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Carol Emmas - The Disaronno Mixing Star competition

Published:  06 October, 2010

I've never watched the X-Factor, but I've seen clips and know how it gets under the skin of people once they've opted to watch the first one.

It's an addiction I haven't wanted to indulge in for fear of it consuming my whole waking life, henceforth. But then I found myself feeling almost Cheryl Cole'ish' (minus certain stunning good looks of course) when being asked to help judge the second London heat in the front-of-camera, Disaronno 'Mixing Star' competition, held in London's McQueens on October 5.

The nine finalists had to present two cocktails; their best Disaranno Sour and their Disaronno signature cocktail - and what a blast it was. I hate to use the very hackneyed word 'passion', but I'm going to - as there was such obvious passion from the guys in the room (bartending is a very male dominated profession, so I'm not being sexist here).

It was great fun, but more than anything it was good to witness such talent, innovation and creativity coming through. Each of the entrants had their definite own style going on and strong opinions on what they liked in their mixes and what they didn't.

So there I was with my judging sheets and my pen poised holding the power and giving scores to each contestant. Unlike the real X-Factor, it was easy to score high, as no one presented anything less than an excellent use of the Disaronno and the other ingredients they chose to use.

For instance bar manager, Christian Ozzati who works in JuJu on the King's Road, presented his 'Equilibrium', a great dessert Disaranno and Expresso based cocktail, which gives the after dinner coffee a whole new slant. Also, Simon Galbany who works at the Harvey Nicholls Champagne bar had an intriguing use of Lagavulin with the Disaronno in his 'Smoky Sweet Harmony'.

But the winner on my day of judging, Boris Ivan from Hush in Mayfair, was pretty much out there in a league of his own. It was a unanimous decision from us three judges, (which included professional mixologist, Joe Petch, and Paul McFayden, IP Bartenders), which happily makes things a whole lot easier.

Ivan's winning signature cocktail 'Beyond the Sky' has to be one of the best, most well researched and refreshing I've tasted, with its Disaronno, basil and cranberry juice base, and I knew it was going to score well when I did not want to let it go and I ended up having a good few more sips than I aught.

I urge you to go to Hush in Mayfair and taste some of his stuff, I think I'll be going along there pretty soon myself.

The overall European winner, to be decided in November, will win a trip to Los Angeles to visit a Hollywood film studio to act as a star bartender in a movie and will be included in the Disaronno cocktail guide, The Mixing Star Hall of Fame, to be published in 2011.

Of course I have my own favourite in mind, but I am biased and have not been witness to the other (I'm sure) very stiff competition.

Whoever wins, there is no doubt it will be justly deserved.