British bartender wins the International Southern Showdown 2018

August 2018

Bartender Lee Jones, of the Smokestack bar in Leeds, has won the International Final of the Southern Comfort Southern Showdown 2018 cocktail contest, held in the cocktail capital of the world, New Orleans.

Lee’s winning drink, the Whitesmith Cobbler, won through against strong competition from Irish and Australian Southern Showdown winners. All three international finalists had already triumphed in their national contests, where they were challenged 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 40% ABV New Southern Comfort Black, or the 50% ABV Southern Comfort 100 Proof.

With the New Orleans final taking place in the birthplace of the American cocktail, a panel of international judges including Christian Tirel, UK & Ireland Southern Comfort Brand Ambassador, James Johnstone, Senior Brand Manager of SouthTrade International, Australia, and Norton Christopher, Beverage Director, Sac A Lait, New Orleans put the three finalists through their paces.

Up against Lee were runner-up Daniel Gregory of the IXL Bar in Hobart, Tasmania, with his Where the Wild Things Are cocktail, and third place Shane Groarke of Cask bar in Cork, with his creation called Non Genuine But Mine.

Making their winning cocktails for the judges, the finalists earned points for the flavour of their drink, their technique and presentation skills, and their knowledge of the history and heritage of Southern Comfort, created in New Orleans in 1874 by bartender M.W. Heron.

Lee said: “To be in New Orleans representing the UK for the Southern Showdown Final is about as close to the essence of hospitality as you can get. I met passionate individuals from all over the world, who want nothing more than to celebrate the career we’ve all chosen.

“I’m incredibly proud to have won, and in particular to be bringing a bit of attention to northern bartenders in the UK – there is so much talent out there waiting to be found, and I can’t wait for the rest of the world discover it too.”

Christian Tirel, UK brand ambassador for Southern Comfort, and winner of the first Southern Showdown in 2016, said: “The quality of entries gets stronger every year, and Lee had to be on top form to win the International final against great competition from Daniel and Shane, in the home of Southern Comfort.”

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 pickled gooseberry, mint hydrosol and absinthe bon bon.

Southern Comfort is distributed in the UK by Hi-Spirits. For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

Caption to attached image: (l-r) Norton Christopher, judge, Beverage Director, Sac A Lait, New Orleans: Lee Jones, International Southern Showdown Winner from Smokestack, Leeds and Christian Tirel, Southern Comfort UK & Ireland Brand Ambassador

Scapegrace Gin goes rogue with Anonymous Cocktail Competition

July 2018

Building on its reputation as the rogue of the spirits shelf, Scapegrace Gin is launching a cocktail competition with a difference. Bartenders entering the Anonymous contest will have to create a Scapegrace cocktail recipe that will be made for the judges by another bartender.

With the entrants remaining anonymous until after the judging, the competition has been launched by Hi-Spirits, distributor of premium New Zealand gin Scapegrace, to put the focus firmly on the quality of the cocktail rather than the personality of the bartender.

Any bar stocking Scapegrace Classic Gin or Scapegrace Gold Gin can enter a cocktail recipe with a maximum of ten steps online. Entrants will be shortlisted on the basis of the originality of the drink, the appearance of the cocktail, and creativity based on their answers to two online questions about who they’d serve their drink to.

Regional winners will be invited to a Grand Final in London on 3 October, during London Cocktail Week – where they will see their drink being made for the judges. The identity of the winning drink’s creator will only be revealed once the judging is complete.

The prize for each regional winner also includes a one night, all expenses paid trip to London, with a plus one. This will include a tour of some of the capital’s best venues, along with dinner and drinks, hosted by Scapegrace Ambassador Josh Linfitt. The overall winner will get a Scapegrace goodie bag and tickets to see Fat Freddy’s Drop at the Brixton O2 Academy on 9 November as part of another VIP night out.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “It’s just over a year since we launched Scapegrace in the UK, and it’s definitely lived up to its reputation as a Rogue in terms of its premium quality and mixability. There are plenty of cocktail competitions that put the focus on the personality and presentation skills of the bartender, so we’ve created the Anonymous competition to put the quality and originality of the cocktail itself at the heart of the contest.”

Coming from the Rogue Society Distilling Co, Scapegrace bills itself as the gin ‘from the bottom of the world’. Distilled in New Zealand using spring water sourced from the country’s Southern Alps, and botanicals sourced from around the world, the spirit is batch-distilled using a restored 19th century copper whisky still, with each batch individually numbered.

