With Blue by Eric Ripert set as center stage, mixologists from Jacques Scott provided a taste of Cayman’s incipient cocktail scene on May 11.
While Grand Cayman enjoys a world-class food offering, the island has yet to reach its full cocktail potential, argued Jacques Scott brand manager Simon Crompton.
As regional bartenders become increasingly competitive, he described a resurgence in high-end drinking that he hopes will translate into better fine dining experiences.
“We don’t want people to drink more; we want them to drink better – better ingredients, better quality, better glassware, better atmosphere,” he said.
Cocktail and food pairings
A five-course cocktail pairing, prepared by the team at Blue, provided a glimpse of Mr. Crompton’s vision. Members of the media and hospitality industry gathered at The Ritz-Carlton restaurant to indulge in exquisite seafood dishes, matched with cocktails chosen not just for their complementary flavors but their quality of ingredients.
Mr. Crompton emphasized the importance of fresh ingredients over mixes that may contain added sugars and preservatives.
“The cocktail and drinking scene is very different even from five years ago. It used to be a rum and coke … gin and tonic. People were making drinks with mixes, a lot of sugar, preservatives. Now you look around at the restaurants we have on island, the bars and bartending quality, and it’s had a massive resurgence,” he said, as guests settled into their chairs.
The table offering began with a tuna foie gras on toasted baguette. The fresh catch came with a Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky, mixed with a homemade pineapple-cinnamon tepache, lemon juice and honey.
The pairings continued with a smoky scallop and wild mushroom sauce, served with an applewood-smoked and brown-butter washed Bulleit bourbon.
The evening closed on a sweet note with a white chocolate, passion fruit pudding and a coconut-fat washed Don Julio 1942 tequila and white crème de cacao.
Putting Cayman on top
As Cayman’s bar scene matures, Jacques Scott brand manager Joanna Austin said cocktail pairings like these will diversify the tourist experience.
“Cocktails and good food go hand-in-hand and as our offerings progress so will the talent that wants to come and work with us here. We want more high-end tourists visiting and spending in our economy,” she said.
“We want to be the top destination in the Caribbean; a place to come for a classic beachy mudslide to a beautifully crafted rum Manhattan.”
In recent years, she has seen interest in serving fresh, carefully crafted cocktails grow from one to two restaurants to a burgeoning movement.
“As our island consumers have started catching on, more and more places are getting in on the fun. These days, Cayman is attracting bartenders from all over the world which really is testament to our established culinary scene and our growing cocktail one,” she said.
Despite Cayman’s small size and population, professional bartenders have their sights set on making an international mark. The Jacques Scott team is already working with local talent to prepare for the World Class Spirits cocktail competition global finals this summer in Mexico City.
Ms. Austin said Cayman will be the smallest country represented at the competition, which showcases the world’s top talent.
She believes Cayman’s team will prove to be serious contenders and could vie for the top spot. The islands’ international talent pool provides a competitive edge, she explained.
“At the moment we have bartenders from literally all over the world serving up cocktails with ingredients from equally interesting places. They’re using ingredients that they know and love along with seasonal fresh ingredients from our own island. It can be really interesting and definitely pretty cool,” she said.
To truly maximize the island’s potential, she also hopes to put greater effort into training Cayman’s home-grown talent.
“I’d love to see more local Caymanians behind the bar and coming forward to represent Cayman in competitions like World Class,” she said.
Jacques Scott is currently discussing a training program where up-and-comers can learn from established bartenders. She said this will be the next step toward realizing a truly robust, world-class cocktail scene.