By Sacha Delfosse
A group of 60 enjoyed Vale Ale beers, Gentleman Jack cocktails and Crust pizzas as they watched the six finalists – Nirmal Lorensuhewa, Geoff Fewell, Peter Thomson, Roger Cameron, Daniel O’Brien and Samuel Cumming – prepare and present their cocktails to the judges.
Cumming (centre) won first place with his drink, The Old Fashioned Gentleman, which earned him the $500 prize money.
Second place went to Cameron (left), who received $250 and third place went to O’Brien (right) who scored $100.
All three also received a 1.75lt bottle of Gentlemen Jack which they graciously shared with their peers.
“Apart from the hangover the next day, I felt great. It was really rewarding to place amongst such a great field of competitors, since I have a great amount of respect for all the bartenders I competed with,” Cumming told TheShout.
To prepare for the competition, he spent some time studying the history of Gentleman Jack and the life of Jasper ‘Jack’ Daniel as well as sounding out colleagues and customers for feedback on his cocktail entry.
“There were plenty of quiet afternoons in the bar playing around with drinks and throwing around ideas with the rest of the bartenders. I got a lot of input from the other guys as well as our regular customers that I made the drink for,” Cumming said.
Having began his career working in restaurant bars, Cumming is currently the assistant manager at Hippo Bar, where has worked for the past two years, although he plans to head down to Melbourne some time next year to further his bartending career.
Despite being a regular drinker of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 and having severed up Gentleman Jack frequently at Hippo Bar, Cumming explained that before the competition he had not really taken the time to ‘break down the flavours in Gentleman Jack’.
“It was nice to have a chance to actually get into what Gentleman Jack is, and I’ve got an appreciation for it now that I didn’t really have before the competition,” he said.
Having unravelled the flavour profile of Gentleman Jack, Cumming decided to stick with an Old Fashioned style drink to be able to showcase the spirit as much as possible.
“I think Gentleman Jack is a great workable spirit that has some good qualities to it, and the Old Fashioned is a great drink because there is so little else that takes away from that, its all about the spirit, you’re not washing it down with a whole heap of lemon juice or lots of other liqueurs that go in and take away from the flavours,” he said.