Lee Jones of the Smokestack bar in Leeds has been declared winner of the Southern Comfort Southern Showdown 2018 cocktail contest, after a hard-fought final on board the Dixie Queen, a New Orleans-style riverboat cruising on the Thames.
Lee’s winning cocktail, the Whitesmith Cobbler, was crowned after the six winners of regional heats from around the UK mixed their drinks for a panel of industry judges. Lee will now compete against Southern Showdown winners from Ireland and Australia in July at the international final in New Orleans, birthplace of Southern Comfort and spiritual home of the cocktail.
He will be joined on the New Orleans trip, coinciding with the annual Tales of the Cocktail event, by second-placed finalist Sarah Berardi, of Draffens, Dundee, whose cocktail was the Mississippi Momma, and third-placed Thomas Hay-Owens, of Seaside Boarding House, Dorset, who created the Mayflower cocktail.
With the Southern Showdown in its third year in the UK, bartenders were challenged this year to recreate the spirit of their home town in a cocktail, just as Southern Comfort captures the spirit of New Orleans. Cocktails had to include the classic 35% ABV Southern Comfort Original, the newly launched 40% ABV Southern Comfort Black, or the on-trade only 50% ABV Southern Comfort 100 Proof.
Lee said: “The contest involved a lot of hard work, both in creating the cocktail and making it for the judges at the final. I’m delighted and surprised to have won against such great competition, and looking forward to the international final in New Orleans.”
Julian De Feral, drinks director of consultancy Gorgeous Group and chair of the judges, said: “All the finalists showed a huge amount of flair, knowledge and imagination. There was real debate amongst the judges, but we agreed that Lee gave the best all-round performance, from his product knowledge and presentation right through to serving a great cocktail.”
The judges also included Nicole Sykes, the 2017 Southern Showdown winner and bartender at Satan’s Whiskers in London; and Tom Hodgkiss national accounts manager with Southern Comfort distributor Hi-Spirits.
The final on board the Dixie Queen was also an opportunity for around 300 specially-invited guests from the bar trade to enjoy cocktails made with the newly-launched Southern Comfort Black. The 40% ABV blend has a bold, whiskey flavour inspired by Southern Comfort creator M.W. Heron’s original blend of whiskey with fruits and spices.
Lee’s winning recipe for the Whitesmith Cobbler is:
- 40ml Southern Comfort 100 Proof
- 20ml Absentroux herbal wine
- 20ml gooseberry cordial
- 1 dash champagne acid
Served in a Nick & Nora Coupette glass. Garnished with a dehydrated lemon
The six finalists were:
- North: Lee Jones, of Smokestack, Leeds with the Whitesmith Cobbler
- Scotland: Sarah Berardi, of Draffens, Dundee, with the Mississippi Momma
- South Coast: Thomas Hay-Owens, Seaside Boarding House, Dorset, with the Mayflower.
- Midlands: Charley Carrington, of Last Chance, Nottingham, with Aigrelette
- London West: Giacomo Brunelli, of Scarfes Bar, London with Marliana’s Time
- London East: Thom Solberg, of Black Rock, London, with Laksen