Ice-shaving and rum cocktail competition names its winner

Raspao Abuelo Hedi Berkaoui All Star Lanes

The winners have been announced in a cocktail competition for Ron Abuelo rum challenging bartenders to master the Panamanian art of ice shaving.

Hedi Berkaoui of All Star Lanes in London’s Brick Lane was named the overall winner after creating a cocktail called the Bam Bam using a raspao, the traditional Panamanian ice plane that give its name to the raspao culinary style.

He was one of nine finalists brought together by Ron Abuelo’s UK distributor Hi-Spirits at the Proud Archivist bar in Shoreditch, east London, to make cocktails in front of judges including Peter Holland from the Floating Rum Shack, Charlie Graham, brand development manager at Hi-Spirits, and Paul Graham, group bars manager for Gordon Ramsay Holdings.

The contestants had to create a drink that used ice shaved using the raspao and reflected the history and nature of Ron Abuelo and Panama. They were marked on a series of criteria which included flair and product knowledge, as well as use of Ron Abuelo and their raspao technique.

Second place in the close-fought competition went to Jonny Gausinet of The Bon Vivant in Edinburgh while Ciaran Russell from The Tippling House in Aberdeen came third.

Charlie said: “It was very tough to pick a winner, with a very high standard from all the competitors and only a handful of points separating the top three. It takes real skill to use the raspao effectively, as those of us who tried it out on the day discovered.

“Hedi won with a cocktail which not only demonstrated his abilities as a mixologist, but also made excellent use of the raspao technique. His cocktail had a very authentic feel which helped us with the difficult job of selecting a winner.”

Hedi said: “I enjoy working with Ron Abuelo as a cocktail spirit, but learning the technique of ice-planing has added a whole new dimension. It was an interesting challenge, and I’m delighted to have won.”

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, added: “Dark and spiced rums are increasingly popular with both consumers and bar professionals. Although we don’t always get the same weather as Panama, the opportunity to serve Ron Abuelo cocktails with shaved ice is an opportunity for bars to add value to the customer experience, and we hope the raspao will become an essential bar tool for the contestants.”

Ron Abuelo is produced by Varela-Hermanos, a third-generation Panamanian family distillery. The distillery is one of the very few in the world which grows its own sugar cane, giving complete quality control over the spirit. The result is an authentic dark rum, carefully aged in oak casks, and made with a combination of pure sugar cane and molasses.

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