By Sacha Delfosse

The Freestyle Cocktail Sessions took place on Wednesday (May 11) at Cargo Lounge in Sydney, as part of Keystone Hospitality’s World Cocktail Week events, which featured ten of Sydney’s best bartenders each showcasing a signature drink.

Two awards were handed out, the People’s Choice, which the attending public voted on, and a Judge’s Award that was decided by a panel of three industry representatives, with the Cargo Lounge’s Tom Berthet the getting the public’s vote, and Lewis Jaffrey from Grandma’s receiving the judge’s accolade

“I think the judges were happy with my drink, The Snickerdoodle, because it was refreshing but not overly complicated. And I had to work really hard for it too, because I had never done a competition like this before,” Jaffrey said.

“I could only do two drinks at the one time, so I had to shake up a lot of drinks, in two hours I probably made 150 to 200 drinks. I did have a back bar though which helped a lot, so I need to give a big shout out to Yaz for the help.”

Both winners took home a Belvedere cocktail kit, along with illustrious bragging rights, although for Jafferey the event was more about promoting Grandma’s, one of the latest small bars to appear in Sydney.

“Because it’s a small bar there are people who haven’t heard of it, but all the competitors had their name and their bar on their shirt, so people were asking me where Grandma’s is.”

“And they wanted to know if they get the cocktail I was making for them at Grandma’s, which we will be adding to the cocktail list. Any good promotion is great overall for a small bar, if you can even 10 more people to come it’s a plus for the business,” Jaffrey explained.

The competition has been running for five years and was originally part of the Sydney’ Food and Wine Festival, although Keystone decided to make it one of its World Cocktail Week events as it fitted in perfectly with the idea behind its celebration of cocktails.

Competitors had to come up with a recipe using base spirits from the Moët Hennessy range, and were chosen from a cross section venues; both small and large, and not solely from the Keystone portfolio.

Apart from Tom Berthet and Jaffrey, the other bartenders involved were Blake Head (Rockpool), Phil Gandevia (Eau De Vie), Jason Williams (The Loft), Alex Relic (Low 302), Peter Dvoracek (Lotus), Natalie Ng (Hugo’s Bar Pizza), Ben Hickey (Kit and Kaboodle), and renegade Andy Penney.

The event generated a good turnout, with a balanced mix of people from the trade and the general public attending. And unlike other competitions, guest could talk to the bartenders while they prepared the cocktails, allowing competitors to engage with guests and answer any questions they had.

“I think it was awesome, me personally I like it when someone is asking me questions about the drink, so I can get prompted and tell them little things that I might forget to tell them if I was doing a straight up presentation,” Keystone Hospitality’s group cocktail manager, Jason Williams, said.

“You can get a bit of banter happening across the bar and you have to do that a couple of hundred times because you got people coming up constantly to get a drink, so it’s a good way to get some chat over the bar and at the same time the people on the other side of the bar get to know cocktails more, and learn the thought process behind the drink.”

To watch a short clip of Lewis Jaffrey talking about his win and introducing Grandma's, click on the video below.  

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The Shout Team

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