Chester Francis-Jackson, Contributor
Coming a few days after the devastatingly depressing Hurricane Sandy, for many the question was not if there would be a party, but where the party would be. The much-advertised and promoted Appleton Estate Bartenders Challenge Finals, originally scheduled for Hope Gardens, had to be rescheduled to the fashionable Wyndham Kingston hotel, due to the damage done to the historical garden.
As most true-blue storm-surviving Kingstonians will attest, for them the passage of a hurricane lends itself to outdoors socialising in the form of a 'watering hole'. And with no new clearly defined watering hole emerging, the Appleton Estate International Bartenders Challenge Finals was the hottest show in town. And as the invitation-only event promised, premium libations, some fabulous fares and fabulous society were all there - the requisite ingredients for a smasheroni.
And a smasheroni it was. Hurricane Sandy or not, Kinsgton is still the party capital of the Caribbean, and Sandy was not about to change that.
And so it was that the hotel was abuzz with members of the diplomatic, social, cultural and party elite, out to celebrate a fine Jamaican product, described on some billboards across the island as 'One of Jamaica's finest legal exports'.
Now, the international finals is, as its name suggests, a final competition that pits some of the world's leading and up-and-coming bartenders against each other to determine the bartending champion of champions.
And this year the competition saw: Jonathan Homier representing Canada; Australia's Jamie Chesher; Seggrett 'Seggy' Quizeo of the Cayman Islands; Salvador Pacheco representing Mexico; Jason Clark from New Zealand; Daniel Melgar competing for Peru; Ben Clemons of the US; Richard Tring from the United Kingdom; and our very own Ryan Mitto vying for the title.
Well my dears, the evening began with a Appleton Estate cocktail prelude and red-carpet welcome in the foyer of Wyndham's grand ballroom, where the cocktails of choice was Appleton Estate in its various premium and party offerings. There some of the island leading partiers and profilers were out to party and here the partying was made easy, as dears, VX Premium flowed like the party elixir it is and it made for the perfect conversational entrée.
From cocktails it was then into the lavishly decorated ballroom, where guests simply had a ball. Feasting on the concoctions of the competing bartenders, some of whom shared their stories about their winning trip to the finals here in Jamaica, as well as their chance meeting with prime minister Portia Simpson Miller, while on an outing to stock up on their supplementary ingredients.
Dears, it made for a simply fabulous night out, and everywhere one looked, one saw the young and beautiful, generation X power brokers - the new crop of this society's movers and shakers, sharing in what proved a post-Sandy premium event of the fab order!
Dears, with the very able Francois St Juste as the evening's compere, the ballroom was abuzz, and not just from Appleton Estate spirits, but also from a spirited gathering of guests that were out in support and toast to the distinguished Jamaican brand.
Luvs, after the blenders and other assorted machines were turned off, and the mixes sampled and tasted, Richard Tring from the United Kingdom was adjudged the 2012 Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum International Bartender Champion. His distinguishing concoction - the newly crafted 'Independence Punch', earned him international bragging rights and an all-expense paid Jamaican holiday, plus a number of other goodies!
The real winners of the evening were the guests who were on hand to enjoy the various offerings and speciality mixes by the talented grouping of bartenders. Among those out were: J. Wray & Nephew's Managing Director Paul Henriques and his fab wife Rachael; master blender Joy Spence; J. Wray & Nephew's spirits ambassador, the very charming Judith Douglas; British High Commissioner Richard Drake and his wife Jill; Canadian High Commissioner Robert Ready; the esteemed Honorary Consul of Iceland Robert MacMillan; Greta Bogues; Ronnie Barrakatt; Donovan Perkins; Chris Barnes; Stephen Hill; Carole Fullerton and Michael Delevante. Also the simply dee-vine Sophia MaxBrown, her brother, the dapper Carlos MaxBrown.
Also out: the charming Angeline Hussey-Harris, her daughter, the gorgeous Crystelle Harris; UNDP associate Nicole Brown; Charles and Christine Wood; Nari-Williams-Singh; siblings Taquise and Luciana Gordon-Smith; Sanjay Ramamand; Debbie Bissoon; Andy Holmes; Clement 'Jimmy' Lawrence; Catherine McDonald; Matthew Chin; Bianca Levy; Dale DeLisser; Al Edwards; ZJ Bambino; plus a number of others.
But dears, this was one fab night with Appleton Estate, one of the very best of Jamaican brands on show, and then some.
Kudos all around!