By Sacha Delfosse

Melbourne bar, Lily Blacks, is gearing up for the next round of its leftfield Iron Bartender competition, to be held on Sunday May 15.

The monthly battle, now in its eighth round, sees two mixologist challenged to make the best cocktail possible from an unusual mystery ingredient, with Ben Luzza, from Gin Palace, and Tom Scott from Madame Brussels going head to head in the next round.

Inspired by the cult TV show, Iron Chef, the team from Lily Blacks first started testing each other with odd ingredients to relieve the boredom while working quiet shifts on Sundays.

“It would be pretty quiet so we would take turns and go down to 7 Eleven or somewhere like that and buy random ingredients, something that you’d never normally put in a cocktail and get the other person to make a good drink out of it and that’s just where the idea started,” Lily Blacks co-owner, Lachlan McAllister, explained.

The competition features three industry judges and is divided into two rounds. During the first round each judge nominates a classic cocktail for competitors to make on the spot.

“Whoever makes the best version of the drink, the judges award the win to them, and whoever wins two out of three wins that round,” McAllister said.

“And for the second round we reveal the secret ingredient. They have to make a cocktail using that, one for each of the judges, and they only have 15 minutes to do that.”

Some of the weird ingredients used in the past challenges include cheese, carrot, peas, corn, beetroot and tea, with competitors always managing to make a cocktail no matter the ingredient, although McAllister concedes there have been a few misses amongst the hits.

Those Iron Bartender cocktails that do hit, and can be easily replicated by the Lily Blacks bar team, get featured for a month and there are plans to include some of them on the bar’s cocktail list.

Winners get $100 and bragging rights, with their photos added to the Iron Bartender Hall of Fame wall at the venue.

Past winners have included Andy Griffiths, Merlin Jerebine, Greg Sanderson, Rob Libecans, Sunny Wray and Tom Ambroz.

“For the first few we asked people to compete but lately we have people saying they want to be in it, quite often at the previous event, so they’ll come in for one Iron Bartender and they see it and say I want to be in one in the future,” McAllister said.

“Since then its been pretty cool and we generally get around 100 people turning it up, we fill up fast, it’s a fairly industry crowd but we have been getting normal patrons come in and having a ball.”

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The Shout Team

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