In late August, a select group of bartenders ventured out into the High Coast Nature Reserve of Sweden, the official site, and venue for the final round of the Hernö Gin Cocktail Awards 2017. The finalists were sent out equipped with only basic tools and rummaged through the woods to forage their own botanicals in order to prepare, cook and use in their final cocktail they were presenting to the judged.
A strong contingent from Hong Kong saw Gerry Olino of Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour, Devender Kumar, bar manager at 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, and Leo Cheung, the man behind the award-winning bar program at Alibi in the Cordis, Hong Kong.
To ensure fairness, Hernö Gin distills a gin specifically for the competition, called the High Coast Terroir Gin. It’s produced differently each year and only 399 bottles are ever available at a time. In this competition, each competitor is only provided with the gin, honey, water and the botanicals they have found in the forest. With no sugar, citrus, shaker, ice or anything that you would expect to find in modern bartending, the creativity shines through in workshopping their recipe for the final presentation. During the foraging session, a handful of Swedish native bartenders were stationed in the woods to advise competitors on the botanicals. Post foraging, bartenders were provided with an outdoor kitchen featuring basic tools such as a knife, spoon, bowl, and strainer, and within a mere three hours, were required to craft their cocktail in front of an audience of around 100.
The final presentation allowed each bartender 10 minutes and at this stage, shakers, ice, strainers, coupettes and highball glasses were made available to enhance the cocktail. Davender Kumar wowed the judging panel, taking home the title with his “In & On the Forest” drink. “The whole idea was to understand and pick the ingredients that represent the local terroir that makes Hernö unique” said Devender. “I wanted to choose ingredients that added a myriad of flavours to the drink and yet didn’t take too much time to prepare, given that we had only a few hours to come up with a cocktail with the ingredients that we picked in the forest. I decided to give the drink a fruity appeal but at the same time introduced some elements of earthiness. Hence, I picked up juniper leaves, rölleka and honey as nature’s oldest sweetening agents.”
Cocktail Name: In & On the Forest
Created by Devender Kumar
30 ml Hernö High Coast Terroir Gin
30ml Honey water infused with heather and juniper leaves, rölleka and harsyra
45ml Water infused with meadowsweet and fresh juniper
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