Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Seven countries, 14 cocktails, but only one winner. One master bartender titillating the taste buds with the ingredients of the most original - Stoli.
It is a known fact that vodka - pure or paired with a mix of flavours - can create magic, particularly if the end product is smooth, uncomplicated and balanced.
Last Saturday, seven bartenders hailing from the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda and St Maarten competed in what Stolichnaya Vodka tagged the Stoli Most Original Cocktail Masters Competition 2013.
Organised by Jamaica's Select Brands and Stansfeld Scott (agents for Stoli in the Caribbean), the grand prize of US$1,000, a trip for two to Las Vegas, and bragging rights were enough to stimulate the men and women who competed in this event.
Judged on presentation, originality and taste, after two and a half hours of competition, Cayman Islands' Lachlan Morris was the clear victor. The Europe-born bartender, who is an obvious professional in the business, won hands down, impressing the judges with his Jamaican apple martini and his pineapple and coriander martini.
"Both of his cocktails were exceptionally well balanced, which was not all that made the difference, but he coupled that with being very consistent and extremely professional," said head judge, Stansfeld Scott's Willy Brevet.
Heavily influenced by the Jamaicans he works alongside in the Cayman Islands, Morris complemented the island with his first presentation, which he did with muddled green apple, pimento syrup, Robert's bitters, gala apple, liqueur and lime juice and garnished with an apple.
"Just like food, a good marriage of ingredients is important," Brevet said, as he spoke glowingly of the bartender, who was the last to present and the first to prove his prowess.
"He was quick, and made the whole process look easy," added the Stansfeld Scott judge.
For his second cocktail, Morris did a Stoli Coriander with Peter Martini. Using honey-flavoured 'Hot Sticky' Stolinayer Vodka, he muddled five chunks of pineapple, six coriander leaves, ginger, cilantro, sugar, pepper, grapefruit bitters, lime juice, orange zest and Drambuie.
SPIN ON HARVEY WALLBANGER
Second-place David Barker showcased a spin on the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail, using the Stoli premium blood orange with Maraschino and Galiano ice cubes and orange juice. His second drink, complete cardinal, was made with cucumber and ginger, fresh lime topped with a cucumber foam and velvet Falernunm.
Third-place winner Karlina Permell of Trinidad and Tobago, one of only two women in the competition, made her country proud with her Stoli Hibiscus and Stoli Pantena.
According to Brevet, each bartender added value to the competition by adding ingredients found in their islands. "Trinidad brought Angostora; Jamaica used peppermint; Bermuda, real raspberry."
Even though the Caribbean is a small geographical region, the seven managed to create original cocktails, with DNA flavour of their home island.
With a background in bartending, the three very meticulous judges - Brevet, Meagan Sacher and Vishal Cabralknew - knew exactly what they were looking for.