Two fantastic Mezcals and ultimately two amazing trips to Oaxaca to play for, but first it was heat time.
For once it wasn’t so hard to imagine the sun and warmth of Mexico as we gathered at The Cocktail Club on Goodge Street. One by one the bartenders arrived clutching increasingly large bottles of water and instantly relieved to be hugged by the air-conditioned room.
We were there to compete with and celebrate two mezcals from Love Drinks in the form of Zignum, specifically the Reposado, and El Recuerdo in the form of Abocado con Gusano. On hand from Love Drinks was the wonderful Sam Burke who decided water just wasn’t going to cut the refreshing stakes so sorted out a round of El Recuerdo Tommy’s for the room.
The competitors had been asked to submit a cocktail for one of the brands or if they wanted to up their chances, and equally the stress levels, they could enter both. Whilst the entry specs for both drinks remained the same (min 30ml of the mezcal and maximum of one homemade ingredient) the inspiration and therefore presentations were inspired by two different elements.
For El Recuerdo we wanted people to be inspired by the flavours of Oaxaca, Mexico as a whole and mezcal. In the case of Zignum it was the rich history of Oaxaca and traditions of its inhabitants.
With everyone’s favourite axe-thrower Russell Burgess joining BarLifeUK and Sam on the judging panel, and with the draw made it was time to kick off.
A Pear of Samaritans in the Underworld
Across the two brand rounds four competitors stood out, with El Recuerdo one of the competitors shone with a fantastic drink and equally strong presentation. Angelo Lo Greco from Stables Bar at the Milestone Hotel came out of the blocks hard with a funny, confident presentation that celebrated the flavours of mezcal. His drink was perfectly balanced with all the flavours, including fennel seed, mandarin, basil and lime, helping the El Recuerdo shine.
In Angelo we had our first finalist.
The Zignum round was a much tighter affair with three in the mix at the top. First up came Demon, Wise & Partners’ Giorgia De
Stefano with her drink La Samaritana, a celebration of Oaxaca’s festivals and in particular the festival which celebrates Samaritan’s. This celebration focuses on water, and one of the favourite flavours is guava, represented in the drink with a guava soda, this with lime, hibiscus and chilli. To crown it off the drink was poured into traditional serving vessel’s expertly decorated by her girlfriend Saira.
Annalisa Ottonelli from Dishoom (Shoreditch specifically, she was very insistent on that) was next to impress bringing her Italian heritage to combine with Mexican flavours. The resulting drink was designed to be enjoyed on the beach at the end of a hard day and I can definitely see that happening. It looked fantastic and the classic flavours of mezcal, agave and lime juice were brought to life by a homemade pear puree.
Also from Dishoom Shoreditch was Maxime Kbiri with his drink Mezcal & Zaa, inspired by the Zapotec civilisation Ben Zaa or Cloud People. They provided the inspiration for not just the name but the flavours and the visuals. The ingredients represented the different landscapes this nomadic tribe would have walked through and the it was perfectly blue celebrating their final home.
It was always going to be tight to pick just one from these three so we didn’t. We picked two with Giorgia and Annalisa both advancing, with Angelo, to the final in August where they will be fighting for a trip to Oaxaca later in the year.
Well done to everyone and big thanks to Shane from TCC for looking after us so well and making sure the margaritas were free flowing. Onwards to Edinburgh and Manchester for the next two heats, we will be bringing you all the news from there shortly.
Angelo Lo Greco – Stables Bar, London
Xibalba (Underworld) 50ml El Recuerdo Abocado con Gusano
10ml mandarin juice
10ml lemon juice
15ml basil syrup
50ml fennel infusion
Throw drink and serve in a highball over ice with a ‘leather & soil’ spritz*. *water distilled with soil and mixed with mezcal and peated whisky
Giorgia De Stefano – Demon, Wise & Partners, London
La Samaritana 45ml Zignum Reposado
20ml hibiscus & chilli syrup
25ml lime juice
Top with Jarritos Guava Soda
Shake all ingredients except soda, pour over ice and top with soda, garnish with chilli from the infusion dehydrated.