Passion for Mexico: the El Jimador Bartender Cup

I have been a judge at numerous cocktail competitions over the past 10 years or so but this week’s El Jimador Bartender Cup was definitely one of the craziest. In less than two hours, I and the three other judges worked our way through 30 cocktails and 15 shots made by finalists from across Europe. A few of the drinks seemed to be little more than a Margarita while a handful didn’t taste of tequila at all, but there were some fantastic recipes among them, and a worthy winner in Joshua Fontaine of Paris tequila bar Candelaria.

The European-wide final, held at London nightclub Cable, challenged 15 bartenders from 12 countries to create a long drink, a cocktail and a shot, with winners in each of these categories. There were some incredible garnishes and some crazy names, but a few drinks emerged as our favourites. The best long drink was Pasion por Mexico, created by Krzysztof Jadach from Diva in Krakow, Poland:

Pasion por Mexico
40ml El Jimador Blanco
10ml Passoã
20ml Passion fruit puree (my translation of the Polish “mus”)
20ml Passion fruit syrup
30ml Pineapple juice
3 parts Lime

Pour all ingredients into a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice and mix with a barspoon.

One of the competitors
The winner of the category of best cocktail was Jalisco Hazelnuts, created by Georgios Megalokonomos of Think Positive, a bar in Athens in Greece:

Jalisco Hazelnuts
35ml El Jimador Reposado
15ml Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
20ml Fresh lemon juice
20ml Vanilla syrup
Egg white from one egg

Dry shake the ingredients first and then shake with ice and strain. Add a lemon spiral and grated nutmeg for garnish.

The winning shot was a delicious fruity concoction called Gulp of Happiness, created by Denis Babarayka of Graf-In bar in St Petersburg, Russia.

Gulp of Happiness
35ml El Jimador Blanco
15ml Honey
5ml Casa Rinaldi balsamic sauce
3 leaves of fresh arugula
2 pieces of fresh raspberry

Muddle, shake and double strain into a tall shot glass. Decorate with a raspberry skewer in balsamic sauce, raspberry and honey spray.

Joshua Fontaine may not have come top in the first three categories, but he won for a consistently high performance throughout. He came up with a long drink called Un Été en Provence, a cocktail named Postcard from Italy and a shot called El Avispon – a type of wasp or hornet. Here are the recipes, although we don’t currently have the exact methodology:

Joshua Fontaine
Un Été en Provence
35ml El Jimador Blanco
10ml Aperol
5ml St-Germain
2 dashes of grapefruit bitters
Tonic water (for topping up)
Long lemon zest

Postcard from Italy
25ml El Jimador Reposado
25ml Amaro Averna
1 dash Orange bitters
17.5ml Lemon juice
5ml Agave syrup
15ml Egg white
Orange flame zest
Spray of amontillado sherry

El Avispon
30ml El Jimador Blanco
2 slices of cucumber
8 leaves of coriander
15ml Lime juice
15ml Agave syrup infused with chilli

Ruben Aceves and Joshua Fontaine
Along with being crowned the El Jimador Bartender Cup 2011 champion, Joshua will be taken on a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to Mexico and Casa Herradura, the distillery where El Jimador is produced, hosted by El Jimador brand ambassador Ruben Aceves. The brand is owned by Brown-Forman, whose area sales manager Nidal Ramini was compere for the competition.

Apart from myself, the judges were Andy Ives of, Tom Sandham of and Michael Butt of consultancy Soulshakers. Each bartender was identified to us by only a number so we had no idea whose drinks we were tasting: there were bartenders from Serbia, Hungary, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Romania, Spain, Poland, Greece, Croatia, France and the UK. While we furiously sipped and totted up our scores, the venue throbbed with the sounds of DJ sets and the drumming of “explosive junk percussionistas” The Clatteratti. Fortunately, we could soak up the tequila drinks with some excellent food from top Mexican restaurant (and tequila bar) Mestizo.

Compere Nidal Ramini from Brown-Forman, Joshua Fontaine and Ruben Aceves and the other three winners
Jose Garcia, brand manager for El Jimador, said: “It was fantastic to be able to bring the cream of the European bartender scene to the streets of London for the El Jimador Bartender Cup. The event was a great success, from the quality of the drinks being made, to the refreshing El Jimador Palomas being served and the authentic Mexican food from Mestizo. We had some amazing drinks created at the Cup – congratulations to all those bartenders involved for making the decision-making process such a hard one. Having seen the phenomenal bartenders in action, it’s safe to say that tequila has an exciting future.”

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