Mixing It Up: Rusty Cerven travels round the world

Rusty CervenRusty Cerven of the Connaught Bar in London looks back at 2013 after winning the Bols Around The World competition in May (pictured)

Winning Bols Around The World has been a great experience. Becoming brand ambassador for Bols for one year, it has given me the chance to travel to so many countries. You have an opportunity to showcase yourself in different venues and get a different perspective from outside of the bar. It is something you can’t replace. This is one of my lifetime achievements.

After winning the grand final of Bols Around The World in Amsterdam in May, I went to Tales of the Cocktail – my first time in New Orleans – and visited New York to see what was new on the bar scene. I went to the Cocktails Spirits bar show in Paris in June where I showcased the new Bols Honey Liqueur and demonstrated my winning drinks. I won Bols Around The World with my Williams Punch, using Bols Genever and Bols Amour Parfait with freshly pressed rhubarb juice, homemade lemon sherbet and champagne. Punch is one of my favourite categories, something that you can play around with.

At the beginning of October, I was back in Amsterdam with all the other finalists from Bols Around The World. I am still in touch with all of them but it was great to see them all together again. It’s like being part of a family. We all have great memories from the competition. It’s something no one can take away from us.

In Amsterdam, I had masterclasses at the House of Bols on being a brand ambassador, how to speak to the media, how to represent the brand. We also did guest bartending at bars all around Amsterdam every day: Dwars, Tales and Spirits, and Door 74.

We then all flew out to the Bar Convent show in Berlin where I did a presentation on Bols Honey Liqueur with the master distiller Piet van Leijenhorst and demonstrated cocktails on stage using the liqueur. Bar Convent is one of the best shows in Europe, with a very professional atmosphere. While we were there, all the finalists did guest bartending at Reingold Bar in Berlin.

It is great to be an ambassador for Bols Genever. The category has been very close to my heart from the beginning when I did my first competition while at Mark’s Bar at Hix Soho in 2010. First prize was to go to Amsterdam to House of Bols. That was the time I started to understand the story behind genever.

Before I moved to London [from Bratislava in Slovakia], I was really into whisky but I have got into gin and genever. Genever is the bridge between whisky and gin. It has great heritage and a story, which is what every bartender looks for. It is used in classic cocktails and is part of the trend of going back to the roots and researching old recipes. A lot more people are getting interested in genever.

I also look for people’s ideas about Bols liqueurs and find out what they would like to see in their market. That is how the other liqueurs have been built up: it has always been about the opinion of the public and bartenders. We look back and see what kind of liqueurs could be revived and what are the flavours of the future.

I am now a judge in heats for the next Bols Around The World including the Nordic and Russian finals. Every year, the competition is growing more and more. This year, there were entries from 7,000 bartenders in 66 countries. When you take part, you have to pay attention to every detail. At every step of the competition you have to think forward to the next stage. All the time I was looking for originality in everything I did.

In January, I will be going on the trip that was part of my prize for winning Bols Around The World. I will spend 16 days going to four countries, to Cape Town, Sydney, Tokyo and Rio. I will be looking for ideas all the time. I get my inspiration from different countries and cultures and am always researching new ingredients and flavours.

Lots of people from the other side of the bar have now heard about me because of Bols Around The World, not just because of the Connaught Bar. I have had great support from my colleagues behind the bar at the Connaught. Although I am brand ambassador, I am still working at the Connaught so there are no real days off or holidays. But it is important to stay behind the bar and stay grounded.

A shorter version of this article appears in the December 2013 issue of Bar magazine.

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