Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2012

by Geoffrey Kleinman

Angostura, the iconic bitters brand, has established an annual Global Cocktail Challenge that brings together bartenders from around the world to compete for a $10K prize. In addition to the cash reward, the winner of the competition becomes Angostura's Global Brand Ambassador for a year, making appearances all over the world, hosting tasting sessions, performing live demonstrations, creating drink recipes, and judging Angostura's regional competitions. This makes the cocktail challenge as much a job interview as a mixology competition. In addition to pitting top competitors against each other, the challenge also serves as a showcase for Angostura cocktails including a category of rum cocktails to support Angostura's rum business.

Fifteen bartenders competed from around the world, including Roxanne Read from South Africa, Rizal Junior Johari from Malaysia, Joe Sinagra from Australia, Jamaal Bowen from Barbados, Maxence Traverse from Hong Kong, Giuseppe Santamaria from Spain, Dhanpal Parmar from India, Rikki Carter from New Zealand, Ilya Bubashvili from Russia, Ezequiel Rodriguez from Argentina, Carla Cupid from Trinidad, Nastassia Martin from the UK, and an American contingency which included David Delaney from Massachusetts, Rachel Ford from New York, and Ryan Maybee from Kansas City.

Judging the competition was a powerhouse of judges including The Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, Hine Cognac Cellar Master Eric Forget, Top Brand Ambassador Jacob Briars, Angostura Executive Director Vidia Doodnath, and last year's Global Cocktail Challenge Winner and Brand Ambassador Andy Griffiths.

Each competing bartender got to the Global Cocktail Challenge by winning a regional cocktail challenge which included making two Angostura cocktails: a freestyle cocktail and a cocktail based around one of Angostura's rum. The bartenders each won five thousand dollars at the regional competition as well as a trip of a lifetime to Trinidad during Carnival and a spot in the Global Cocktail Challenge.

Competitors had seven minutes to make two servings of each of their cocktails and got docked points if they went past time. Very few bartenders went past time, but many made it within milliseconds of the time deadline, including Joe Sinagra who was perhaps the coolest under pressure I've seen and completed with a mere .4 seconds left on the clock.

In addition to show casing Angostora, the competition showed off the dramatic differences in bartending around the world. Cocktails varied wildly, from Rachel Ford's “Seventeenth Century” cocktail which showed off the more bitter and stirred cocktails popular in the New York craft bartending scene, to Dhanpal Parmar's “Molasses Delight” which reflects the much lighter and diluted cocktails of the emerging Indian cocktail scene.

Seventeenth Century – Rachel Ford (Monkey Bar, New York, NY)

  • 1 ½ oz Green Chartreuse
  • ¼ oz Angostura aromatic bitters
  • Lemon Twist

Combine lemon twist and Angostura aromatic bitters in a 10oz Old Fashioned glass. Muddle peel to release essential oils. Add green chartreuse and ice. Stir to chill. Garnish with a heavy mist of Campari from an atomizer.

Molasses Delight – Dhanpal Parmar (Auma F&B Concepts, India)

  • 1 ½ oz Angostura 1919 Rum
  • 5 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 5 dashes Angostura orange bitters
  • 2 oz sugarcane juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 5 oz dried lemongrass/ ginger lemon peel infusion

Mix all ingredients together in shaker. Shake and strain into tall glass with ice. Serve with lemongrass stick and a created straw garnished with lemon and lemongrass

Beyond differences in cocktail styles, the Global Challenge also highlights major differences in bartending styles. Illya Bubashvili from Russia rolled his cocktail “Listen to Your Heart” between two silver cups in a “throwing method” that had the drink flying in a wide arch between cups; Giuseppe Santamaria from Spain served his “The 5 Drop Ritual” in a tea cup along with Angostura bitters-topped sushi; Rachel Ford from New York stirred in the hand-behind-the-back style that's become a standard in many American classic cocktail focused bars; and, Dhanpal Parmar from India shook his cocktail in a shaking dance that can only be called the Bollywood Shake.

Judges evaluated a total of thirty cocktails and narrowed it all down to a Best Rum Cocktail, Best Freestyle Cocktail, and Global Challenge Winner.

The Best Rum Cocktail award went to Rikki Carter for his drink, “Johann's Bittered Sling”:

Johann's Bittered Sling – Riki Carter (Matterhorn Bar, New Zealand)

  • 1 oz Angostura 1919 Rum
  • ¾ oz Suze
  • 5 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 1/3 oz Licor 43
  • 1/3 oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ¾ oz  Limonata

Build in a cocktail glass adding all ingredients, ice, and Angostura aromatic bitters. Stir well and garnish with a lemon zest.

In the end it was David Delaney, Jr. who took the prize for both Best Freestyle Cocktail for his “Five Island Fizz” as well as the top prize for Global Challenge Winner.

Five Island Fizz – David Delaney, Jr.

Add Angostura 5 year gold rum, falernum, lime, and maraschino into a mixing tin. Add ice, shake briefly and strain into Collins glass. Add ginger beer, fill with crushed ice and dash Angostura aromatic bitters to float on top. Garnish with a lime wheel wrapped around a Luxardo cherry.

The win for David Delaney, Jr. was massive. The trip to the Global Cocktail Challenge was the first trip out of the country for Delaney, who had just given notice at the hospitality company he worked for and is planning a move to Los Angeles. “This is huge, it's going to open a lot of doors for me,” remarked Delaney. David Delaney, Jr. will begin his term as Angostura Brand Ambassador in a couple of months and received a check for ten thousand dollars.

The Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge is an annual event with regional competition beginning again later this year. 

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