Welcome back to another exciting instalment of the #LiveNaked Bar Swap, our global event series that challenges some of the world’s most talented bartenders to wow us with their culture, creativity and, of course, incredible cocktail-making skills.
In our latest event, we selected some of the UK’s best mixologists to dazzle us with their drinksmithery...
As always, participants were challenged to impress our judges with a signature Unconventional Naked Sour cocktail recipe and create a show-stopping cocktail against the clock using only selected ingredients in our Mystery Box Challenge!
Bartenders from six of the UK’s top bars went head-to-head and astounded our judges with amazing Naked Sour serves that showcased their heritage, their creativity, and their mixology skills.
With lots of seriously impressive drinks being produced, picking a winner was far from easy! So, Sean Cavanagh from Edinburgh’s Panda & Sons should be extremely proud to take away the title with his mouth-watering take on a whisky sour, ‘Breakfast in the Buff’.
Sean, congratulations! Your Unconventional Naked Sour ‘Breakfast in the Buff’ blew the judges away, how did you come up with that?
I wanted to make a sour that only used local Scottish ingredients to make the serve more environmentally friendly in terms of CO2 emissions and, of course, demonstrated the fantastic produce that we have here in Scotland. Then I took apart the structure of a whisky sour and combined ingredients to not only showcase Naked Malt but to add complimentary flavours and textures whilst still keeping true to the fundamentals of what a Whisky Sour is.
Why do you think Naked Malt works so well in serves like yours?
The versatility of Naked Malt lends itself to many different classic whisky cocktails. With an abundance of flavours drawn from the base spirit it’s not too hard to bring out subtle flavours that occur naturally in the whisky and allow them to shine in a variety of ways. For my serve I wanted to put emphasis on the lighter sherry notes that pair really well with the darker malt tones in the whisky and allow them to be at the forefront of my cocktail whilst adding ingredients that complimented those lighter tones.
How did you find the national competition and what were the highlights for you?
The competition itself was fairly relaxed at the start whilst showcasing our Unconventional Naked Sours and talking the judges through our ideas. It was the mystery box challenge that got a bit hectic! With lots of ideas floating around and some tight timeframes to fit it all into, yeah that was interesting! My favourite part of the competition was being able to meet a lot of new people who are just as passionate as me about what they do. And who doesn’t like being out in the country by a firepit being serenaded by a band!
What are you looking forward to the most in your 2022 Bar Swap?
Before the pandemic I was actually based abroad after spending 4 years away from Scotland. This allowed me to experience and learn from different cultures, so I’m excited to experience somewhere new and meet bartenders from other countries whilst learning about their culture and how they do things in their bar. Hopefully this will allow me to incorporate different perspectives into my work. Also, some sunshine! Scotland has many great things… but the weather isn’t one of them.
What do you enjoy most about working at Panda & Sons?
The ability to be as creative as possible, in the past year the management team have been incredibly supportive in helping turn some of my more challenging drinks concepts into reality. Working in a team with such a wealth of knowledge, everyone is able to teach you something new every day, which allows me to keep growing and learning. The unity of working with a team is something I really enjoy and being able to have fun each day with the Panda family is an absolute joy.
What are the best and most challenging things about doing what you do?
The best thing is seeing guests come in and enjoy the drinks and experience great service. Seeing our guests leave with a smile is always a reminder of why we do what we do each day. In terms of challenges, I think the volume of cocktails that we produce each service is something that definitely took me a while to get used to in terms of pace in the bar, however all the hard work that the team do behind the scenes in terms of prep allows service to run smoothly and for the quality of each serve to be of the highest standard.
Finally, what’s next for Panda & Sons? Any exciting things on the horizon?
So, so much! We have heaps of things planned for the year ahead with lots of different takeovers globally which will be amazing to showcase Scottish hospitality! We have some seminars coming up too, involving some switching techniques which we pride ourselves on. Also, a new menu will be coming out at some point which will highlight new techniques in the bar world that we have been perfecting. I’ve actually just created a new serve for the menu using Naked Malt called Malt and Barley, using local ingredients to Scotland and playing about with some fermentation. Pop by and grab one next time you’re in Edinburgh!
Wow, thanks Sean! What a pleasure.
You can follow Sean on Instagram here @seancav92 and stay tuned for all things Panda & Sons have in store for the future by following their account, too @pandaandsons
Should you ever find yourself wondering around Edinburgh, don’t hesitate to find Sean at Panda & Sons to taste his incredible take on an Unconventional Naked Sour, ‘Breakfast in the Buff’.
Stay tuned for our last regional competition next month which will take you all the way to the US!
The Naked Team