We won’t lie, until recently if anyone mentioned Angostura, aromatic bitters would spring to mind. How foolish and naive we were. While there’s no denying the little bottle with the iconic oversized label plays a huge part in the Angostura portfolio, its rum packs an equally impressive punch. And yes, that pun is very much intended.
Punches, fizzes and cobblers were just a few of the cocktails vying for attention in Angostura’s Global Cocktail Challenge earlier this month. Little wonder really. With $10,000 and the pleasure of representing Angostura as its Global Brand Ambassador for a year up for grabs, it was a competition everyone wanted to win.
Not that making it through to this stage was to be scoffed at; our fifteen finalists were flown out to Trinidad to visit the Angostura Distillery, chill out in Tobago, play mas in the world famous carnival and of course, show off their skills as the global competition reached its climax. They had to impress five judges: Tony Abou-Ganim, all-round cocktail-making guru and author of The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails; Eric Forget, Cellar Master at Hine Cognac; Jacob Briars, internationally renowned mixologist and Global Brand Director for Leblon Cachaca; Vidia Doodnath, Executive Director, Technical Operations of the Angostura Group of Companies and last year’s winner, Andy Griffiths.
And a bloody good job they did, too. Flags were flying for Africa, Asia, Australia, China, Caribbean, European Union, India, New Zealand, North and South America, Russia, UK and Trinidad & Tobago as each of the finalists presented their drinks. Naturally, they had to use rum and bitters in their Rum Cocktail (Angostura, of course) taking their pick from Reserva (white), 5 Year Old (gold), 7 Year Old (dark) and 1919 and 1824 (premium blends). They also had a chance to go all out with a Freestyle Cocktail, using any spirit just as long as Angostura Bitters was added to the mix.
Some went wild, others kept it classic but all demonstrated the versatility and beauty of both the spirit and bitters. In the Rum Cocktail category Rikki Carter from New Zealand gave us ‘Johann’s Bittered Sling’ (Angostura 1919 rum, Suze, Angostura aromatic bitters, Licor 43, lime juice, limonatta), while Ilya Bubashvili from Russia created ‘Listen to your heart’, an intriguing mix of Angostura 7 Year Old dark rum, Chambord, Angostura aromatic bitters, lime juice, sugar syrup, rose water and Scotch whisky. Other rum creations included European Union winner, Guiseppe Santamaria’s Tobago Spice Swizzle (Angostura 5 Year Old Gold rum, Angostura aromatic bitters, lime juice, cinnamon syrup, Amaretto Disaronno) and the ‘Trini Breakfast Cocktail’ from Trinidad & Tobago’s Carla Cupid (Angostura 1919 rum, passion fruit liqueur, cherry brandy, Grand Marnier, ripe mangoes, guava jam, rosemary and Angostura aromatic bitters).
Among the many creative Freestyle Cocktails was ‘Farmer’s Affair’ by Jamaal Bowen representing the Caribbean (orange vodka, kola tonic, bell pepper syrup, fresh pineapple juice, lime juice, Angostura aromatic bitters). Rizal Junior Johari gave us his ‘Malacca-Loda’ (Angostura 1919 rum, coconut rum, Angostura aromatic and orange bitters, coconut jam, coconut water), while Ezequiel Rodriguez from South America showed off his ‘Santisima Trinidad’ (Angostura 7 Year Old dark rum, Angostura aromatic bitters, Dubonnet, lime juice and sugar syrup).
Of the four females taking part in the competition Nastassia Martin from the UK showed how the bitters can be used to sweet and sour effect with her ‘Bacchanal’ (Mezcal, Amaro, Amer Picon, lemon juice, honey sugar syrup, egg white, Angostura aromatic bitters) and ‘Mr Lovelace’s Crusta’ (Angostura 1919 rum, lime juice, Dubonnet, homemade chai tea sugar syrup, Angostura aromatic bitters).
In the end, it was David Delaney Jr from Massachusetts who was crowned overall winner. His ‘Five Island Fizz’ (Angostura 5 Year Old Gold rum, Velvet Falernum, lime juice, Maraschino liqueur, ginger beer and Angostura bitters) and ‘On Second Thought’ (Applejack, Benedictine, Cherry Heering, maple syrup, lemon juice and Angostura aromatic bitters) blew our judges minds.
“In a competition of this level, everything has to be absolutely perfect,” said Tony Abou-Gamin who headed up the judging panel. “David’s cocktails were superb but it was his use of the Applejack that nailed it for me – it really stood out in the entire competition.”
“True to its name, ‘On Second Thought’ was a recreation of a cocktail I made back in August,” said a slightly stunned David of his Applejack concoction immediately after learning he’d scooped the top prize. “I didn’t think I stood a chance of winning. It’s absolutely mindblowing, I can’t explain how I’m feeling right now.”
One thing’s for sure though, he plans to hand in his notice at the company he has worked for seven years and is thrilled he’ll have twelve whole months representing Angostura. “To win a competition like this with such an amazing product is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I can’t wait to start.”
David will take over as Global Brand Ambassador for Angostura when Andy Griffiths’ reign ends in March. In the meantime, buy yourself a bottle of the lightly spiced, sweet, golden and absolutely delicious 1919 blend and recreate his winning rum cocktail at home:
Rum Cocktail: Five Island Fizz
1½oz Angostura 5 Year Old Gold rum
¾oz Velvet Falernum
½oz freshly-squeezed lime juice
¼oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1½oz Barrits Ginger Beer
5 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
Add Angostura 5 Year Old rum, Velvet Falernum, lime and Maraschino into the mixing tin. Add ice, shake briefly and strain into 12oz Collins glass. Add ginger beer, fill with crushed ice and dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters to float on top. Garnish with a lime wheel wrapped around a Luxardo cherry and serve.
Freestyle Cocktail: On Second Thought
1½oz Laird’s Applejack
½oz Cherry Heering Liqueur
½oz maple syrup (medium grade ‘A’)
¾oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
5 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
Add all ingredients into mixing tin, add ice, shake and strain into pre-chilled coupe. Garnish with cinnamon dusted dehydrated lemon wheel and serve.