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Winner of the UKBG's National Cocktail Competition announced

Published:  25 January, 2022

Matteo Basso, head bartender at the Malt Lounge and Bar in London, has won the UK Bartenders Guild’s National Cocktail Competition 2022.

Sponsored by Akashi-Tai Sake, Hatozaki Whisky and 135° EAST GIN, the grand final was held on 18 January at the Prince Akatoki Hotel.

The competition involves five months of trials and regional heats, with 15 bartenders battling it out before the final. The winner receives an expenses-paid trip to Japan, and the opportunity to represent the UK at International Bartender Association’s World Cocktail Championship in Russia.

The judges were reportedly won over by Basso's two bespoke creations; Sake cocktail ‘Yon’, and Gin Fizz ‘Enogu’, along with his performance in the customer service focus round, which earned him the highest score.

In addition, Tom Kirk of Below Stairs in Leeds came in third, winning a full set of Akashi Sake Brewery and Kaikyo Distillery products. Second place was awarded to Gabor Molnar of the Pig on the Beach Hotel, Swanage, winning a custom bartender’s kit.

The team of Judges consisted: UKBG president Claudia Carrozzi; Giorgio Bargiani, head mixologist at The Connaught Bar; Lawrence Woodrow-Smith, drinks development manager at the Domino Club Leeds and UKBG NCC2019 Winner; and Scott Paine, national account manager at Marussia Beverages. The event was hosted by UKBG vice president and bar industry legend, Declan McGurk.

“Since I was 10 years old, I’ve always pictured myself behind a bar. I started my career back in Italy, when I was very young, taking my first steps in the industry as a waiter in a luxury restaurant, and worked my way to become a bartender,” said Basso.

“I worked in very different environments here in London: Amazonico with their tropical style of drinks; The Gibson where savoury flavours are the undisputed stars; and last but not least, the Malt, a whiskey bar with a strong focus on Japanese culture and ingredients. I love what I do and I really believe that is one of the best jobs. I want to own my own bar, and I push every day to make this dream become real.”

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the UK's bar and cocktail scene remains a world leader. In December 2021, The Connaught Bar triumphed as World's Best Bar in the 13th addition of The World’s 50 Best.

The awards also paid homage to Lab 22 in Cardiff, which won the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu accolade.