Giffard West Cup 2019 - Fun in the Sun with Southern Thailand's Best Bartenders
I’m not going to lie to you all, I enjoy a drink every now and then. OK, maybe a little more often than that. Now, I’m no bartender but I am what my mother would call “fussy”. I don’t like to pour just any old drink down my throat. So when my teetotaling friend was asked to help judge a cocktail competition, I nominated myself as tribute and stepped up in her place because that’s just the kind of friend I am. Thirty four cocktails later I had no regrets.
Giffard West Cup 2019 - Asia Selections Phuket/Samui
The Giffard West Cup is an international competition - the winner of the Asia Selections Phuket/Samui round will be flown to Malaysia to participate in the next challenge where they’ll compete for the chance to head to the international finals in France next year. No pressure, huh!
The main rules of the first challenge, ‘Blue My Mind’, were pretty straightforward:
The drink must not exceed 7 ingredients (excluding the garnish).
The drink must include minimum 10ml Giffard Blue Curacao Liqueur.
Points were given based on the initial Instagram challenge (photo / caption / recipe / name / popularity), aroma and taste, skills and showmanship, and the “bluetiful” colour.
Competitors first submitted photos of their exotic creations on Instagram with the hashtags #giffardasia and #giffardbluemymind - seventeen were then selected to participate in the competition on 9 December 2018.
On the day of the competition, they reproduced these drinks in front of a judging panel consisting of three highly accomplished local mixologists and myself. I’ve personally never been a huge fan of blue curacao as so many blue cocktails I’ve tried have been far too sweet, as though trying to overcompensate for the bitterness that curacao is famous for. Those seventeen drinks smashed apart my prejudice - every flavour under the sun was represented. Not even kidding, one of the drinks actually contained chilies and it was magnificent.
After taking a quick break to line our stomachs and guzzle a bottle of water, the next challenge ‘Chasing the Bird’ got underway. For this challenge, participants had to create their own spin on the quintessential Malaysian tiki cocktail, the Jungle Bird:
Drink must not exceed 7 ingredients (excluding garnish).
Drink must include a minimum 20ml any Giffard liqueur and/or syrups.
For this challenge, points were given based on presentation, aroma / taste / balance, workmanship / skills / hygiene, and the twist / the story / the name of the cocktail. Points were deducted for a number of errors such as exceeding the 5 minute time limit, spillage and presentation of the bottle labels.
By this time the nerves had mostly worn off for the competitors - for many it was their first time ever competing - and they performed with humour and flair. For me personally, this round was much closer than the first, with so many exquisite cocktails on offer it took all my willpower to pace myself (I couldn’t risk getting too tipsy or I’d likely start throwing full points at everyone).
After points from all four judges were totaled, it was team Samui who ultimately came out on top, snagging both 1st and 2nd places. Watcharapon Sae-Khow representing Tiki Box Samui took first place and will be heading to Malaysia to compete in the next round in March. Second place went to Dennis Thurner from Sooth Bar, also from Koh Samui - as a surprise on the day, Giffard Asia announced that Dennis will also be flown to Malaysia to participate in workshops, guest shifts and cheer on Watcharapon. Third place went to one of Phuket’s own, Alexey Poltavskyi, a seasoned bartender representing Gardens Gastronomy Bar in Phuket Town.
Giffard Asia, Brand Connect and Drinks & Co. put on a fantastic event - if you have the chance to make it to next year’s competition, I highly recommend it (you get to have a taste of each cocktail too, that should be enough incentive).
Congratulations to each and every participant, I was blown away by the talent, creativity and courage and hope to see everyone at the next competition stronger than ever.
Giffard is a producer of premium French liqueurs and syrups. I was given a cheeky taste test prior to the competition and they get the BSoA (Beks Seal of Approval). I feel I must warn you though, the Caribbean Pineapple liqueur is dangerously drinkable by itself.
About Drinks & Co:
The southern Thailand round of the Giffard West Cup 2019 took place at Drinks & Co, which is a showcase retail outlet and bar under the umbrella of Brand Connect. If you’re looking for a VERY reasonably priced bottle of boutique wine or unique spirits and syrups, this is the place for you. It’s located in Boat Avenue, by the lake and just around the corner from Kenny Rogers Roasters.
Top tip: Head there on a Friday evening for the market, grab a chair at Drinks & Co and enjoy a leisurely drink while you people-watch - you’re more than welcome to bring in food from the market to snack on while you sip on your cocktail or glass of wine.