Scapegrace is a traditional word for a rogue or rascal, and the brand celebrates gin’s sometimes murky history with a black-tinted bottle, which has a shape based on an antique genever bottle. Alongside Scapegrace Classic, a 42.2% ABV complex, artisan dry gin which combines classic juniper and citrus notes with subtler floral and spice undertones, sits Scapegrace Gold, a 57% ABV Navy-strength gin with added tangerine flavour notes.

Full entry details for the Anonymous Cocktail Competition, including terms and conditions, can be found at

A Second Showdown for Hogs Back Brewery

July 2018

Surrey brewer back on national TV

Farnham brewer Hogs Back Brewery is back on national TV this week with a timely repeat of its appearance on BBC One Daytime series, The Farmers’ Country Showdown, as the brewer prepares for its hop harvest.

The programme was filmed at the time of the 2017 harvest at the Hogs Back hop garden adjacent to the brewery and was originally broadcast in January. With The Farmers’ Country Showdown attracting regular audiences of 1.6m, the new broadcast, at 11.45am on Friday 20 July, comes just as Hogs Back is gearing up for the 2018 harvest.

The episode includes an interview with Hogs Back MD Rupert Thompson, where he talks about the brewery, and in particular its hop garden, as well as footage of the Farnham Food Festival, where Thompson gave a talk on hops. The programme also features local gamekeeper and butcher Jack Smallman.

Thompson said, “We were delighted to welcome The Farmers’ Country Showdown team to the brewery, and we’re glad there’s another opportunity for viewers to enjoy the programme.  The hop garden, which we planted in 2014, is a great example of brewing tradition and innovation working hand-in-hand, and an excellent fit for the series, which looks at a wide range of farmers and producers.

“Growing our own hops, including the Farnham White Bine, a traditional local variety which we have revived, is a great story and we’re always happy to tell it again, especially as we prepare for this year’s harvest.”

The Farmers’ Country Showdown celebrates the hard-working, devoted farmers who are the backbone of the rural economy. It illustrates the changing face of farming as well as the traditional ways of working the land they live on. It first screened in 2017 and a second series of 20 x 45-minute programmes was shown this year.

Notes to editors

The Farmers’ Country Showdown is produced by Sidney Street Productions, a production company founded in January 2016 by former MasterChef Creative Director, Karen Ross with Endemol Shine UK. It specialises in producing food, factual and lifestyle formats, including the Mary Berry Everyday series for BBC Two.

Drinkaware Crew to operate at Splendour Festival

Alcohol education charity Drinkaware is extending its Drinkaware Crew scheme to the Splendour Festival in Nottingham on 21 July.

Drinkaware Crew was launched in 2014 in pubs, bars and clubs as a way of keeping young people safe on a night out and has been introduced to 18 areas around the country. The Drinkaware Crew teams will operate at Splendour in much the same way as they do in bars and clubs; after receiving special training, developed by Drinkaware, they will interact with festival goers and support people who might be vulnerable after drinking too much.

Working in pairs, Drinkaware Crew will mingle with festival visitors, wearing branded Splendour/Drinkaware Crew clothing, and help vulnerable people where needed. As well as reactive support, teams will proactively promote a positive atmosphere, by talking to customers queuing to enter the festival, and engaging with them during the event.

Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal said: “Drinkaware are delighted that the Splendour Festival has taken the decision to introduce our highly successful Drinkaware Crew scheme.

“Four years ago, Nottingham was the first city to have the scheme in bars, pubs and clubs, so it’s a natural progression to now introduce it to a festival in Nottingham, to help keep people safe.

“We are confident that Drinkaware Crew will prove to be an effective tool at Splendour and look forward to seeing it in action.”

Julie Tippins, Head of Compliance at venue operator DHP Family, which runs the Splendour Festival, said: “Over the 10 years we have been staging Splendour, we’ve seen it more than double in size and it now attracts around 25,000 people. It has a wonderful family friendly atmosphere where everyone comes together to enjoy the music, comedy and fringe entertainment.

“As a responsible and experienced venue operator and concert promoter, we take a progressive approach to ensuring we provide an environment that is safe and welcoming to all and we are proud to be the first festival outside of London to be welcoming Drinkaware Crew.”

Drinkaware Crew is designed for venues with a 500+ capacity and training has been delivered in: Bolton, Cheltenham, Glasgow, Plymouth, Shoreditch, Cardiff, Swansea, Nottingham, Bristol, Derby, Coventry, Leicester, Birmingham, Loughborough, Stalybridge, Pontypridd, Exeter and Wakefield. Venues interested in operating Drinkaware Crew should contact

Smaller venues can benefit from the Drinkaware Alcohol Vulnerability Awareness e-learning course, based on the Drinkaware Crew training programme. This gives customer-facing staff the skills and knowledge to identify alcohol-related vulnerability and support customers at risk from harm. For more information:

Stonegate scoops Corporate Charity Fundraiser award

July 2018

Stonegate Pub Company has been named the Corporate Charity Fundraiser of the Year by PubAid and the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG).Stonegate Pub Company has been named the Corporate Charity Fundraiser of the Year by PubAid and the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG).

