Updated: Mar 29
This was possibly one of the most creative & challenging competitions we’ve come across this year. It challenged the bartenders on every turn & rewarded them for their efforts as well as inspiring them enough during their stay in the global finals in Bologna that everyone left feeling that they’ve obtained a new family, new knowledge & experience in order to boost their skills for when they returned home. From the bottom of our hearts we’d like to thank Amaro Montenegro for inviting Cocktails For You for being part of the experience this year! Now, on to the details…
The Vero Bartender: The competition has been setup by Amaro Montenegro & is growing every year to include more countries from around the world as the the culture of aperitivo expands & catches the hearts of drinkers & bartenders everywhere. To enter the competition with a chance to become a “Vero” bartender you first had to submit a twist of a classic cocktail recipe using the amaro. The true nature of what they’re looking for is the “Hospitallian” & that the low abv & cocktail drinking culture was all part of a lifestyle as opposed to a trend.
There were local finals held in respective countries until champions were established to be prepared for the final in Italy. This years competitors travelled far & wide from all over the globe: - Elsedio Huta - Albany - Xander Dedroog - Belgium - Aleksandra Jaworska - UK - Will Krepop - Australia - Michael LImoni - Italy - Lukas Sedlmaier - Netherlands - Markus Muller - Germany - Andrea Civetinni - Spain - Kyle Erkes - USA - Armin Mohebbi - Austria Day One: The entire competition is hosted in the beautiful city of Bologna in Italy, the home of Amaro Montenegro, as we arrived we could only marvel at the ancient city walls & history that they must’ve witnessed over time. Our first day started off in the production facility of Amaro Montenegro & a training with the Master Herbalist Matteo Bonoli, going through the processes required for the production of amaro. It is fascinating to see just how painstakingly difficult it is to balance all the required herbs & spices to achieve a final product such as Amaro Montenegro. The bartenders also got a chance to play with some of the botanicals during the opening masterclass of the day.
The amaro was first produced by Stanislao Cobianchi in 1885 & was born as Amaro Montenegro with the name Elisir Lungavita and immediately received notable recognition. 11 years later, marking the marriage of the charming Princess Elena of Montenegro to Prince Vittorio Emanuele III, Stanislao decided to dedicate his storied elixir to her royal highness, changing it’s name to Amaro Montenegro. Interestingly the production facility where it is currently produced also produces an Italian brandy & was founded by a Frenchman.
The huge other highlight of the day was a personal masterclass from Marian Beke of the Gibson in London. The unique & irreplaceable Marian brought over 2 cases of different products with him with his goal being to really challenge the bartenders perception & approach to creating cocktails. He challenged the very heart & soul of what it means to be a bartender actively making the competitors think about every aspect of the process.
There was cotton candy, there were foams colours & dehydrations, there were weird botanicals & dusts as well as sticky substances to attach eggs to glasses. One of the drinks really pushed the perceptions of the audience garnished with dried worms on top of the crushed ice. Cute touch but not sure if its something we could stomach. The key that Marian was trying to push forward to th bartenders as that ANYTHING could be a part of the cocktail.
Take the brush, use your imagination & start painting!
The day finished with one of the most interesting activities we’ve ever seen at Cocktails For You. In the form of ‘speed dating’ each competitor got to ask questions for legends of our industry including Salvatore Calabrese, Peter Dorelli & Marian Beke amongst others. They asked a lot about the competition itself, tips & tricks to help them as well as general chit chat. We think that this is a brilliant idea because the one-on-one time allows them the privacy to be more free with questions, the insight that the mentors are able to give the competitors is priceless to their development & it allows them to meet their idols in person. This is an idea worth stealing!
Day Two: The second day as the moment of truth, it go time, it was time to battle it out to find the global Vero bartender of 2018. The bartenders were all looking ready, prepped yet still a little shaky from all of the inspiration & preparation the day before yet there was a confident air about them as they seemed ready more than ever to hit the stage. The first step was to recreated the recipe that they submitted to the competition initially & won their own national final with - the twist on a classic.
The second round was sprung upon them to test their ability as a bartender & flavour maker on the spot. It was the team BLACK BOX & FOOD PAIRING challenge where the competitors were divided up in teams of 2, paired with a dish from chef Davide who works for Gordon Ramsay in London & given a Black Box of ingredients from which to pair the dish to with of course featuring Amaro Montenegro. Probably the hardest challenge of the day as the competitors are not only playing with random ingredients they couldn’t pick but as well as a dish they don’t know.
As the final team came off the stage we were treated to one of the best seminars we’ve ever been to - The 100 years of bartending by Salvatore Calabrese & Peter Dorelli. They regaled us with stories of serving royals, celebrities & aristocrats in their bars as well as the difference in the times of bartending back then to now. One of the highlights was a tale from Salvatore about when Rick James came to his bar to have a cocktail & as he served it he kindly asked the performed to play the piano if it was possible at the bar. 30 Minutes of virtuoso performance later Rick James finally finished, stood up & saluted Salvatore from across the room “From one artist to another!”. Stories like that don’t happen to often anymore…
Ss we were all still getting together from the sheer intensity of all that we had witnessed the team had the announcement to make - THE WINNER OF THE VERO BARTENDER CHALLENGE WAS NONE OTHER THAN…
SPAIN! Andrea Civetinni from Paradiso was taking it home!
The whole room roared into action as hugs & congratulations were coming from every direction, it even looked like Andrea definitely drew a tear.
The night progressed to Nu Lounge Bar in Bologna, there were shots of M&M(Mezcal & Montenegro), Alex Kratena set the ceiling on fire & there was neon, cactus & bubbles! You know you’re in trouble when Peter Dorelli tries to stop you from catching your flight at 5am…