Niamh Preedy, Northcote bar tender, has been awarded the first ever Young Mixologist England title, and will go on to represent England in the world finals in Monaco this November.
The bartender, who lives in Preston and attended Birmingham University, beat off competition from 25 of England’s top mixologists under the age of 28. She was pronounced winner of the prestigious competition at an awards ceremony at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham.
The Young Chef Young Waiter competition has been open to up-and-coming hospitality professionals for over forty years, but this was the first year it was extended to mixology. Having only entered for ‘experience’ after encouragement from her mentor, renowned multi-award-winning mixologist Georgi Petrov (head bartender at Northcote), Niamh, age 22, expressed her surprise at being chosen for the top spot:
“It felt very surreal to win the inaugural Young Mixologist England competition,” she said. “It is still sinking in now. I entered the competition purely for the experience, I never expected to actually come away and win it!”
The next phase of the competition sees her join forces with the winners of Young Waiter England 2023 and the Young Chef England 2023 to represent Team England at the world finals in November.
“The next competition stage is in Monaco,” Niamh continued. “The preparation will involve some mentoring from the judges of the competition as well as meeting up with the other winners to share ideas and prepare. Although I am very nervous, I am going purely for the experience and to continue meeting and networking with industry professionals, but this time with people from all over the world, which is still very crazy to get my head around!”
The judging process involved each competitor researching and creating their own unique cocktail recipe, which can take months and months to develop. Niamh’s creation was called Candy Floss. It incorporated fresh seasonal fruits and utilised a range of complicated technical skills, which she has learnt during her training at Northcote.
Niamh explains more about the development of her drink:
“I was inspired by the season, being in summer, and what I would like to drink during this period, which was something long, fruity and refreshing! This also meant I could use seasonal fruit in the recipe.
“Neft Vodka, the competition sponsor, was the base ingredient. After researching the vodka and getting familiar with its flavour profiles, which are soft and mild, we selected ingredients that would enhance those profiles.
“Technique-wise, after some long discussions with Georgi, I decided to try and incorporate as many different techniques as we could to show the judges some variety! I used infusions, clarifications and foaming methods, along with seasonal ingredients.”
The cocktail and Niamh were both a huge hit with the judges – Niamh’s crowd-pleasing cocktail has also been added to the summer menu at Northcote. Guests can enjoy it on the terrace while sampling the new al a carte menu created by Michelin Star chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen.
Craig Hancox, general manager at the ICC Birmingham and Young Chef Young Waiter England judge, said: “As a judge, I witnessed remarkable talent and unwavering passion in the YCYW England competition. The winners have proved themselves as shining examples of perseverance and skill, deserving of the highest accolades.”
Young Chef Young Waiter England head chef judge Adam Handling added that it was the “closest final I’ve ever seen”, while Young Mixologist England head mixologist judge Anna Sebastian commented: “It was an honour to be part of the Young Mixologist England competition for its debut year, and witness such great talent participate.”
Speaking of her Northcote mentor, Niamh concluded: “Having the support of a mentor like Georgi can be ma
ke or break for a young person starting out in the hospitality industry. I am very thankful for all the expertise that he has found the time to give me, and I would not be able to consider even entering competitions if it wasn’t for his support. Having a supportive team behind you, like I do at Northcote, really helps you to keep motivated and stay in love with the industry. “
Visit https://youngchefyoungwaiter.com/mixologist-competition-2023 / for more information on the 2023 world finals.