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Grand prix / People

The Cuban Sessions

| By François Monti

time for us to lift the veil on the very exciting experts-led sessions that await guests and competitors on the first two days of a fact- and fun-packed week in Cuba

Now that you know (almost) everything you need to know about the competition at the 2014 Havana Club Grand Prix, it’s time for us to lift the veil on the very exciting experts-led sessions that await guests and competitors on the first two days of a fact- and fun-packed week in Cuba.

 The first day will be dedicated to “Cuban life, Cuban culture”. After all, you don’t mix drinks in a vacuum so discovering what the country and the city is all about will only help competitors on their way to create a new classic Cuban cocktail. Accordingly, everyone will be treated to a tour of Havana’s landmarks in the morning: the centre of the colonial city, the Vedado, the Museo del Ron… In the afternoon, away from the heat, competitors and guests will attend various fascinating talks. Dave Broom, for instance, will set aside his whisky and spirits expert cap and show his more musical side, walking us through the history of Cuban music. Cuban journalist Ciro Bianchi Ross will tell us how locals view and live their culture and the cocktails that are such a big part of it. Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown will of course reveal their findings on the history of the Cantineros while Ian Burrell, who’s seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst compete, will tell a tale about how not to win a global competition will explain just how Donn Beach and Trader Vic took Cuban drinks as the basis of their Tiki adventures. 

The second day will focus on rum and bartending. Maestro ronero Asbel Morales will talk about what he knows best: the art of blending. Attendees will thus have the chance to learn from one of the world’s foremost masters. Once the rum is bottled and has reached the customer, the first contacts are through the eyes and the nose. Ian Burrell will be leading a session called ‘The Flavour is in the Nose’. Self-explanatory, don’t you think? Finally, before lunch, it will be time to take a sip or two with Dave Broom in his Tasting Workshop.

Called ‘The Barman’s Sixth Sense’, the afternoon session will be as much about tradition as about being at the vanguard of bartending. Juanjo Gonzázez, who was trained in Barcelona at Boadas, will join Floridita’s Alejandro Bolivar and they will showcase the fine art of the cantinero. Naren Young will then show how to use molecular techniques and classic Cuban recipes to surprise and wow your guests. Finally, Tony Conigliario will talk about Cuban flavours (and, with a bit of luck, Tony will tell us more about it next week – watch this space).

Intense, you say? Well, yes. But extremely interesting too, right? And, obviously, after the theory, the practice: once the sessions are over, everyone will be invited to a classic bar crawl through Old Havana. We just hope competitors don’t forget they need a good night’s rest: the following morning, the experts will stop talking and it will be THEIR turn to impress the audience.



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