2016 in a word : Fusion

14 Mar. 2017
We don’t know what 2016 has in store for Cuba, but we’re sure building bridges will be at the top of the agenda

2015 was a big year for Cuba: the island we love so much first felt the effects of what commentators call the “United States-Cuban Thaw” initiated by the Obama administration. We felt it in the cocktail world, especially when Tales of the Cocktails gave a Cuban theme to its Spirited Awards dinner or a US publisher decided to put out a Cuban cocktails book from the good folks at Cienfuegos. At BarNews, we profiled the American bartenders who didn’t wait political changes to build bridges between both cultures, one drink at a time. Hopefully, we will keep on doing this.
We don’t know what 2016 has in store for Cuba, but we’re sure building bridges will be at the top of the agenda. It certainly will be at the heart of the year’s most important event for Havana Club: the 11th Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix. In a way, Cuban cocktails are nothing more and nothing less than an answer to a complicated question: how do you make drinks for locals and tourists, build on the American cocktail tradition, take on board the latest European innovation and respect your national identity? In a word or two: how do you mix cultures and keep everyone happy?

This question is even more important today: if, a hundred years ago, American clients and exiled bartenders were probably behind most cocktail scenes anywhere in the world, this is quite definitely not the case anymore. Local cocktail cultures develop everywhere and bartenders, while respectful of traditions and mindful of innovation, are trying to find their own way, in Mumbai or in Cape Town.
So it’s no surprise that the theme of the 2016 Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix will be Havana Fusion. The competitors will be tasked to infuse, so to speak, their drinks with Cuban culture. How will a, say, Chinese bartender solve the quandary that the Cuban cantineros of yore had to face? We’re eagerly looking forward to finding out.
To judge them, a stellar panel of some of the industry’s top experts, representing four continents. Of course, as it is now customary, competitors will get to visit Havana and discover its vibrant culture first-hand. They will be also treated to seminars, among which one, led by some esteemed members of the jury, will precisely be about how they “fuse” their local drinking culture and Cuban rum. More on this later, of course.

So whether you’re planning on being part of the big adventure or just staying at home looking for news, watch this space, as they say… BarNews is where you’ll get all the exclusives. We can’t wait !

François Monti