Apollonia’s Jake Down is the inaugural champion of the Bombay Sapphire Stir Creativity competition, impressing the judges with ‘Symphony of Sapphire’, a coconut-influenced drink inspired by the Sydney Opera House.
In total, more than 200 bartenders entered their cocktails, with Bombay Sapphire’s Brand Ambassador team whittling that number down to a 21-drink shortlist. From this shortlist, four finalists were named.
The finals were held on 4 April at Establishment Bar in Sydney’s CBD, with Jake triumphing in a strong field that consisted of: Lachlan Bentley, Gimlet at Cavendish House; Martin McConnell, Frog’s Hollow Saloon; and Pauric Kennedy, Barangaroo House.
Bombay Sapphire Brand Ambassador, Corina Retter, served as the MC for the evening. She introduced the event, and explained the underlying philosophy behind the competition.
“At Bombay Sapphire we believe that creativity is everywhere. It isn’t limited to galleries, to salons, or to trained artists, and that when you look at the smallest moments and find the beauty in the everyday, all of these moments are rich with inspiration,” Corina said.
Judges were drinks writer Sam Bygrave, chef Alejandro Saravia, and Trish Brew, Fever-Tree Australia Brand Ambassador. Prizes included $3,000 in cash, a pin crafted of the winning cocktail, and a trip to Bombay Sapphire’s Laverstoke Mill Distillery in London to learn how the gin is crafted.
Contestants had eight minutes to present their cocktails and two minutes of setup time. Competitors produced three cocktails for the judges to enjoy, while guests were presented with the same drinks, made by Establishment’s bar team. Each drink was paired with a food course from the Establishment kitchen.
Building upon the music played at the Opera House, Jake’s presentation was influenced by synesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon in which a sense can involuntarily be stimulated by another – so taste could lead to an audio experience and vice versa.
“I wanted to build a cocktail through the lens of sound, using sound to build out a drink,” Jake says.
Jake used a ‘sound bowl’, tuned to note of F, to stir the drink. According to Jake, the notes of A-minor and B-flat were also present, as the flavours of coconut water and mint are said to trigger these sounds for people with synesthesia.
Finally, the drink had an impressive garnish presented in a spray bottle, inspired by “a quintessential Australian aroma” of rain upon warm ground – known as ‘petrichor’.
“Before we spray, I want to paint you a picture,” Jake said.
“So it’s a lovely summer night… Those long, long warm nights, and then we have at four or five o’clock, that first flush of rain. That smell of wet earth, wet soil, wet concrete. So this here [the garnish] is the smell of rain.”
Jake reassured guests that the garnish did not actually contain rainwater, but a flavour compound, a high-proof spirit and Bombay Sapphire.
Celebrations lasted long into the night, with an after-party at nearby Double Deuce.