Drink, Top Feature

Bar wars

Find out who came out on top when the Soho House Cocktail Cup pitted our global bar teams against each other for the very first time at Soho Farmhouse…

What’s the strongest bar team in Soho House? For global drinking director Tom Kerr, answering that question would be impossible: like picking a favourite child. But when Bacardi approached him about running a cocktail competition, he quickly came up with the idea of making it a global event. “It seemed like a great way to energise all our bar teams, getting them to share their strengths, think creatively and learn from other Houses around the world,” he explains.

The Soho House Cocktail Cup was born, and UK Cookhouse and House Tonic manager Clemency Keeler was enlisted to make it happen. “We’ve never done anything like this before so we called in all our resources to make sure everybody could be involved,” she says.

Competitors were asked to create three drinks, all based around Bacardi-Martini products – one for daytime, one aperitivo and one nightcap – and present them to the first-round judges in their site. As an extra challenge, they also had to make a short film bringing their three drinks to life.

As well as raising the cup itself and taking it back to display on the bar in their House, the winners would get all inclusive trip to a Bacardi-Martini brand home, and a party for their entire team. (“A party you will never forget,” promised Tom, who takes these things seriously.) They would also be featured on Difford’s Guide, the world’s most popular cocktail website.

As they got to work on their entries, bars managers saw great energy in their sites. “It has brought my team very close to one another,” says Matteo Battistello of 76 Dean Street. “Everyone had a lot of ideas and we all worked together on them until we had something innovative, stylish and simple.”

“We have four different bars here at the Beach House and we’ve all done our own menus individually but we’ve never had the opportunity to come together and work on one project,” says bars manager Rick Nani.

The competitive spirit led to a great standard; while the judges were expecting to see some interesting drinks ideas, nobody was prepared for the filmmaking talent that would be displayed. “Some of them are so professional that I would be able to share them on my website,” says judge Simon Difford, whose job it was to select five finalists from 26 entries.

Judging sheets were drawn up based on the core Soho House principles of simplicity, consistency, speed and flavour. “The first thing you look for in any competition is tasty drinks,” says Simon, who judges at cocktail events all over the world. “Is it balanced? Does it have good character?”

Beyond the quality of the drinks themselves, the judges were looking for a slick performance and presentation, with speed, tidiness and hygiene also important. “Soho House has a lot of island bars, with people sitting watching the bartenders work. So you have to work in a really accurate way and you need someone entertaining to match all those big personalities you have coming through,” Simon says.

Taking everything into account, the five finalists selected were 40 Greek Street and 76 Dean Street from the UK, Cecconi’s Barcelona from Europe, and the Little Beach House Malibu and The Allis Chicago from the US. “It was a great surprise to make the final, but I was confident because of our great team and delicious drinks,” says Jorge Vallejo, public restaurants bars manager in Chicago. “Everyone put in a lot of passion and we are looking forward to going head to head with the other teams and seeing what everyone else came up with.”

Judges of the final at Soho Farmhouse were Simon Difford, Martin Kuczmarski, the St Germain brand ambassador Camille Vidal and David Kaplan, owner of New York cocktail institution Death & Co. They awarded best drinks to Cecconi’s Barcelona for their Palomita and Tonico drinks, and best video to 76 Dean Street with the Little Beach House Malibu as runners-up. The overall winners were 76 Dean Street, who offered the strongest combination of drinks, video and presentation.

“I feel very proud of my team,” says 76’s bars manager Matteo Battistello. “We tried to keep everything as simple and fluent as possible, from the video to the presentation. We had a lot of fun working on it and all of us believed in the ideas and the concepts we were presenting.”

“The Cocktail Cup is the pièce de resistance for our House Tonic programme this year,” says Clemency. “It’s been a big success and will hopefully be something we can do every year.”

“We’ve definitely exceeded our expectations of how good this could be,” agrees Tom. “It’s made me proud to see all our teams working on this and I hope they’ll take that same energy back to their sites and really elevate standards around the world.”

THE FIVE FINALISTS

1. 40 Greek Street
2. 76 Dean Street
3. The Allis, Chicago
4. Little Beach House Malibu
5. Cecconi’s Barcelona

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