Belfast barman shakes up the cocktail world
A Belfast bartender has proved he knows how to mix it with the best - by being named the best in the UK.
Sam Cherocles, from the Merchant Hotel, was crowned the UK cocktail king at the prestigious Finlandia Vodka Cup final in London on Monday night for his Irish folk-tale inspired citrus infusion, the Finn McCool.
The local lad beat 17 other bartenders from across the UK in the final, which was held in the new All Star Lanes at Whiteley.
All of the finalists had spent the past three months competing at various heats in nine cities throughout the UK, with judges tasting more than 500 cocktails with the mission of scouting the UK's freshest bartending talent.
In order for Sam to clinch the title, he had to prepare two cocktails, a vodka aperitif and a Finlandia vodka long drink. No more than five ingredients could be used and all contestants had 15 minutes to complete the tasks.
Sam now travels to Lapland in February to represent the UK in the International Finlandia Vodka Cup.
The overall winner will receive a flight to a destination of their choice and an invitation to attend the Finlandia Midnight Sun party in Lapland next summer.
Last year, Edinburgh-based bartender David Cordoba (33) was runner-up only missing out by two points to Polish cocktail king Leszek Krazewski.
Jamie Butler, Finlandia Vodka manager at Brown-Forman, praised Sam's creation saying he beat a lot of stiff competition.
"It was a difficult decision but Sam stood out this year for showing a real understanding of taste, balance, texture and presentation," he said.
"He's definitely got what it takes to compete in the international round and we're looking forward to seeing him represent the UK in February."
How to make Sam's winning Finn McCool
60mls Finlandia Vodka
5mls Amer Picon
15mls fresh lemon juice
20mls passion fruit cordial (infused with 50mls Jasmine Tea)
35mls Fever Tree Tonic Water
Shake all ingredients except the tonic in a cocktail shaker and strain it into an ice filled highball. Add the tonic and garnish with a grapefruit zest and 1/4 wedge of fresh passion fruit.