There is just over a week left to get entries in for the 2021 London Spirits Competition – the only event of its kind that judges drinks on their quality, their value for money and what they look like in their packaging and design. To help set the scene we talk to one the judges, Cristiana Pirinu, bartender at The Donovan Bar about why she takes part and thinks it is a competition to be taken seriously.
To find out more about the London Spirits Competition click here and to enter your products click here in time for the final entry day on February 22.
Any drinks competition relies on the two things: the quality of the products that are entered; and the respect of the expertise of the judges tasked with picking out the winners. The London Spirits Competition has focused on both as each year it builds its reputation around the world amongst the leading distillers, brand owners and drinks distributors.
As well as assessing each product for their quality, their value and packaging and design the judges are also asked to determine their final votes on how commercially relevant the drink in question is compared to the competitive set in its category. That’s why it needs judges that are working on the front end of the industry to take part.
Those tasked with making those decisions every day in the bars, restaurants, pubs and hotels where they work. The sector’s top bartenders, bar managers and hospitality drinks buyers.
Last month we introduced a number of those key buyers and bar personalities that are taking part in the judging who were able to explain in their own words what they think makes a good spirits competition. (You can see the full list of judges here).
Here we invite Cristiana Pirinu, bartender at The Donovan Bar, the main drinks attraction in London’s iconic Brown’s hotel to do the same. Named after the celebrated photographer Terence Donovan – whose legendary 1960s portraits are a key feature of the bar’s design – it has a cocktail menu that has been devised by arguably the most respected spirits buyer and cocktail maestro of them all – Salvatore Calabrese.
Why do you want to be a judge in the London Spirits Competition?
I want to be a judge of the competition because I want to test my skills and knowledge. I see it as a great way to meet other judges and also to face a new experience and through the support of my fellow professionals improve my knowledge and learn at the same time. It will be an honour for me to take part.
What makes it stand out and be different from other spirits competitions?
It differs from the others in terms of organisation, the assessment criteria and the potential impact it has on those that enter through all the post-participation services that are available. It’s a great way for all the participating brands to present their products to the judges. Winning the top positions will certainly bring advantages in terms of future sales of those brands, but everyone that enters also has the opportunity to promote themselves through the organisers, the Beverage Trade Network.
It is unique in that it also asks judges to assess products for their design and packaging – what do you look for in design and packaging as a bar tender and what is most effective?
Simplicity is an important element, but you have to know how to use it. I am also looking to see how a product stands out next to the other bottles on shelf. Does it have the elegance and intrigue me enough to want to taste it. I also look for a brief and precise description of the product on the label.
How have you found lockdown and what have you been able to do to keep yourself up to speed?
In the beginning it wasn’t easy, but thank’s to some motivation from the first lockdown I spent part of my free time looking to refresh my knowledge and to help me more working in the bar. I also discovered the importance of dedicating more time to myself, through meditation and workouts. I divide my days reading, cooking, working out and trying to see my friends when I can, but also trying to enjoy this free time before returning to work.
What spirits and cocktail trends do you see coming to the fore when lockdown is over?
The trend of low alcohol and non-alcoholic products will continue this year. Like with wines, many spirits are now introducing more organic and vegan products that are suitable for everyone’s diets. Within cocktails, I think we will see a rise in demand for mocktails that will again keep low alcohol drinks in the spotlight.
All spirits entered into the London Spirits Competition are organised into flights and then assessed in the following way:
- Initially all spirits are tasted blind to determine its quality. Where appropriate they will also be assessed by variety, style, region, and country.
- Judges will then be given a briefing document setting out the spirits’ price and target consumer and trade channel where it wants to be sold. Only then will judges be asked to give their score for quality based on the initial blind tasting and then additional knowledge about the spirits’ price and market position.
- The judges will then be handed the bottle or format for them to be able to assess, in detail, the design, label, and packaging and determine how well that matches up to, or complements the quality of the spirits and its price point.
- The judges will then discuss the spirits as a whole to help allocate scores in the three judging areas.
- The Gold winning spirits and all special category spirits will be re-tasted by the spirits judges on the re-judging day to ensure the scoring quality.
Judging will take place on March 17, 2021, at a central London venue. To be considered in the competition all products must be with Sensible Spirits Solutions by February 26, 2021.
Registration Ends – February 22, 2021 (to register click here)
Warehouse Closes: February 26, 2021
Judging Date: March 17, 2021
Winners Announced: March 30, 2021
£170 Regular – February 22, 2021
New: Quantity Discount Now Available
3 to 8 entries: 10% discount
9 to 13 entries: 15% discount
14 or more entries: 20% discount