With regards to service, I think South African bartenders are some of the best. We truly are a friendly and open bunch who know how to entertain…
Recently I caught up with Dominic Walsh, 23, South African National winner of this years’ Angostura aromatic bitters Global Cocktail Challenge who competed earlier this year in Trinidad against ten other bartenders, Sean Frederick, Boston, USA, Oliver Stern, Toronto, Canada, Ryan Mitto, Kingston, Jamaica, Stanislav Mukhin, Ukraine, Pankaj Kamble, Mumbai, India, Jake Searell, Wellington, New Zealand, Egor Stepanov, Moscow, Russia, Elliot Ball, London, England, Daniyel Jones, Diego Martin, Trinidad, and Daniel Biber, Buenos Aires, Argentina, vying to be crowned Global Angostura Champion.
What made the spectacle about having the competition being held/hosted in Trinidad & Tobago, and how did Angostura tie into this?
Angostura was originally produced in the town of Angostura in Venezuela, in 1875, the plant was relocated to Port of Spain, Trinidad. So it was quite fitting that the competition was held at the Angostura distillery.
What was the criterion upon showcasing your drink? What did you present and from judging perspective what did they think?
Two drinks were required from each bartender. One freestyle drink; which could contain any ingredient. The second had to contain any of the Angostura rum expressions. Both drinks had to contain a minimum of 5 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters.
The regional qualifiers worked much the same as the finals. Bartenders were allocated 7 minutes to prepare and present two of each drink. In the regionals, no homemade ingredients were allowed, whereas in the finals, homemade ingredients where permitted to an extent.
Cocktails were judged on appearance, aroma, taste and presentation.
My freestyle cocktail was called the Royal Warrant, my interpretation on the Trinidad Sours. This contained Woodford Reserve, Disaranno liqueur, Angostura Aromatic and Orange Bitters with a touch of molasses. It was served with bruleed orange slices and a torched cinnamon stick in a tiny treasure chest.
The rum category cocktail, Trinidad Temptation, was a combination of Angostura 1919, sweet vermouth and cinnamon, served in a medicine bottle (this was to reflect the history of Angostura and its use as a tonic). It was lengthened with a South African crafted ale, Darling, Bone Crusher.
I thought my drinks went down relatively well, though made some uncharacteristic mistakes whilst showcasing.
What was your most memorable moment throughout the competition personally and during the competition as a whole? What activity/s were you most looking forward to throughout the competition?
I do not think I have one “memorable moment” , what made it memorable, personally, was the remaining competitors. We really got along well as a team; there was not one bad apple. I walked away feeling like I had made friends for life. Having a drink with Salvatore Calabrese and Hidetsugo Ueno was another highlight.
The activity I was most looking forward to was Juve, the day before Carnival. You march through the streets in the early hours throwing paint and mud at each other. Unfortunately, I did not wake up for this, having a sense of regret, though I was not the only one.
…I think the lack of products and the laws governing the admission of new products make us stronger as a bartendering fraternity, allowing bartenders to be experimental…we have to be. The industry here is growing tremendously and brands are coming to the fore in terms of education and supporting the industry.
What did your competitors showcase when creating their drinks? What trends and techniques did you currently see being showcased?
The standard / calibre of bartenders was high. Surprisingly, a very young group. Plenty of homemade ingredients being showcased. Personally, what I noticed, classical drinks with modern interpretations including that of ingredients and presentation.
Having experienced and observed bartenders on an international segmentation, where do we as South African bartenders fair?
With regards to service, I think South African bartenders are some of the best. We truly are a friendly and open bunch who know how to entertain, however, I feel that we are lacking in terms of education. I was absolutely astounded how knowledgeable these bartenders were.
Do you think it is fair to say that internationally, bartenders may be ahead because of availability of different products, more bartenders, career focus orientated?
Absolutely! Most of the ingredients being showcased in there cocktails where products that I had never heard of. International bartenders are getting the exposure / recognition they deserve within the industry than what we do here. That being said, I think the lack of products and the laws governing the admission of new products make us stronger as a bartendering fraternity, allowing bartenders to be experimental…we have to be. The industry here is growing tremendously and brands are coming to the fore in terms of education and supporting the craft of bartending.
What would your advice be to South African Bartenders regarding this competition and other competitions?
Be different, separate yourself from the rest, use your imagination and be creative. Something that I hold in high regard is to ensure that you make a drink that you would drink yourself and not just create for the sake of pleasing the masses.
Out of all the contestants which cocktail impressed you the most and why?
Honestly, every competitors drink was incredible! As I previously mentioned, I was astounded by the standard of bartenders and their passion for the craft, pioneering it to the next level. Every contestant had something that really impressed me. It truly was an honour to compete beside these fine gentlemen.
…the alchemist says