There might have been a plethora of different events in the City during May, but BN1 has just been introduced to a new and exciting world of creativity. Last month we took our first foray into the secretive world of Brighton’s underground cocktail making competition scene.

OK, maybe it’s not that big a secret, but it proved an exciting experience regardless. Pan-Asian eatery Yum Yum Ninja, together with Brighton Bartenders Association brought together some of the City’s finest mixologists to compete against each other. Providing the alcoholic standard for the assembled talent was drinks distributor Hi Spirits, who set the bartenders the task of making drinks using their classic Kentucky straight bourbon, Buffalo Trace.

Distilled on the banks of the Kentucky River for over 200 years, Buffalo Trace is the world’s most decorated distillery. Made from the finest corn, rye and barley malt, this whiskey is aged in new oak barrels for years, until the peak of maturity. This extended process gives it a complex taste, which offers hints of vanilla, toffee and candied fruit. The smooth finish lingers on the palate.

Judged by a team of connoisseurs, the whiskey cocktails were judged according to taste, flair and product knowledge. Many utilised their own pre-prepared supplementary ingredients, whilst others brought dry ice, fire, tea services and even old cowboy boots to spice up their presentation.


The elegant surroundings of the Ninja Bar saw 13 crafty cocktail combatants blend showboating, alchemy and a love for their trade, in a sustained effort to win the first prize of travelling to Kentucky for a show down with some of the best cocktail-makers on the planet.

Overcoming some fierce competition, the event finally established a champion in the shape of Cocktail Shack’s Ali Bell, who won an all-expenses paid trip to Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky.

Coming a close second was Maz Curdon-Pri from Hotel Du Vin who pocketed £100 and a Buffalo Trace goody bag, whilst in third was Yum Yum Ninja’s very own Luke Loddo, who got £50 and a goody bag.

Ultimately we left with a finer appreciation of the subtleties of great whiskey, and a deeper understanding of the enormous effort going into making a world class cocktail. Central Brighton, some sumptuous whiskey-based cocktails and a competitive atmosphere like you’ve never experienced. Will our Wednesday afternoons ever be the same again?