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    Grand Prix 2012: Rewind

    | By François Monti

    Let's cast a last look in the rear view mirror to remind you how great the 2012 Grand Prix was...

    ... and see if we can whet your appetite a bit for next June.

    In less than a month, we will have a new Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix winner. Over the next few weeks, we will tell you everything you need to know about this event. Today, however, we cast a last look in the rear view mirror to remind you how great the 2012 Grand Prix was – a celebration of a great week and way for us to whet your appetite for next June.

    Warm weather and overcast sky expected Havana Club’s guests upon arrival on Sunday the 3rd. However, competitors didn’t have much time to think about it: the following morning, the whole lot of them (40 bartenders from 38 countries) were expected at the mythical rooftop garden of the Sevilla Hotel for the semi-finals. Divided in three groups, they were to convince a jury made of cocktail luminaries (Andrew Nicholls, Klaus Rainer, Jared Brown, Leonardo Leuci…) that they had what it takes to claim one of only three spots in the finals. Spectacular techniques and drinks on show, but not everyone had the special thing that made all the difference. As always in competition of this standard, a common problem was time management: tell it to Hirohito Arai, from Japan, who missed a spot in the finals because he went over the limit…



    On the 5th, the showdown was between Julien Escot  (France), Ryan Chetiyawardana (UK) and Chris Hysted (Australia). To win the Grand Prix, they not only had to prepare the drinks that got them there the day before, they also had to triumph in the ‘mystery box’ challenge (only ingredients available in Cuba were included) and work a full hour ‘shift’, serving classic Cuban drinks to the crowd and the jury for as real a bar experience as possible. All three impressed – Chris with his carbonated horchata, Ryan with his 100% local, home-made beer vermouth – but there was only to be one winner: Julien Escot, who seduced the jury with simple to make yet complex recipes and great demeanour behind the bar. The official announcement (punctuated by a Marseillaise rendition from the French delegation) was followed by a typical Havana fiesta, with a great artist playing for a pumped up crowd.

    The following days was a mix of relaxing times and learning sessions, with visits to historical bars and the unveiling of (at the time) Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown latest book: Cuban Cocktails. Guests and competitors were sent off after a fantastic night on the banks of Havana’s bay, to the tunes of the Havana Cultura artists.

    Oh, what a grand week we all had! And what a grander week is expecting everyone next month! Whether you’ll be with us in Cuba or not, we’ll tell you everything about it here. Stay tuned: the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix is (almost) on!



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