Winners announced in global tequila contest

The winners have been announced in the global final of a cocktail competition held in Mexico for bartenders passionate about tequila.

Eighteen bartenders from 11 countries (pictured), including Gareth Evans of London’s Pollen Street Social representing the UK, battled it out at the third Tahona Society International Cocktail Competition in Arandas.

It was won by Heinz Kaiser from Dino’s American Bar in Vienna. His La Paloma Negra was a Manhattan-style drink inspired by the late Mexican singer Chavela Vargas. Using Olmeca Tezón Reposado, he impressed judges by presenting the drink in silver cups under a cloud of cumin-scented smoke.

The top prize was a chance to return to Mexico and learn from Olmeca’s maestro tequilero, Jesús Hernández. Heinz will spend a week working alongside him at the Olmeca Distillery in the highlands of Jalisco next year.

The judging panel was chaired by UK bar and cocktail specialist Henry Besant, co-founder of The Tahona Society and co-creator of the 100 per cent agave Olmeca Altos tequila. Alongside Hernández, he was supported by a team including Tomas Estes, who is European ambassador for tequila, and Camper English, specialist cocktail and spirits writer at Alcademics. Charles Joly, the winner of the 2011 final, completed the panel.

Henry commented: “Heinz’s creativity, ingenuity and skill set his cocktail apart from the crowd. His use of vintage silverware and modern techniques were perfectly integrated with the complex and delicious flavours within the drink.”

Jason Xue Bin from China was awarded second prize for his Shanghai Girl cocktail, which was presented on a wooden tasting mat. It featured hawthorn-infused tequila and secured him a place in the competition’s final next year.

Sergey Nadson, from the Big Liver Place Bar in St Petersburg, took third place with his Sexy Kristy creation – a take on the classic Tommy’s Margarita, featuring lemongrass and black pepper. He took home a special reserve bottling of Olmeca Extra Añejo, aged for five years.

Bartenders qualified for the final through national heats which were held around the globe in cities including London, Toronto, Denver and Athens. The winners were flown to Mexico where they received an intensive induction into Olmeca’s production and a distillery tour. They were also treated to a visit to the ruins of the ancient Indian culture of Guachimontones and a full tasting at the Olmeca distillery, led by Hernández.

The Tahona Society is an exclusive global community of the world’s most tequila-passionate professional bartenders. Set up in 2009 by Olmeca and Worldwide Cocktail Club founders Henry Besant and Dre Masso, The Tahona Society already has more than 1,300 members from around the world. Members have benefited from expert training in tequila which includes insight into the origins of the spirit, its industrialisation and the history of the authentic tahona process, as well as exploring the art of bartending with tequila.

La Paloma Negra by Heinz Kaiser

50ml Olmeca Tezón Reposado
30ml Vermouth Carpano Antica Formula
10ml Cointreau
10ml Guaycura Licór de Damiana
2 drops Bob’s Abbotts Bitters
1/2 drop Mozart Chocolate Bitters

For the aromatised smoke:
1 barspoon Fresh crushed whole cumin
1 drop Orange oil
1 drop Lime oil
1 drop Cumin oil

Stir all ingredients (except the ones for the smoke) in a frozen mixing glass until thoroughly cold and strain into a chilled, silver cup. Place the cup on a silver plate and cover it with a bell jar fitted with a valve to blow in smoke. Fill a smoking gun with the ingredients for the smoke, light them and fill the bell jar with the flavoured smoke. When presenting the drink, open the bell jar slowly in front of the guest.

Click here to read Gareth Evans’s report on his Tahona Society tequila experience.

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