19 June 2015 sees the start of the Secret Solstice festival, which is held in Reykjavik over the summer solstice weekend. Now in its second year, Secret Solstice is the only music festival where the sun doesn’t set, giving revellers the chance to party under a Midnight sun. Amazing.
It’s this kind of thing that made us fall in love with Iceland all those years ago. And the Sugarcubes, of course. It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with this nordic island (perhaps the term is ‘islandophile’?) and most of the things that come out of it. Between us we’ve been a dozen times – or thereabouts – and it’s started to feel like a home from home. From the quirky metropolis of Reykjavik to the mystical black beaches of Vik, from the rolling green hills in northern Akureyri to the lunar springs of the Blue Lagoon, there’s nothing we’ve seen that we don’t like. However, there’s still so much more to the country than we’ve seen, I don’t think we’ll ever tire of going back.
For this reason, I was over the moon to be asked by Reyka Vodka to join the judging panel for the world’s first 24-hour cocktail competition to help choose six (extremely) lucky bartenders to join a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Iceland for the summer solstice.
The competition took place at Sovereign Loss in Brixton, south London and ran from 12pm on Monday 1 June to 12pm on Tuesday 2 June. 84 bartenders took part and each was given 15 minutes to create and serve a Reyka cocktail to the judges. As much as I would have liked to do the whole 24 hours, I judged for just a five hour slot at the start of the competition. I can assure you that I did not drink a whole cocktail each time. A few sips was all that was required to judge each drink on its appearance, aroma and taste.
A high calibre of bars was represented (Hawksmoor, Callooh Callay and Dandelyan to name but a few) and bartenders travelled the length and breadth of the country to participate. I was certainly impressed by the enthusiasm I witnessed in the creation of the drinks, particularly by the homemade infusions and distillates used, and several of the cocktails sparked quite a lot of discussion between the judges. But naturally, the main focus was on the execution and balance of the drinks created.
As the digital clock above the bar counted down the 24 hours of the competition, judging slips were completed and put into a locked, 1950’s ballot box. At the end of the competition, judges marks were collated and calibrated before the final six winners were announced.
Congratulations go to:
Dan Collins – NOLA
Harry Gerakis – Loves Company
Fabiano Latham – Joyeux Bordel
Adam Spinks – Kilburn Ironworks
Connie Cain – RYND
Sid Kapoor – Lockside
So these lucky winners have jetted off to possibly our favourite place on earth to join the Reyka Secret Solstice Expedition. They will become some of the privileged few to visit the Reyka distillery. They will also discover Iceland’s awesome natural scenery, meet charmingly offbeat Icelanders and party under the midnight sun at Secret Solstice.
We’re not jealous at all.
Reyka has been one of our go-to vodkas since we first discovered it on our travels a few years ago but it was introduced to the UK relatively recently. They describe their spirit thusly…
“Reyka is born of inventive, resourceful people and Iceland’s magnificent natural resources, which are uniquely distilled to create a one of a kind vodka. Made from bountiful crisp arctic water and filtered through lava rocks Reyka is then distilled in a carter-head still for ultimate purity. The process is powered by geo-thermal energy to create an award- winning vodka that tastes smooth, clean and crisp, making it a perfectly versatile spirit for cocktails.”
For more information, visit their website.