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Grand prix / People

Tony C.'s Cuba

| By François Monti

What does Cuban flavour mean? Tony Conigliaro has a few answers in mind.

Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most expected sessions at the Havana Club Grand Prix will be Tony Conigliaro’s ‘Working with Cuban flavours’. Understandably, Tony wants to surprise all the cantineros and so would rather not lift the veil too much. “I'm talking about what Cuban flavours signify and what they can mean”, he said. “The rest you'll have to wait for!”. A little bird also told us that attendees can expect to learn a thing or two about creating Cuban-style classics with non-Cuban ingredients.


Of course, once we got hold of Tony, we couldn’t let the opportunity pass without asking him about Cuba and the Grand Prix. After all, he was a member of the jury in 2010 and he is the man who bottle-ages Presidentes (initially with Havana Club Barrel Proof, no less).  Here’s what he had to say on…


Cuba & Cuban Cocktails: I was given a copy of Hector Zumbado’s ‘The Barman’s Sixth Sense’ and loved the simplicity of the drinks but also how bloody good most of them were! Then reading ‘Havana Nocturne’ and the ‘History of Cuba’ fuelled the fire of the romanticism of Cuba as a place and its history.


The Cantineros: I visited many, many years ago and just hung out with the bartenders and at all the different bars. Just before I left the country they gave me a postcard of Hemingway shaking Fidel's hand, signed by a few of them. So I remember Cuban bartenders and their kindness, humility and also the fun I had with them.  It seems that a lot of what we do today is totally in debt to Cuban bartending as they kept the flame lit and brought us some of the best drinks we have!


Looking forward to the 2014 Grand Prix: Just being in Cuba would be enough but there will be the added bonus of tasting some of the lead up rounds to the competition and seeing some of the presentations. I'm expecting the level to be very, very high!


The competitors: Keep it simple but interesting! Practise your presentation inside out and show some of that Cuban humility and warmth – but most of all – SMILE!