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Mile high cocktails
6:00am Saturday 21st June 2014 in Lifestyle
If you're lucky enough to fly British Airways First Class, you now won't only have the extensive wine list to consider, you can also taste an award-winning cocktail, courtesy of James Fowler, the World Class UK Bartender of the Year 2014 .
Fowler, from the Larder House Bar in Bournemouth, was recently crowned King of the cocktails, having spent 10 months competing in local and regional heats to win a place in the big finals - where he battled it out with three other contestants during a week of intense competition in London and Hong Kong.
Using the finest spirits from Diageo (the Johnnie Walker-owning drinks group behind the competition), t he penultimate challenge for the finalists was to make a cocktail on the new BA A380 flight to Hong Kong. Then came the chef's challenge set by guest judge, Michelin star Jason Atherton of Pollen Street Social, Berners Tavern and a handful of restaurants in Asia.
As you can imagine, testing their mixology skills in the Business Class galley of the plane with limited time, space and resources (the 100ml liquid limit was enforced) is a far cry from crafting ground-breaking cocktails with complex ingredients in a comfortable, glitzy bar space.
"Creating great drinks at 35,000 feet is also a huge challenge as the change in environment can have a dramatic impact on the senses," says Susan Stevens, British Airways beverages manager.
"Carbonated drinks become fizzier at altitude and fruity drinks become more astringent, making wines and spirits taste remarkably different in the air. Creating cocktails which taste as good in the skies as they do on the ground is the ultimate challenge."
To meet this challenge, and to create cocktail recipes spread across two countries, Fowler chose Zacapa XO (£103.25, 70cl, www.alexanderandjames.com), Tanqueray No Ten (£32.50, 70cl, www.alexanderandjames.com) and Cardhu 12 YO (£37.25, 70cl, www.alexanderandjames.com) as his leading spirits. He also packed his box of tricks - cocktail shakers, strainers, bespoke jiggers and bar spoons (just as important as a chef's knives) - plus a leather workman's apron and a lucky charm.
It obviously worked its magic with Fowler announced the winner by the captain of the BA 26 flight home.
He will now go forward to represent Great Britain in the star-studded World Class Bartender of the Year Global Final next month - the largest, and most credible bartender competition in the world.
In the meantime, here are the champ's sophisticated recipes to recreate at home. (Budding mixologists take note; to be a real pro, you also need execution, technique, presentation and creativity).
:: Challenge One - Best of British
50ml Cardhu 12 YO, 10ml Lapsang Souchong tea, 25ml Earl Grey & honey flash infusion, 15ml Sarsons, tarragon and strawberry reduction
Stir on ice to dilute before chilling in fridge to bind flavours. Serve in stamped glasses, garnish with dehydrated pear & strawberry and rock candy, and style with a Big Ben decanter.
:: Challenge Two - East meets West, served at 35,000 feet
BLOODY MARY XO
60ml Tanqueray No Ten, 3 dashes Tabasco, 5ml fino sherry, 25ml tomato juice, 10ml XO and lemongrass infusion (made from spices and finely chopped seafood, prawns, scallops and is rich in Unami. The XO sauce was thinned with Tanqueray and James added tomato puree and lemongrass), 4-5 drops chilli and shrimp oil float
Throw 3 times, serve in a wine glass, drop oil on top of drink, garnish with sky flake crackers
:: Challenge Three - Batender/Barchef, inspired by the wet markets of Hong Kong and a food pairing with slow-cooked lamb shoulder
60ml Ron Zacapa XO, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters, 15ml pink grapefruit juice, 40ml squash, date, 5 Spice, cascara puree, 10ml palo cortado sherry
Swizzle all ingredients in a Chinese mug, add crushed ice and swizzle again, garnish with a back scratcher (used as a swizzle and to woo the judges: "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"), dehydrated pineapple, rice paper.
:: BEST BUY
Best bar none... Alessi have teamed their Italian flair and design innovation with professional bar consultants to create the 5050 Boston Cocktail Shaker Set (£145, www.alessi.com). With two parts that fit perfectly into each other, the steel beaker can also be used as a mixing glass and the set comes with a bar strainer, stirrer, cocktail measure and Boston shaker in 18/10 stainless steel and glass.
:: LIQUID NEWS
Smeg flags its support for England (and Brazil)... Normally known for its retro American style refrigerators, Smeg have now launched a special edition of its FAB5RR minibar-style fridge (£649, www.johnlewis.com) which has been wrapped in the St George's Cross (England) flag to celebrate the World Cup 2014.
Measuring 73cm high and 40cm wide, it's roomy enough to hold 20 bottles (including three 75cl wines, beer cans and snacks), with added 'Absorption cooling system' technology.
Alternatively, if you decide to change allegiance, there's a version wrapped in the host country's flag.
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