Even though the world of cocktails is usually a lighthearted, easygoing one, there was definitely an edge to the atmosphere in The Venue, Caribbean Plaza on July 30. The island’s best bartenders were going shaker-a-shaker to see who would emerge the winner of the Cayman Islands Stoli Cocktail Masters Competition. Money, prizes and the coveted title of 2017 Cayman Islands Stoli Brand Ambassador were at stake, so no one was taking this anything but seriously. Nerves showed in some shaking hands, but overall everyone managed to keep their cool.
Rules and regulations
The rules required each bartender to create their own version of the Stoli Mule and Stoli Lemonade. They had limited time to make two of each, which were then passed to the four judges to test. A point system was applied to the cocktails, covering smell, taste, presentation and appearance. Points were deducted for missing out ingredients listed in their submitted recipes, or adding more than the allowed number of ingredients to their drinks.
After much deliberation, one bartender emerged the clear winner: Valerie Balignasay from The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort.
Her use of flavors, spices and attention to detail made her drinks unforgettable. Her Raabta (Hindi Mule) had just the right amount of kick and her two Island Fever lemonades were drunk dry, between the judges and hovering audience members eager for a sip.
Second place was taken by Federico Gisbert Johnson from Backroom Bar, whose Conchita and Co. and Let It Bee beverages were impressive takes on the challenge. Beyond the drinks, Johnson’s presentation certainly kept the crowd entertained, his gift of the gab holding him in good stead when the pressure was on.
In third place was Aurélien Rouhard, hailing from Agua in Galleria Plaza. He came up with a Mediterranean Garden and The Roasted Mule. He, too, was an entertaining performer, mixing drinks with confidence in front of the crowd and cameras.
There were eight bartenders competing in all. The rest making up the field were: Chris Collins from Karoo, William Collins from The King’s Head Pub, Stephanie St. John from Grand Old House, Cory Scruggs from Sunshine Grill and Andrea Travenzoli from Catch.
Prizes for the top three placed competitors included a swag bag from Stoli, including a bottle of the popular vodka.