Cheers: Killarney tops the national cocktail map

Ariel Sanecki (centre, right) and Skirmas Lelys (centre, left) of Hilliard’s accepting the Best All-Ireland Cocktail Experience award from Restaurants Association of Ireland President, Paul Lenehan (left) and Michael Ingle, Illy and Monin (sponsors) at the Convention Centre in Dublin.
Photograph: Paul Sherwood

A stylish new restaurant and bar, only opened since June of this year, has already put Killarney at the very top of the national cocktail map.

Hilliard’s of Main Street scooped the prestigious Restaurants Association of Ireland 2022 Best Cocktail Experience accolade at a glitzy ceremony in the Convention Centre in Dublin.

Hilliard’s dynamic team members, Ariel Sanecki and Skirmas Lelys, were there to accept the honour from Restaurants Association of Ireland President, Paul Lenehan, and their success sparked off great celebrations.

Almost 900 restaurant and hospitality business owners and staff gathered to toast their hard work and achievements at the event and while the Best Cocktail Experience category initially attracted over 70 entries, from all parts of Ireland, it was whittled down to a shortlist of just 10 before Hilliard’s was announced as the overall winner.

The judges took all aspects of the business into account, including the variety and impact of the cocktail menu offering, the setting and ambience in the bar and, of course, a feature cocktail which had to adhere to a Roaring 1920’s theme.

Ariel Sanecki: “We are really delighted to put Killarney on the cocktail map”

Ariel and Skirmas had earlier competed in an actual live cocktail making contest in the presence of the adjudicators who monitored proceedings closely and got to sample their delightful creation, taking technical expertise, taste, presentation and aroma into consideration.

The winning original cocktail, which they named Gladrags – in keeping with the theme of Hilliard’s being a former department store – comprised of a mix of Bombay gin, Killahora ice wine, jasmine tea, peach puree, orange bitters, apricot syrup, orange Cutacoa liqueur and lemon juice.

“It was a great success for the team at Hilliard’s and we are really delighted to put Killarney on the cocktail map,” said Hilliard’s mixologist Ariel Sanecki.

President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Paul Lenehan, said: “The awards are an opportunity to celebrate the existing and up-and-coming talent in the sector and they are a reminder that hospitality is nothing without the dedicated and passionate staff in the industry”.

For close on 150 years, the House of Hilliard traded as a landmark department store in the heart of Killarney town and it was home to the finest handcrafted goods, from drapery and footwear to haberdashery and everything in between.

Among those joining Hilliard’s on the victory podium on the night were Best Restaurant: Chapter One, Dublin; Best Cookery School: Aniar Restaurant and Boutique Cookery School; Best Private Dining Club: No 25 Fitzwilliam Place and Best Digital Marketing: Michael’s, Mount Merrion.

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