Photography: Lightshow Photography
It’s been a month since the Fundamentals of Flavours challenge, and our creative bartenders have taken the feedback from round one to heart and prepared themselves for round two: The History of London.
The spirit at the heart of this round is Tanqueray No. Ten, a gin with a strong connection to London. Created in 2000, the quadruple-distilled gin was named after the still it came from; Tanqueray itself was founded in London in 1830, and continued to be produced there until the distillery was damaged in World War II, after which it was moved to Scotland where it has remained ever since.
For this challenge, the bartenders were expected to create a cocktail that somehow draws inspiration from the history of London. Overseeing this round are the returning judges Lam Chi Mun, Ben Ng and Kim Choong, as well as Diageo Bar Academy Trainer Aubrey Sim.
Hyde at 53M opened their doors and hosted this round, nicely accommodating the 11 competitors. The cosy speakeasy bar – furnished with dark wood, brown leather sofas and a long white marble bar – is a moody little space hidden among the numerous shop lots of Damansara Utama. Everyone huddled around the two stages at the bar, watching each bartender work their magic and explain the inspiration behind their drinks – which included things like the foundation of London, the hipster culture of Shoreditch, the smell of British rain, and even the late Amy Winehouse – who namechecked Tanqueray in “You Know I’m No Good”.
By the end, the judges noted there was a definite improvement from the bartenders compared to the previous round, particularly that everyone smoothly presented their drinks within the five-minute timeframe (all except two, who had fumbled and lost track). But with the good comes the bad, as the judging panel had a few critiques for the bartenders: not enough engagement with the judges while they were making the drinks; a lack of diversity with the ingredients (this particular round had quite a few competitors using tea, which is safe, but clichéd); and lastly, that there was some time wasted due to some issues with the equipment, which underscores the importance of testing machinery and tools beforehand.
All the judges agreed that this was a close round, and congratulated the bartenders for making it this far and showing progress. Following the critiques they announced the top three for The History of London challenge, which included a repeat appearance from Insan from Tate and Shawn from Omakase+Appreciate, along with a new face: Osmun from Hubba Hubba. This score will be added to their previous scores, and then totalled together at the end of round three to determine who will go to Bangkok for the regional finals.
Like the round before, Aubrey Sim took to the bar and announced the final challenge: Retro vs Modern, using the newly introduced Haig Club whisky – testing to see how well the bartenders can put a modern spin on a classic cocktail. But this round will be different: set up in the style of a ‘pop-up bar’ in Publika, each competitor will have their own stall to run and drinks to prepare. This round will be open to the public to observe, overseen by the three usual judges, and will also feature an appearance by guest judge Sue Lynn of BangsarBabe.com for an honorary award. The Malaysian preliminaries will end with a real bang.
All cocktails made in The History of London round will be on sale in the respective restaurants and bars for customers to enjoy outside of the competition.
Round three, Retro vs Modern challenge, will take place on June 9. Watch this space for more reporting from the scene.
TANQUERAY NO. TEN COCKTAILS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
- Daniel, Las Carretas. ‘The Amys’
- John, The Majestic KL. ‘A Point of View’
- Insan, Tate. ‘London Thyme’
- Hanafi, QBA. ‘Golden Eye’
- Joel, The View. ‘Gin Craze’
- Osman, Hubba Hubba. ‘Thyme of Elder’
- Edward, Hubba Hubba. ‘This Moment’
- Shawn, Omakase+Appreciate. ‘Brutus’ Tonic’
- Sam, Hubba Hubba. ‘The Tropical East’
- Naresh, QBA. ‘Sister’
- Eddy, Zeta Bar. 'Blue Ocean'