Dundee bartender shows rebellious streak with cocktail win

DUNDEE mixologist Kealan Lafferty is set to represent Scotland in the UK final of Rebel Yell’s Bourbon Battle after winning the competition’s Glasgow semi-final.

Dundee mixologist Kealan Lafferty (right) impressed judges.

Kealan of Tom’s Dundee went up against three Glasgow bartenders in the contest, which was held at Sauchiehall Street bar McPhabbs on Tuesday (May 28). The competitors were tasked with creating a Rebel Yell-based cocktail using no more than seven ingredients in seven minutes.

Irish Kealan was crowned the winner for his maverick mix, Unbridled Spirit. Made with Rebel Yell’s flagship Kentucky straight bourbon, Fernet-Branca Menta and coconut milk, the cocktail is also a nod to the bluegrass state’s other famous drink, milk, and was finished with a dehydrated banana garnish.

Kevin Carr of Urban Bar and Brasserie finished second with his creation, The Greenridge – a drink which paid tribute to the Scots who crossed the Appalachian Mountains to kickstart Kentucky’s bourbon industry in the 18th century. The sour-style drink incorporated chilli, sugar snap peas with an apple fan garnish.

The panel of judges – Glasgow bartender Sam Worrall, SLTN’s Jonathan Watt and Michele Reina, European brand ambassador for Rebel Yell and Luxco – were unanimous in their decision; Kealan will now compete against the winners of Leeds and London heats in the national final on June 17 with a place in the global final in the US up for grabs.

Speaking to SLTN, Kealan said he “couldn’t believe” he had won.

“My aim was to make a whiskey drink that was accessible to everyone and I think it was just that,” he said.

“As bartenders we tend to obsess over the stirred down classics, which are great for ourselves and seasoned drinkers, but if that’s all we have to offer then it’s quite hard for non-whiskey drinkers to get into the spirit that we all adore.

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to represent Scotland in the final.”

Speaking about the Glasgow semi-final, Rebel Yell brand ambassador Reina said: “We may have had some of the most brilliant bartenders in the world, but in the end it’s only what you manage to show in your seven minutes that counts. The standard between the competitors were really high.

“Kealan Lafferty showed great brand knowledge and advanced bartender skills. Unbridled Spirit is a long refreshing drink with a light banana flavour and a creamy mouthfeel from the coconut milk, finished with a delicate bitter mint sensation from the Fernet.”