From the distinctive and quite frankly sublime turquoise blue of the bottle, to the exquisite taste of the liquid inside, everything about Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto says quality. No expense was spared when founder and Italian spirits don Giuseppe Gallo created his modern take on the age old rosolio category, so it should come as no surprise to hear that the same painstaking attention to detail and focus on taste and aesthetic carries through to its global cocktail competition as well.

Above: Luca Missaglia, Global Ambassador, Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto

Suitably called The Art of Italicus Aperitivo Challenge, it’s an invitation for bartenders, or bar artists if you will, who think outside the glass to express their creativity in the way they do best – by conjuring up a carefully balanced cocktail. But there’s more. Like the name implies, their drinks had to be inspired by art. And to get them in the mood, the new Italicus film Sofia – The Sound of Italicus created in collaboration with the Gaga Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the third birthday of Giuseppe Gallo’s liquid baby, was previewed (see below). Inspiring, engaging and thoroughly enchanting, it set the tone for the gems to come. The canvas for the day’s proceedings meanwhile was the spectacular setting of Oblix, on the 32nd floor of the Shard.

The eight UK finalists

Sarah Berardi from Draffens at the Blue Room, in Dundee, kicked things off in fine style with her cocktail, Brightness of Day. Inspired by the painting of the same name by Alphonse Mucha her riff on a Sgroppino was more than just a pretty drink, it came with a well thought-out tale that incorporated the history of the rosolio category (as well as a healthy measure of the Italicus, of course), together with chamomile tea, a scoop of orange, grapefruit and rosemary sorbet, topped with prosecco.

Italy was the protagonist in Albert David’s Journey of an Italian cocktail. Comedy featured highly in his presentation too. He used props, including a selfie-stick, map and designer sunglasses to whisk the judging panel through the Italian hotspots, pausing to serve his aperitivo made by adding rose oxymel, marinus juice, olive leaf tincture and soda water to Italicus.

Selia Bugallo preparing her Three Of Us cocktail

There were plenty of other equally imaginative drinks, (see recipes below). And while it was an extremely tough decision, the judging panel, made up of last year’s winner Andrea Melis from the Blue Bar at The Berkeley, Marika Cappena, Italicus Sales & Marketing Manager, and us, all agreed that our winner was Selia Bugallo from Kwãnt London.

There were a number of reasons why she stood out for us. Starting with her motivation which came from flamenco, an art form which she studied in her native Spain. Through her presentation we learnt of Carmen Amaya, the first female to wear trousers when she performed. Selia wore trousers too but instead of dance, she showcased her other artistic passion, bartending. And boy did she boss it with her Three of Us cocktail. Roll this combo around your palate for a moment: the crisp, clean taste of Italicus, meticulously balanced with olorosso, sake, topped with rosemary and grapefruit tonic and just the right amount of coffee to give it a distinctive, most agreeable edge.

Selia, together with Ciprian Zsraga from Polo Bar (second place) and Sarah Berardi from Draffen’s Bar (third place)

Her product knowledge was bang-on-the-money too. Not a hint of the ‘I’ve-swallowed-the-brand-book-and-I’m-going-to-let-you-know-it,’ neither did her Italicus know-how feel like it to be chucked in just to tick boxes – from where we were sitting it was more of an appreciation of the artistry of the product itself. All in all, she ticked all of the boxes required to earn the coveted Art of Italicus UK winner.

Selia will represent the UK at The Art of Italicus Global Final at Paradiso in Barcelona on 4th November along with the following competitors:

Constantinos Kazelis, Lost and Found, Cyprus (Greece)
Peggy Knoght, Ritz Carlton Berlin (Germany)
Artem Talalay, Sakhalin, Moscow(Russia)
Lucas Kelm, Amo Bar, Venice (Italy)
Giuseppe Lilliu, Bar Feijoa, Amsterdam (Netherland)
Walker Wong, Four Season (Hong Kong)
Dario Dormo, Mr Coco, Las Vegas (US)
Carmine Di Marino, Svanen, Oslo (Scandinavia)
Melissa Content, Cafe Moderne, Paris (France)
Dominik Csuti, Black Swan, Budapest (Hungary)
Silvia Doringer, Creps al Born, Barcelona (Spain)

Check Sofia –The Sound of Italicus here:

The winning recipe:

Selia Bugallo, Kwant, London
Three Of Us

45ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
25ml oloroso sherry
15ml sake
0.5ml ground coffee
60ml rosemary and grapefruit tonic

Method:
Mix sake with the oloroso and infuse with coffee using the aeropress technique. Add the Italicus, olorosso, sake and coffee infusion to a mixing tin and stir gently, then pour into a Highball glass. Top with rosemary and grapefruit soda. Garnish with basil.

And the remaining seven…

Fabio Santoro, Roka Shochu Lounge, London
The Great Wave of Italicus

40ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
25ml Cocchi American Vermouth
25ml olive brine
20ml Mancino Sakura Vermouth

Method:
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass. Strain into a Japanese bowl and garnish with a sakura flower. Serve with a cracker with anchovies and lemongrass on top.

Ciprian Zsraga, Polo Bar at The Westbury Hotel, London
Invictus

45ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
40ml oud cordial
Three Cents Grapefruit Tonic to top

Method:
Stir all ingredients together in a wine glass and serve.

Claudio Lucolino, Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour, London
Amuní

60ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
5ml peated whisky
20ml Chinato Vermouth
150ml kombucha

Method:
Build ingredients in a pre-chilled Highball glass. Add one ice block in the serving glass and place on top of the speaker which will allow the liquids to mix. After 20 seconds add the second ice block and the raspberry, black pepper dust, crispy curry leaf and rosemary sprig garnish.

Georgi Petrov, The Italian Orchard, Preston
Brunelleschi Aperitivio

40ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
15ml Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Vermouth
10ml Everlasting Mixture
25ml Granny Smith apple juice
65ml prosecco

Method:
Add all ingredients to a shaker full of ice. Shake and strain into the glass. Add 3-4 cubes of fresh ice and pour prosecco over the top. Gently stir and garnish with a small apple fan on a metal cocktail stick.

Valentina Mei, Sea Containers, London
Double Green Highball

40ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
10ml green spiced gin
30ml Tesch Riesling Wine
40ml soda water

Method:
Stir first two ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a Lowball glass and add both the wine and soda water. Fill glass with cubed ice, stir gently then add grapefruit twist and rosemary sprig garnish.

Albert David, Gong, London
The Italian Traveller

45ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
10ml Rose Oxymel
30ml Marinus Juice
2 dashes Olive Leaf Tincture
50ml soda water

Method:
Add all ingredients (except the soda) into a shaker. Add ice and shake it for approx 11 seconds. Fine strain into a Rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with melted sugar stamped with Italics logo.

Sarah Berardi, Draffens, Cardiff
Brightness of Day

40ml Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto
15ml blueberry and chamomile tea
15ml orange, grapefruit and rosemary sorbet
50ml prosecco

Method:
Pre-chill all ingredients, then combine all except the sorbet in a chilled fizzio glass. Spoon sorbet into the drink and garnish with two viola flowers and a sprig of rosemary on a golden spoon.

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