Sunday, 12 October 2014

Monkey Shoulder Ultimate Bartenders Challenge Finals

A couple of weeks ago I was invited down to the finals of the Monkey Shoulder bartenders competition. Two teams had to create their own unique bar and cocktail recipes using Monkey Shoulder (of course!), the aim being to entice as many people as possible to part with their tokens, and the bar with the most tokens at the end of the night wins the opportunity to have their own pop-up bar at London Cocktail Week, which has been on all of this week. 

The two bars were set in two studios connected to each other; the first bar was in the first studio as you enter the building and belonged to The Cowbell Team, with the other bar belonging to the Sip & Chatter Team, was through a set of double doors to the side of the first studio. 
Monkey Shoulder Reviews
The Cowbell Team consisted of three friends who took inspiration from a Saturday Night Live sketch ‘More Cowbell’ which starred Christopher Walker and Will Ferrall. I have to admit I have never seen this sketch so if you’re the same, here is a link to it Video 

Now that everyone is up to speed with the whole More Cowbell thing, their bar had an upbeat outdoor party kind of vibe with music that makes you want to get up and dance, and haggis cheese toasties were their chosen bar snack = winner.
Monkey Shoulder Reviews

Monkey Shoulder Reviews
The Sip & Chatter team did have my vote for the best cocktail names. 
The Sip & Chatter team were made up three guys who use to work together at The New Inventive Bar Company, Aberdeen. They had previous professional bartending experience and a larger menu, so The Cowbell team were the underdogs in this competition. The concept of their bar was a more relaxed and chilled out affair with shabby shack style booths around the room for people to ‘sip’ and ‘chatter’, tea lights added to a more relaxed setting, and the music was more chilled out than the other bar. 

I had 3 tokens to spend, for my first cocktail I just had to start off with Sip & Chatter’s Gingiana Jones. This was a winning combination, the whisky was nicely balanced with the sourness of lemon juice, the spicy fresh root ginger compliments the spice notes in the whisky, and the Bramley apple juice added a touch of sweetness. I will definitely try to re-creating this recipe at home!
Monkey Shoulder Reviews
My second and last token went to The Cowbell’s for their Lord Wellington, and Mr Berlusconi’s Love Child which I chose purely because the name made me chuckle, but I was also curious to see what Amaro tasted like, a decision which I regret; sickly sweet with a bitter kick that was not really my thing. However this was one of the most popular cocktails of the night! 

Lord Wellington was a very pretty two tone highball like cocktail, the fruity floral notes from the raspberry and elderflower cordial worked well with the Appletise and the whisky. 

So what I know is Monkey Shoulder makes nice cocktails but what does it tastes like on its own? Here is a bit of background. It’s been blended by master blender and all round whisky legend – David Stewart, who is well known for his creations at The Balvenie. From my knowledge, the blend consists of Speyside single malts from Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kininvie distillery. 
Monkey Shoulder Reviews
The glass needed to be taller as the Lord Wellington went down too well!
Whisky Discovery No.226

Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Whisky (40% abv)
Blended Malt 
Circa £25 70cl
Monkey Shoulder Reviews
So what did I think?
It has the colour of very diluted golden syrup, and aromas of sultanas, red apples – Braeburns, and lastly creamy sweetness of a warm ginger crème brulee. It certainly captures my attention, interesting without being overly complicated. Within an instant you get those Speyside characteristic.   

The taste starts off with being silky smooth with balanced flavours between delicate floral honey notes and cooked barley, toasted crust from a whole grain malt loaf, spices then come through - cinnamon, mace, star anise, some liquorice, with rolling tobacco notes towards the end, the finish is lingering, dry and warming.  

Compared to the other blends you can get in the supermarkets, this is a little more expensive but I feel of a higher quality than some of the other brands. I'm not 100% sure whether this has or hasn't got artificial colourings added to it, my guess from the colour and the fact that I don’t detect a bitter after taste like some of the others, it has had no artificial colourants added to it. Overall it’s a great blend that is smooth to sip on its own, easy drinking, and the flavours work excellently well in cocktails!

I checked on the blog and Dave did taste this back November 2012 as discover #226 in a mystery tweet tasting, you can read his thoughts about it here: Whisky Discovery No.226
Monkey Shoulder Reviews
Papping Mr Berlusconi’s Love Child 
The winning team of the night were The Cowbells, and their pop-up bar can be found at 9 Shorts Gardens, London, WC2H 9AT. Today the 12th of October is the last chance to taste their cocktails at London Cocktail Week, so go seek them out if you’re in the area. Details and wristbands for London Cocktail week can be found on this link to their website

Thank you to Monkey Shoulder for the invite. You can get cocktail recipes and find out more about Monkey Shoulder on their website here