Winner announced in global final of Chivas Masters

2016 Chivas Master Alejandro Millan Ponce de Leon with judges

A bartender from Mexico has been announced as winner of the international Chivas Masters competition run for Chivas Regal whisky.

Alejandro Millan Ponce de Leon from Instituto Culinario de Mexico and Bootlegger in Puebla overcame competition from 14 other bartenders, including UK winner Chelsie Bailey from The Rummer Hotel in Bristol.

The accolade of Chivas Master will take Alejandro on a bespoke trip to one of the world’s most iconic bars in a city of his choice to create a signature Chivas cocktail as a lasting contribution to the global competition.

The five-day final, held in Shanghai, assessed the bartenders on their team spirit, hospitality and drink creations, including a challenge to work in different groups to create a pop-up bar.

The title of Chivas Masters Collective was awarded to Alejandro and his other team members, comprising four other finalists: Santiago Ortiz Jacome from Spain, Ben Rojo from the United States, Stanisław Domin from Poland, and Tomáš Melzer from the Czech Republic.

After impressing judges with their pop-up The Beach Brothers @ Logan’s Punch, all five will be taken to the Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans in July.

Alejandro’s winning local cocktail was El Jornalero, which displayed a culinary connection with his region’s indigenous ingredients and showed a great authenticity tying it to the roots of his Mexican culture. It combined Chivas Regal 12 Year Old, Amaro Averna, dried chilli and cacao syrup and bitters made with mezcal, orange and coffee.

Alejandro is pictured above (centre) with the judging panel (left to right): Chris Lowder, head bartender at the Four Seasons in Seoul; Naren Young, head bartender at Dante in New York City; Leo Robitschek, bar director of New York’s Eleven Madison Park; and UK-based bar consultant Dré Masso.

They each coached the finalists in a series of workshops and judged competitors on their bartending talent and ability to lead, mentor and inspire a team.

Alejandro said: “The global Chivas Masters final in Shanghai has opened my eyes and I hope that I have shown just what Mexico can do. It is a huge honour to hold the title of Chivas Master.

“The support of my team in Mexico and the amazing bartenders around me here at the global final has showed me that true brotherhood exists, and being able to work with these people is a great privilege.”

Max Warner, global brand ambassador for Chivas Regal, added: “The third year of the Chivas Masters global bartending competition has shown the world that a great cocktail is more than just an exceptional spirit base, which is of course essential – teamwork and collaboration are also key components in delivering a memorable drinking experience.

“Our winner Alejandro epitomised these values, underpinned by truly outstanding bartending skills – a worthy winner, supported by his team.”

The 15 competing bartenders earned their place at the global final by impressing at national heats, where they were challenged to recreate Chivas Regal’s journey across the globe. Creating serves that were inspired by the classic cocktails of New York to the booming bars of Shanghai via their home country, all cocktails were designed to enhance Chivas Regal’s house style – a feat that the bartenders were asked to replicate in the Chivas Masters global final this week.

Dré commented: “On behalf of the wider judging panel it was fantastic to see such a resourceful, innovative and skilful group of bartenders competing – all of the finalists in Shanghai proved themselves to be at the top of their game.

“However, Alejandro is a fantastic winner, both due to his exceptional talent behind the bar and his camaraderie throughout the finals. I can’t wait to see how his career progresses – I expect great things.”

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