As we arrived at Mayahuel on Commercial Street we knew who two of the UK finalists heading to Mexico to duke it out would be, our mission was to find the final competitor.
The Centinela competition has been exceptionally well received, with the first two heats producing a great turn out and equally great drinks. No doubt the allure of a trip to Mexico for each heat winner contributed to the interest but the chance to compete in a competition using a bartenders favourite ingredient certainly also helped.
London certainly had a lot to live up to and in the realm of interest they certainly didn’t lack with 18 bartenders primed and prepped for a day’s fierce competing. With that number of competitors it certainly wasn’t going to be a speedy day but the good folk at Centinela had everyone’s collective backs ensuring there were plenty of Palomas and plates of Mayahuel’s fine Mexican fare.
With 18 competitors you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t give you a blow by blow account of each entrant however there were plenty of highlights to pick from. BarLifeUK are always impressed with those taking the first step into the rewarding (and sphincter tightening) world of competitions and we had at least 6 comp virgins who need congratulating for stepping up to impress the judges.
Speaking of which….. BarLifeUK were joined by the ever present Eduardo Gomez from Amathus, Rafael Mondragon the man behind the superb Lupita and Mayahuel plus Steve Feroze from London Cocktail Scholars (who also was in charge of photography and kindly provided us with all the pics you see here).
Stuart from Zilouf’s ingratiated himself to the judges when his Cabrito Reposado based Juan for the Kid was served with a bottle of Cabrito branded beer and a Mexican goat wrap. Andrei from Bentley’s went for Centinela Blanco paired with mint and Crème de Violet, his judging bribery was more obvious with a Mexican passport containing a crisp $1 bill.
Gareth from Pollen Street Social produced a superb drink matching Centinela Blanco with carrot juice, smoked salt, lemon juice and a honey syrup infused with cumin. Ruby (one of five ladies gracing the bar) from Caravan Exmouth Market also impressed with her unique drink in her first combination, infusing Cabrito Blanco with Manuka flowers before mixing with Centinela Anejo, lemon juice and Manuka honey.
We were also treated to popcorn and a hollowed grapefruit glass from 21 Poland Street’s Julia, a carafe and homemade teabag combination from Marlowe at Evans & Peel and Alvaro from American Bar, Savoy countered any difficulty with his accent by bringing a helper a la a Bob Dylan video.
However the winner paired a great drink with a presentation which blew the others away. Valentino from the Ravoli Bar at the Ritz produced a hand chipped ice ball and a Mexican presentation box filled with aromatised dry ice. Many would have thought that was enough but he managed a first for me and the other judges when he served his drink accompanied by a live Mariachi band playing ‘Tequila’. Whether he’s buying them tickets to Mexico as well remains to be seen.
So congratulations to Valentino who’ll be joining Ruairidh Muir of Raoul’s, Oxford and Emma Andrew, 99 Hanover Street Bar, Edinburgh at the UK final in Mexico. Also congratulations to Gareth and Ruby for taking out second and third places, no mean feat in such a strong and large field.
Finally thanks to all the competitors for entering, hanging around, drinking Palomas and of course Lupita and Mayahuel for their fantastic hospitality, drinks and food.
Valentino Longo, Rivoli Bar at the Ritz
40ml Centinela Anejo
10 ml Antica Formula
10 ml ginger liquor
5 ml vanilla syrup
6 mint leaves
1 orange zest
I looked to create an experience that would take you back to the 1904 Mexican culture. On this conception we try to express the notes of this wonderful tequila taking you on a flight of superbly elegant flavors, with vanilla and generous flashes of orange, that glide across the taste buds in the slick, super-smooth fashion that one expects from this creation.
In the mid-palate, a burst of pepper keeps the tongue on its toes, before notes of lemon, herbs, and some toasty oak start to emerge, finishing with a lingering peppery spice and residual sweetness.
To guide you in this journey we will introduce in a true original way with a live act of traditional Mariachi. Also transporting you to in time to the true honest Mexican Society by presenting in a traditional Mexican box and garnishing the cocktail with a Dhalia flower we try to represent the national trusts and tradition of the people.