The grand final of the Southern Showdown, held on board the Dixie Queen riverboat on the River Thames, saw Adam Day of Wilderness Bar & Kitchen in Manchester and Scott Addison of Beast in London, crowned winners of the annual event.
The pair, as well as two other finalists, prepared and served their cocktails for judges and around 300 industry guests.
Each bartender had their own satellite bar on the boat, giving them space to demonstrate their skill, flair and product knowledge.
In spirit of their win, the duo will now head on a VIP trip to New Orleans – the birthplace of Southern Comfort – and home of the soon-to-be-launched Sazerac House immersive cocktail experience.
The People’s Champion award, which was voted for by the guests on board, saw runner-up Addison concoct the Black Banana cocktail using unique ingredients: black banana, Southern Comfort Black and a smoky, grilled banana syrup.
But the overall winner – the Lagniappe cocktail – a rosé twist on a classic Kir cocktail combining Southern Comfort Original with stone fruit flavours including blackberry, saw Day grab the majority vote.
An elated Day told The Morning Advertiser that he was “delighted” to be chosen as the winner, but remained humble in his win.
“Every drink was delicious and it must have been extremely difficult for the judges to choose a winner,” he exclaimed.
“I think my drink won because it was a different interpretation, not what you expect from a Southern Comfort cocktail.
“The beauty of batching a drink is that you’re giving guests the luxury of time, they’re not waiting at the bar, they can get a tasty drink straight away and spend that time with friends.”
Toni Law, Southern Comfort brand manager, which is owned by Hi-Spirits, spoke highly of the deserving winners and added that the other two finalists did a fantastic job.
“This year’s Southern Showdown was the most challenging yet,” she explained.
“There were mystery judges on board the Dixie Queen, so none of the finalists knew when they were being marked as they made and served their signature cocktails.
“The new serves created for the competition demonstrate the versatility of the Southern Comfort range in cocktails that capture the true spirit of New Orleans.”
The two other finalists were Dan Crowther of Hedonist in Leeds with his McCauley’s Ice Tea cocktail, and Gareth Rees of the Fat Bear in London, with the Count of Orleans drink.