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Ballinger takes Buffalo Trace UK crown
Published:  23 October, 2015

Joe Ballinger of Berry and Rye in Liverpool was named Buffalo Trace UK champion yesterday, after winning the national final in Lexington, Kentucky.

The competition was held at the visitor centre of Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace Distillery and followed regional heats in the UK.

Ballinger’s drink Old Fire on the Meadow succeeded in meeting the “British twist on an American classic” brief, taking influence from the Julep cocktail.

It combined Buffalo Trace Bourbon, oak aged cider nettle syrup, red current wine and Peychaud bitters.

Served in julep mugs and garnished with mint – a nod to the mint juleps of the Kentucky Derby – it was also smoked with wood chips and finished with a spray of local limestone water.

Marked on presentation, brand knowledge, taste, appearance and execution of the drink, Ballinger scored highly across the board.

Judges – including Tim Giles, UK brand manager of Buffalo Trace, Drew Mayville, master blender at Buffalo Trace Distillery and Hannah Lodge of Bar Chick - were impressed by Ballinger’s story, which linked the “meadows, rivers and horse races” of Ballinger’s upbringing in the Cotswolds, UK, to Kentucky.

Giles said: “The competition was about about bringing British twists to American classics and Ballinger was able to portray that in his drink and presentation the best of all the competitors.”

Lodge added that the competition was of a high standard and and that the winner had prevailed by a margin of just one point. “His presentation felt genuine,” she added. 

Ballinger, who takes home a prize of £1,000, said: “I got the brief right. I understood what they wanted to see. Buffalo Trace was the first bourbon I made cocktails with so it’s a brand I believe in.”

Also competing were Tim Pryde of Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh, Charlie Thomas of Amoeba in Bristol, Jake Goldstein of Plotting Parlour in Brighton and Charles Roche of the Hockley Arts Club in Nottingham.