Vegan food and Cuban gastronomy inspire Havana Club global winner

Havana Club Stepan Ninon Johnson

A bartender from France won this year’s Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix competition with a drink inspired by vegan food and Cuban gastronomy.

Ninon Fauvarque impressed the judges with her cocktail, Curvas, a simple yet original serve made with Havana Club 7 Years Old rum and authentic Cuban ingredients such as a coconut milk version of the Latin American drink, horchata.

Drawing on global trends such as provenance, sustainability and veganism, her recipe included red beans which were used to create a vegetal liquid called aquafaba which brings a foam-like texture.

The biennial competition, titled Cuba Moderna for 2018, challenged entrants to craft a new rum cocktail that mixed Cuba’s burgeoning revolution in food, cocktails and culture into a modern drink, representing emerging ways of drinking authentic Cuban rum.

Competitors were challenged to create their final serves after an immersive, five-day brand experience with seminars, workshops and local tours in Cuba with the Havana Club team.

Ninon, who works at La Queue du Coq in Annecy in eastern France, said: “It is a great honour to win this competition considering the amazing talent of all the bartenders taking part from around the world.

“I am glad I have been able to surprise the judges with my recreation of Cuba Moderna through my cocktail Curvas, which has been possible thanks to all I have learnt in the seminars and working with Cuban people throughout the week.”

As a prize, Ninon received a bottle of Havana Club Máximo Extra Añejo rum and will be given the opportunity to pursue a rum project of her own choice in collaboration with Havana Club. She will also return as a judge at the next global final in 2020.

Cocktail writer Anistatia Miller, jury foreman at the global final, said: “All bartenders competing in the Grand Prix this year demonstrated mixology skills of the highest standard in their quest to fuse Cuba Moderna into a new rum cocktail.

“Ninon has certainly stood out for us on the judging panel and among the other competitors. The global winner title is a well-deserved recognition of the talent of this young bartender.”

Anistatia was joined on the judging panel by her husband and fellow cocktail historian Jared Brown plus bartenders from countries around the world: Audrey Saunders from Pegu Club in New York City, Sam Ross from Attaboy in New York, Masa Urushido from Saxon + Parole in New York, Elias Stergiopoulos from Baba au Rum in Athens, Carina Soto from Candelaria in Paris, and Alejandro Bolivar from El Floridita in Havana.

Nick Blacknell, international marketing director of Havana Club, added: “Ninon’s creation is a provocative testimony of Cuba, with an element of innovation and revolution that characterises Cubans.

“We are excited to introduce contemporary consumers to the vibrancy of Havana through the taste of Curvas.”

Stepan Abrahamyan from Paris Hotel in Yerevan in Armenia and Johnson Wisdom Dogbey from Little Havana bar in Accra in Ghana were awarded second and third places at the highly-contested final.

The global finalists also included two from the UK: Jason-Candid Knüsel representing Switzerland, who has now moved to London to work at The Savoy’s American Bar, and Andrea Benvegna from Waeska Bar at The Mandrake hotel in London.

Ninon Fauvarque is pictured centre with Stepan Abrahamyan (left) and Johnson Wisdom Dogbey (right).

Havana Club Curvas by Ninon Fauvarque

Curvas (pictured) by Ninon Fauvarque
65ml Havana Club 7 Years Old
10ml Horchata made with coconut milk
5ml Orange and lime reduction
15ml Spice-infused honey syrup (cinnamon, ginger and star anise)
20ml Red bean aquafaba
Dry shake all ingredients. Fill shaker with ice and shake again. Double strain.

Memorias by Stepan Abrahamyan
45ml Havana Club 7 Years Old
15ml Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
25ml Mango and kaffir lime leaf syrup made via sous vide
30ml Freshly squeezed lime juice
2 dashes Kaffir lime leaf hydrosol
Shake and double strain. Serve in a black clay cup. Garnish with cedar wood from a Cohiba cigar box, lime peel powder and a mango leaf.

Mama Inès by Johnson Wisdom Dogbey
60ml Havana Club 7 Years Old
7.5 ml Cane sugar infused with coffee beans syrup
5ml Kahlúa
2 dashes Tobacco or coffee syrup
Stir with ice cubes, serve and garnish with orange peel and grated coffee beans.

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