Hamish Smith outlines the judging process of the Bartenders' Brand Awards.

This is our fifth year running the Bartenders’ Brand Awards, and while we’ve developed our processes over time, our objective remains the same: to provide a bartender-led guide to the best brands in the bar channel. Succinctly, the BBAs is by bartenders, for bartenders.  

Our judging process is not like the traditional format of spirits competitions, rather it picks up on the considerations of the bar industry buyer. So our panels not only test the taste of products, but also the perceived value for money and their functionality and design.  

This year we have made a few judicious tweaks to our process. First, in the way we score products. In previous years, each entered brand was marked out of 150, with taste, value and design weighted equally.

This year, though, we decided to shift the emphasis from neutral on to taste, with 50 points available in the blind tasting and 25 for each of value and design. We reflected that, while value for money and the look of a product are important determiners of the buying decision, the liquid in the bottle is the most important consideration.  

Second, we have redoubled our efforts to find the most suitable judges for each panel. Though the Bartenders’ Brand Awards has always been home to some of the finest bartenders in the UK, carefully selected based on their personal achievements, tasting skills and experience in the bar industry, we went further this year to ensure each panellist has a specialist interest in the category they are judging.  

Once again, judging took place on Zoom, with panels of five to six bartenders invited to join each session. We split the session into three tests: 


Tasting samples were presented by category based on their style, age and origin. Each product was blind tasted and scored on its aroma, complexity, taste and versatility in cocktails where appropriate. Scoring was out of 50.  


After tasting scores were submitted, judges were asked to score out of 25 for value for money. Here the recommended retail price and alcoholic strength was revealed and scores given on the perceived taste vs price, ie if it offered value for money.  


After value scores were submitted, it was time for our final assessment. Judges were asked to evaluate bottles by their creative design,  back bar appeal and functionality (including shape, size and ease of pouring). Design was scored out of 25.  


After the judging, the scores were averaged, with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to the best-performing drinks products in each of the three assessments. Totalled up (so out of 100) the highest scoring brand in each category was given the award of Category Champion. 

The results that that we will serialise daily on Classbarmag.com are a highlights of the best five products in each of our 14 major categories.  

The Judges

Aaron Wall, Homeboy

Alastair McCarroll, Abditory

Alexander Taylor, Pennyroyal

Ben Alcock, HMSS

Connie Cain, Milk

Courtney Francis, Ojo Rojo

Danny Morton, Ma Boyle’s

Deano Moncrieffe, Hacha

Dilynn Walker, Homeboy

Elon Soddu, Amaro

Federico Pavan, Donovan Bar

Fredrik Olsson, Kosmopol

Georgi Radev, Laki Kane

Graham Suttle, The Finnieston

Iain McPherson, Nauticus

James Aspell, 400 Rabbits

Josh Linfitt, Ugly Butterfly

Lexa Ulijaszek, Callooh Callay

Liam Broom, Silverleaf

Lorenzo Gavelli, Disrepute

Luca Cordiglieri, Two Spoons

Martin ‘Simo’ Simpson, Milroy’s

Matthias Ingelmann, Kol

Maxim Schulte, Kol Mezcaleria

Michael Dylan Edwards, Aether

Michal Maziarz, Scotland Yard Hotel

Mike Baxter, Gonzo’s 

Patrick Fogarty, Dr Ink's Curiosities 

Salvatore Calabrese, Donovan Bar

Sian Buchan, Uno Mas

Sly Augustin, Trailer Happiness

Sophie Bratt, Sexy Fish

Sophie Mackay, The Anchor in Digbeth

Steve The Barman, independent 

Thom Solberg, Little Bat

Tiago Mira, The Goring Hotel 

Tiago Oliveira, Merchant House 

Tristan Stephenson Black Rock