2014 Havana Club Grand Prix coordinators Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown tell us what to expect this year at the Grand Prix...
Cocktail competitions have to evolve to stay relevant so it’s not going to surprise you to learn that the 2014 Havana Club Grand Prix will be very different from the previous edition. In fact, the only things that remain are our rums, the cantineros and the beautiful city of Havana. But what exactly can you expect next June at the Grand Prix? Well, we went to the only reliable source: 2014 Havana Club Grand Prix coordinators Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown, extraordinaire cocktail detectives and friends of the cantineros. Anistatia was kind enough to tell us all about it. And she immediately let us know where we stand: “This year’s Grand Prix is a radical departure”.
In terms of schedule, the competition proper will take place on day 3 and 4 (Wednesday and Thursday). Day 1 and 2 will be entirely dedicated to discovering the city and attending world class seminars led by global experts on rum, Cuban culture and cocktails (more details next week – watch this space). According to Anistatia, a full immersion into the cantinero’s world before competitors even start mixing the first drink was mandatory: “We are educating and challenging competitors on numerous levels in this quest to find the next Cuban classic cocktail. Our goal is to take the best from multi-cultural influences and weave it into a colourful rainbow of tastes, aromas and visuals in a glass”.
On top of the seminars, another big change was to make the competition more inclusive for Cuban cantineros: competitors will have to work with and impress the bartenders who are upholding the high standards of greats such as Constantino Ribalaigua or Fabio Delgado: “The competitors will take part in two competitions, the one that has taken place in previous years and another judged entirely by the Cantineros, called the Cantineros Jam Session. This will allow them to spend far more time communicating directly with these great bartenders.”
Whether competitors are in front of an international jury or being judged by their Cuban peers, the challenge will remain the same: stay true to the history of Cuba and create a new Cuban classic. But what does Anistatia mean by that? “Cuban classic cocktails have been and still are the finest global ambassadors of modern cocktail making. Combining the best elements of classic Spanish bartending, a vibrant multi-cultural heritage, and exotic Caribbean flavours, Cuba’s cocktails were adopted and transformed to suit the differing palates of audiences around the globe. Not many drink categories can claim to be at once accessible, timeless, and ultimately adaptable. In more general terms, it is important to understand what makes a drink a classic. It must be universally replicable, so it must be relatively simple and made from easily accessible ingredients. And it must be approachable, simple to understand and, most importantly, it must be good.”
On top of that, she also has a couple of recommendations: “Come with your eyes wide open with no preconceived expectations of what you will experience or prepared recipes that you think you will be able to produce. You are entering the world’s biggest black box competition. Surprises will be encountered around every corner. ”
You have been warned…