Mexican bartender grabs tequila’s Tahona prize

Olmeca Tequila Announces the 2013 Winners of The Tahona Society Cocktail CompetitionMexican bartender Jose Luis Leon was crowned the winner of the Tahona Society’s global competition to find the best tequila bartender.

He was one of 15 bartenders from 11 countries around the world, including two from the UK, who won their national contests to reach the grand final in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Luis, who works at Licoreria Limantour in Mexico City, won a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the USA to work alongside US bartending legend Charles Joly at The Aviary in Chicago.

The UK’s Emma Tanner of Wahaca in Charlotte Street, London, and Chris Mosey of Hula in Manchester took second and third places respectively. Chris, Luis and Emma are pictured (left to right) above.

The 15 finalists were challenged to create a cocktail using Olmeca Altos tequila and were judged on the presentation, performance, the agave flavour of their drink and its overall balance.

The judges included Charles Joly, bartender Heinz Kaiser, who won last year’s competition, and tequila expert Julio Bermejo, creator of the world-famous Tommy’s Margarita.

Luis’s winning cocktail, Mama’s Soup, was a blend of Olmeca Altos Blanco, Noilly Prat vermouth, agave syrup, lemon and celery juice with mango, cactus and coriander micro greens, which the judges felt enhanced the natural agave flavour of Olmeca Altos Blanco perfectly.

Luis said: “Taking part in the Tahona Society cocktail competition has been one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I’m so proud to have won the final and I can’t believe that I will now have the opportunity to go to the US to learn from Charles Joly and his team at The Aviary – it’s a real dream come true for me.

“Growing up and working in the Mexican bar scene, I have always been passionate about tequila and it’s been fantastic to share this passion with like-minded bartenders from around the world through the Tahona Society.

“I would definitely encourage bartenders everywhere to get involved – it’s a great way to get real insight and knowledge about the tequila category and, ultimately, learn from some of the best bartenders in the world.”

Julio Bermejo said: “Congratulations to Luis for his wonderful cocktail – it really showed off the magnificent agave flavour that is evident in Olmeca Altos.

“It’s fantastic to see all these up-and-coming bartenders learning so much about the wonderful spirit that is tequila through the Tahona Society, so hats off to Olmeca for supporting this unique initiative within the tequila industry.

“What I love about this competition is the fact that it really allows bartenders to be creative in their quest for the best tequila cocktail. The rules are kept to a minimum to allow the bartenders licence to have some real fun and that’s what tequila is all about.

“It’s been really encouraging to see the international bartender community really embracing quality tequila with such passion and enthusiasm. Long may it continue!”

The Tahona Society was set up in 2009 by Olmeca and Worldwide Cocktail Club founders Dré Masso and the late Henry Besant to celebrate the art of true tequila production – using a tahona stone for crushing the agave – and provide bartenders around the world with in-depth knowledge of the tequila category through training from world-class tequila and bartender experts.

The Tahona Society Cocktail Competition took place at the end of a week-long trip to Mexico, during which Tahona Society educators Steffin Oghene and Matthias Lataille hosted the 15 finalists as they travelled to the town of Tequila to witness two different styles of tequila production.

The group then travelled to Arandas to meet Olmeca’s master distiller Jesús Hernández for a tour of the Olmeca distillery. Hernández also led a comparative tequila tasting and an off-field road trip around the agave fields of Jalisco.

The other finalists were Gerald Steiner of Lennox Bar in Linz, Austria, Maydelin Granadillo Suarez of Hotel Barcelό Sόlimar Arenas Blancas in Varadero, Cuba, Lu Wenliang of Apothecary in Beijing, China, Pavel “Pasha” Kalitvin of Platonov in Voronez, Russia, Karol Bobinski of Bar Studio in Warsaw, Poland, Dominic Walsh of Orphanage in Cape Town, South Africa, Esra Çakir of Reina in Istanbul, Turkey, Ekaterina Buys of Chainaya in Moscow, Russia, Jeffrey Waldman of Hogs Head in Johannesburg, South Africa, Leonid Bychkov of Big Fish in Volgograd, Russia, Laura Volkaite of Bar 210 in Kavnas, Lithuania, and Dimitrios Rampiadis of Love Casual Living in Dhessaloniki, Greece.

Mama’s Soup by Jose Luis Leon

40ml Olmeca Altos Blanco
30ml Noilly Prat
10ml Agave syrup
Half a lemon
60ml Celery juice
Mango, Cactus & Coriander micro greens

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