, from Isola, London; Luis Arrevillagas from Mash & Air, Manchester; Sean Finnegan from Baby Blue, Liverpool; Chris Langan from Blue Bar, Edinburgh; and Brian Duell from Che, London. Judges included cocktail maestro Dick Bradsell and Peter Dorelli of the Savoy. The winner was Duell, with Langan second. The winning cocktails were: Nectarine Julep - 50ml Maker's Mark, 5ml gomme syrup, half a ripe nectarine; and Vanilla Old Fashioned - 50ml Bisquit, 5ml vanille de Madagascar, dash bitters. The contestants went freestyle in the "Wild Card" (any of the spirits and any amount of mixers). Duell's winner was Black Bison - 50ml Zubrowka, 5ml cräme de cassis, 5ml Chambord, 10ml lime juice, 5ml blackcurrant purée, gomme and fresh berries.
Golf clubs, listen up - top golfer Greg Norman has launched his wines in Europe. Norman teamed up with Aussie Mildara Blass (020 8947 4312) to launch his own range of wines a couple of years back. Called Greg Norman Estates Wines, their European launch was held at the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle on the eve of this year's Open Championship. "Fine wine is one of my passions," says Norman, "and I wanted to introduce more people to the wines I love." There are two in the range: 1999 Yarra Valley Chardonnay and 1998 Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot (the 1996 made number 58 on the Wine Spectator's top 100 list for 1999).
Dark and strong
Bacardi-Martini has launched its aged brand, Bacardi 8, on these shores. It's a blend of Bacardi's best rums, with a 40% abv. The story goes it has been the favoured blend of the Bacardi family since founder Don Facundo Bacardi created it in Cuba in the last century and was, until recently, enjoyed exclusively by the family. Caterer hasn't yet managed to get hold of any, but expect a whiff of apricots, vanilla, bananas and nutmeg, with plenty of wood (from the ageing in oak barrels) and a spicy afterburn. Get orders in fast, as supplies are limited.