The Award was presented to Stonegate CEO, Simon Longbottom, at the annual APPBG Dinner in Westminster, in recognition of the company’s impressive commitment to charity support across its pubs and head office. Stonegate raises around £1.5 million for charity every year, supporting a wide range of worthy national and local causes.

Co-founder of PubAid, Des O’Flanagan said, “Everyone on the PubAid Steering Group was impressed by Stonegate’s support for charity. Fundraising is seen not as a ‘nice to do’ add-on, but a fundamental part of running a Stonegate pub.

“Managers and their teams demonstrate huge creativity and dedication in their fundraising, which embraces a variety of activities, from Fun Days to fancy dress events, sporting challenges and larger, region-wide initiatives, such as the ‘Spartan Walk’, where 300 southern pubs raised £73,500 for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice. Head office are also active within their community in Luton, with ongoing support for the local children’s hospital.”

PubAid also highlighted Stonegate’s northern division’s mission to raise £60,000 for MIND and the Scottish Association for Mental Health. A whopping £45,000 has already been raised by the pubs and bars with a further £9,000 raised by the management and support team who trekked the gruelling Three Peaks. Fundraising continues until September so they are on track to hit the target.

On receiving the award Longbottom said, “It is an honour to receive this award in recognition of the tremendous amount of community fundraising and the phenomenal amount of money raised each year for charities large and small by our pubs and support team.”

Mike Wood, MP for Dudley South and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, said “Stonegate has shown what can be achieved when charity support is embedded within a company’s culture, with all employees empowered and enthused to do their bit to help. Raising £1.5 million a year is a fantastic result and we are delighted to name them as the winner of our Corporate Charity Fundraiser award.”

As well as the Corporate Charity Fundraiser of the Year award, PubAid also recognises outstanding charity support by individual pubs with the Charity Fundraising Pub of the Year award. This award, supported by Magners, was presented for the first time earlier this year, with the Logan Rock in Treen, Cornwall, taking the winner’s title ahead of seven other pubs on a very strong shortlist.

The Corporate Charity Fundraiser award is in its fourth year. Previous winners are JD Wetherspoon, Greene King and Joseph Holt.

Caption to attached image (l-r): Mike Wood, Chairman of the APPBG and Simon Longbottom, CEO, Stonegate Pub Company

Counting cost as football comes home - Hogs Back boss rues free pint offer

July 2018

A Surrey brewery boss may be the only Englishman crying into his beer if England beat Croatia in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday, following an earlier promise of a free pint to customers in the brewery’s shop ahead of the final next weekend.

Rupert Thompson, managing director of Hogs Back Brewery in Tongham, pledged back in May that if Southgate’s squad made it to the final, the brewery would give a free pint of ale to anyone stocking up on beers from the brewery shop on Saturday 14 July.

Thompson said, “Like many people my age, I’ve watched the England football team crash out of tournaments for the best part of three decades. The chances of them getting to the World Cup final seemed negligible and, therefore, so was the likelihood of having to honour our free pint promise.

“Looking back, we were somewhat dismissive of the England squad’s chances; we even suggested that any pubs stocking Three Hogs, our World Cup beer, should make sure they sold it all during the group stage.”

As Kane and his unstoppable young team storm on towards the final, Thompson is rueing his rash generosity and calculating the likely cost if England is one of the teams running onto the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday. An estimated 30 million-plus people are expected to watch at home or in the pub, many of them beer in hand.

He said, “The lesson, that I should perhaps have learned earlier in life, is never to underestimate football’s capacity to surprise, as we approach a semi-final line up that nobody would have predicted with most of the favourites knocked out.

“England playing in the World Cup Final will certainly cost us in beer we never dreamed we’d have to give away. However, if there were ever an occasion where we felt happy about taking a bit of a financial hit, then this is it!”

The Hogs Back Brewery shop will be offering a free pint of Hogs Back ale to visitors purchasing beers on Saturday 14 July, if England are in the final the next day. The brewery will also be screening England games in a newly-constructed outside area, allowing fans to watch the match with their favourite Hogs Back beer. Capacity is limited so places should be booked in advance at

Caption to attached image: Hogs Back Brewery MD Rupert Thompson calculates the cost of his offer of a free pint if England reach the World Cup final