Cuba Moderna - The 2018 Havana Club Grand Prix

25 Jan. 2018
For its 12th edition, the Grand Prix turns attention to today's Cuba

Cantineros, we wish you all a lot of great things this year. At BarNews we will keep very busy with something that should really interest you: the 2018 Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix. It’s the 12th edition (how time flies…) and we’re sure it will be the best yet.
This year’s Grand Prix builds on previous editions. In 2014, the judges were looking for a new Cuban classic. In 2016, they wanted the new classic to define in liquid and visual form the fusion at the heart of Cuban culture. This year, they’ll turn their attention to Cuba Moderna.
What does this mean, exactly?  First, let’s get back to basics: 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 is something that should be now familiar to every bartender — produce and technique from well beyond our borders reach us at increasing pace. A good bartender is a master at blending influences, at turning the moment into a drink.
But, with that experience in hand, the question becomes: how do you discover an unknown country — say, Cuba —, take all the stimuli it throws at you (and, boy, do they come strong and hard) and convert them into a drink? And not just any drink, mind. What Havana Club wants from its finalists at the Grand Prix is a classic drink, fit to feature alongside the Daiquiri, the Mojito, or previous winners such as La Rosa Blanca (2014) or Cunyaya (2016).  It will showcase the influence of their local culture and their understanding of Cuba Moderna. It will also stimulate more than one sense — much as Havana does — and must be original, simple and replicable — classics are classics because they can be made under any latitude.
Now, Cuba Moderna is a very broad theme, and it’s difficult to put into words what it entails in 2018. You have to see it to get it. A few hints? Well, beyond the clichés of old American cars, colonial Habana Vieja, salsa bands and great frozen Daiquiris — all still holding true, of course —, Cuba is a country experiencing a lot of changes. It’s now more dynamic than it’s been in decades. The arts are stronger than ever, and the music scene is as varied as it’s ever been. New chefs are bringing original ways of understanding Caribbean flavours to the island’s restaurants and private bars with young, creative bartenders are straying beyond the beaten path for the first time in a long while. It’s a very exciting time to be in Cuba.
How will the 2018 Grand Prix finalists interpret Cuban classics, techniques and ingredients and make them fit with their own history and their experience of modern Cuba? We’re eagerly looking forward to finding out. In the meantime, for the months leading up to next May’s international finals in Havana, at BarNews, we will be telling you about how Cuba became the cocktail powerhouse it is now and how today’s drink scene is looking at the future; we will pitch ideas and talk to previous winner; we will introduce the judges and the venues. Without losing sight of the spirit of Cuba, of course. And if that’s not enough and you need an update on Cuban culture, head for Havana Cultura.
So whether you’re planning on being part of the big adventure or you’ll just stay at home looking for news, watch this space, as they say, and follow us on Facebook… For Bar News is where you’ll get all the exclusives. We can’t wait.