Scotland’s Bartenders Clean Up at Zignum and El Recuerdo Mezcal Final

Scotland’s Zach Sapato and Ellie Raeside win trips to Oaxaca at the Zignum and El Recuerdo mezcal final

For much of the Summer BarLifeUK has been touring the UK with Love Drinks, judging regional heats of the El Recuerdo Abocado Con Gusano and Zignum Reposado mezcal competition.

The winners and judges

This double-header comp invited bartenders to enter a drink for either, or both, of these wonderful and very different mezcals, with the two eventual winners securing a seat on a plane to Mexico, for what will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Oaxaca. The standard of drinks at the heats was very high, as was the level of creativity displayed as bartenders explored what was a pretty open brief – celebrate the flavours and history of the mezcals in the form of a cracking drink and supporting presentation. And this high qualifying bar meant the final, which took place last week at the newly-opened Crazy Pedro’s in Birmingham, would be a close-run affair.

At the final, in addition to making the drink which won their regional heat, the competitors were also asked to create a margarita twist, and again the brief was very open. This extra round was not just a test of drink-creation skills, it was also used as a knowledge round, with the judges briefed to fire some mezcal-related questions at the competitors as they worked. And the judging panel had an impressive amount of knowledge from which to draw their questions, as it comprised of Luis van der Velde (Europe Commercial Manager, Zignum) and Ricardo Franco (Global Senior Brand Assistant, Zignum), Samantha Burke (MD Love Drinks) and Jamie Mac (Scottish bar legend and maker of the best Mai Tai we’ve ever tasted).

Zach Sapato

Samantha Burke, fresh from her time on the judges bar stool, said of the comp: “It has honestly been a very long time since, I’ve been involved with a better competition where the knowledge, skill and technique on show was off the scale. It’s a great sign for the industry and the mezcal movement as a whole. Right across the competition we have seen some astounding serves so a big thanks to everyone who was involved. It’s been an amazing way of showcasing the depth, versatility, variety and incredible sustainability credentials our El Recuerdo and Zignum brands offer.”

This is high praise as we have judged some top-notch competitions with Sam in the past, and all of the competitors should feel proud of their efforts, making it to the final was a real achievement. However, there could of course only be one winner for each competition, and after the judges had tallied their scores, Jamie Mac the pleasure of announcing two bartenders from his neck of the woods had triumphed, with Zach Sapato (The Absent Ear) winning the El Recuerdo comp, and Ellie Raeside (Hoot The Redeemer) winning the Zignum comp.

Ellie Raeside

A very happy Ellie Raeside told us: ‘The standard of every contestant in the final was seriously so good. Everyone really brought their A game and I can imagine the judges job was seriously difficult after so many delicious drinks! I’m absolutely over the moon to bring home the win from such a high calibre of presentations. The competition really caught my attention when it was announced and I really enjoyed the process of getting my ideas together for it – so excited for Mexico and all the Mezcal fun to come!”

Zach Sapato added: “It feels surreal to have won this competition! Oaxaca is one of THE trips for bartenders and we put our all into these cocktails. The brands and sponsors ran things in such a fun way and the competitors were all fantastic. I’m honored to represent Glasgow and over the moon to be going alongside the legendary Ellie from Hoot The Redeemer in Edinburgh!”

Congratulations to Zach and Ellie, we hope you have a fantastic time in Oaxaca. Thanks also go to everyone who entered, and the fantastic crew at Crazy Pedro’s in Birmingham for looking after everyone so well at the final.

Zach Sapato’s Wining El Recuerdo drink: A Path of Flavour

30ml El Recuerdo con Gusano
20ml White Creme de Cacao
30ml El Bandarra Blanco Vermouth
30ml Fernet-Vallet

Stir and strain into stemmed tulip glass sprayed with Dashfire Cardamom Bitters and dusted with sal de chapulin (cricket salt)

Zach’s Margarita: The Darkest Daisy

50ml El Recuerdo Joven
20ml Lime
15ml agave syruo
40 black sesame tea
Short shake over black ice

Ellie Raeside’s Winning Zignum drink: The Magpie

30ml Zignum Reposado
30ml cacao & coconut milk infused bourbon
5ml sugar
2 drops saline

Served in bird glass (or a coupe)

Ellie’s Margarita: Dirty Margtini

40ml El Tec Joven
15ml Nori Liq
20 Lime
7ml agave
1 olive
(olive brine rinse / rosemary salt rim)