In case you were wondering why you hadn’t heard anything about the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2015 winner, that’s because there wasn’t one. Michael Tomasic from Australia enjoyed a two year AGCC reign. The 2014 champ was back in Trinidad a few weeks ago but this time instead of competing he had a new role, to judge the 12 hopefuls who were after his crown.
And can you blame them when there’s so much at stake? Not just the money, although it has to be said US$10,000 is probably one of the biggest cash prizes for any cocktail competition, but financial gains aside, it’s more about the things money can’t buy. Like the two-year contract as Angostura Global Brand Ambassador promoting the award-winning portfolio including the range of Angostura rums, Angostura aromatic bitters, Angostura orange bitters and Amaro di Angostura around the world – with travel that brings the total winning package up to $100,000. And then of course there’s the opportunity to return to Trinidad to be amongst the judging panel for the next AGCC in 2018. All in all, you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty impressive package.
Top: Competitors enjoy time at the Angostura distillery; above: refuelling on Jou’vert morning
Mind you, some people would consider an all expenses week in Trinidad for making it through to the final leg of the competition as a big enough prize. Especially as it included a tour of the Angostura Distillery and Museum, time with Angostura Master Blender John Georges, the opportunity to get down and ‘dutty’ in the streets for Jou’vert (see above), then don full carnival costume to take part in the world famous ‘mas’. In fact, there were so many highlights packed into the week that the competitors, media and guests couldn’t help but be seduced by everything the folk at Angostura do.
But relaxing down de islands, watching the local steel bands and learning how to ‘whine’ in true Trinny style were just the amuse-bouches, the tantalising bits carefully curated to whet our appetites for the main attraction: the tenth Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge.
The dynamic dozen on Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge day, from top row, left to right: Paul Peterson, Neal Ramdhan, Matheus Cunha; second row: Yong Won Seo, Manachain Monaghan, Cameron Attfield; third row: Elizabeth Mickiewicz, James Irving, Daniel Vestman Eriksson; fourth row: Dino Jose Batiste; Jonathan Strokowski Ross, NikitaKhlopyanov
Having been to the last three AGCCs we can honestly say this was the slickest one yet. Staging it at the House of Angostura certainly helped. So did the bright, fresh makeover of the space including a sexily revamped bar. It provided the perfect stage for the 12 competitors, James Irving (Australia), Matheus Cunha (Brazil), Jonathan Strokowski Ross (Canada), Cameron Attfield (New Zealand), Nikita Khlopyanov (Russia), Dino Jose Batista (South Africa), Yong Won Seo (South Korea), Paul Peterson (St. Maarten), Daniel Vestman Ericsson (Sweden), Neal Ramadan (Trinidad and Tobago), Manachain Monaghan (UK) and Elizabeth Mickiewicz (USA), to showcase their two drinks and prove what gave them the edge over the 900 hopefuls who entered the challenge.
Manachain Monaghan from the UK shows off the revamped bar during his poetic performance
Putting them through their paces was an expert panel of judges made up of tiki authority and drinks personality Jeff ‘Beach Bum’ Berry, joined by one of our favourite drinks consultants in the whole wide world, Esther Medina Cuesta, as well as celebrated chef Kathy Casey, AGCC 2014 winner Michael Tomasic and Senior Manager – Quality Assurance at Angostura, Carol Homer.
Let’s hear it for the judges, from left to right: Carol Homer, Kathy Casey, Jeff ‘Beach Bum’ Berry, Esther Medina Cuesta, Michael Tomasic
We saw an inspiring selection of rum and freestyle cocktails, all featuring Angostura rums, bitters and Amaro di Angostura of course (see the recipes here). There was creativity with ingredients, originality in the presentations and huge respect for the diversity of products in the range.
Pretty as a picture, cocktails from left to right: Neal Ramdhan, Jonathan Strokowski Ross and Nikita Khlopyanov
Twenty-four cocktails later and the winners were announced, drum roll please…
Best Freestyle Cocktail: Neal Ramdhan, Trinidad and Tobago
Best Rum Cocktail: Dino Batista, South Africa
3rd place: Jonathan Strokowski Ross, Canada
2nd place: Dino Batista, South Africa
Local hero Neal Ramdhan
And give it up for local boy Neal Ramdhan from San Juan in Trinidad and Tobago who took the top prize and was named Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge 2016 winner. As you might expect, friends, family and supporters in the crowd went crazy. “I’m honoured to be part of the culture and country that’s produced Angostura aromatic bitters which I began using as a child, in food and juices,” he said. “I’m also very proud of Angostura’s rums, they’re literally the best in the world, as you can tell from the number of international awards they’ve won.” Neal will be spreading the Angostura love around the world for the next two years.
For further recipes check out the Angostura App