Lovelette Brooks, Special Projects Editor
Eleven world-class mixologists, including Jamaica's Ryan Mitto, holder of the regional Angostura Cocktail Challenger title, and Trinidad's Daniyel Jones, went head-to-head with the best there is. The showdown took place at the eighth Angostura's Global Cocktail Challenge held on Dimanche Gras (Carnival Sunday), February 10 at the House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago.
The house was transformed into an 18th-century plantation house, with ladies and gentlemen of the court in residence, showing their visitors the waltz. Various traditional carnival characters also appeared in the courtyard - Pierrot grenade, Jab Molassie, Dame Lorraine and a performance by soca artist Fyah Empress before the big showdown.
Jamaica's Mitto, a well-decorated bartender from Bars to Go, failed to impress the elite panel of judges led by maestro Salvatore Calabrese, and was denied the grand prize of US$10,000 and the coveted title of Angostura Global Brand Ambassador.
King of Cocktails
Jones took the crown, King of Cocktails, a first for Trinidad and Tobago, for his "creative and complex cocktails", noted Calabrese who was very impressed with the standard of the competition.
"I am extremely happy and humbled to win this competition given the high standards of the other competitors. It was really good," beamed Jones.
The Trinidadian mixologist, who provides cocktails and bartending services for special events only, also edged his competitors in the freestyle category for his Cocktail Charmer - a mix of Angostura 5 Year Old Rum, benedictine, sherry vinegar, lime juice, organic honey and dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters.
Putting his well-crafted art of mixing, blending and shaking to the test, Mitto started off well, but had a rather disastrous finish. Each competitor prepared a rum cocktail as well as an additional cocktail with a spirit of choice in just seven minutes. Mitto was beaten by time.
His first cocktail in the freestyle challenge was Siegert's Secret Martini he named after Dr JGB Seigert, who develop the world-famous secret recipe for Angostura Aromatic Bitters. It consisted of fresh lime juice, tarragon infused honey syrup, Angostura 1919 Rum, pomegranate juice and dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters.
Mitto, spirits high, did an excellent blend rated "delicious, "very smooth" and "complex".
His rum cocktail, which he called West Indian, consisted of honey, mango, fresh lime juice, passion fruit puree, dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters and Angostura 1919 Rum infused with passion fruit.
He failed to combine, shake and pour the drink within the given time frame, and finished eight seconds late after creating a big spill.
Speaking with Food after the contest, Mitto said although he "messed up" he felt like a big winner.
"I must admit, it was nerve-wracking, but it's an experience I could never pay for. I made a mistake of switching recipes and submitted the Siegert's Secret Martini late, so I did not have enough time to practise," he admitted.
"I have, however, learnt so much - the use of new equipment, mixology methods, and use of new ingredients. I walk away from this competition with a greater appreciation for the cocktail industry and what others are doing all over the world."
The other competitors included: Dominic Walsh of Johannesburg, South Africa, Pankaj Kamble of India, Stanislav Mukhin of the Ukraine, who won the Rum Category, Oliver Stern of Toronto, Canada, Sean Frederick of Boston, USA, Jake Searell of Wellington, New Zealand, Russia's Egor Stepanov, Daniel Biber of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Elliot Ball of London, England.
Judging the competition were: head judge Salvatore Calabrese, who in 2012 set the Guinness World Record for the World Most Expensive Cocktail, a whopping 5,500 pounds per glass; Hidetsugu Ueno of Tokyo, Japan; Ann Tuennerman, executive director of Tales of the Cocktails, New Orleans; Davis Delaney Jr, 2012 Angustora Global Cocktail Challenge, and Vidia Doodnath, executive director, technical operations of Angostura Group of Companies.
In his comment, Salvatore notes that the gloabal cocktail culture is now an exciting vocation. "In today's world, the average diner can sit down and expect as much care to be put into their cocktails as the meal. That has been demonstrated here through this competition.
"Every single competitor is a winner and there was not much difference between the first person who presented and the last. The standard was very high, I was truly impressed," he said in an interview with Food after the competition.
The world cocktail champions received a medal of participation and the experience of seeing the beautiful twin-island republic and the facilities where the famous Angostura Aromatic Bitters and Angostura rums are made. They also experienced J'Ouvert and played mas on Carnival Tuesday before relaxing on a scenic cruise Ash Wednesday.