Getting Reàl in San Juan
Updated: Mar 29
The location? San Juan in Puerto Rico. The event? The Reàl Cocktail Challenge. The mood? TIKI! We descended upon La Casita De Ronnes as part of an invitation from Reàl to check out their local competition hosted Crafted Barrel Group. A selection of local bartenders were going head to head in a battle of charm, mixed drinks & cocktail ingenuity to take home the top spot.
Setting the Scene The Sun was out in force & the bartenders undeterred wore their finest alongside the usual garb of suspenders, pruned moustaches & arm bands. Everyone was handed a Piña Colada & the house speciality of the 'Tri-Tip" was shared.This was no regular competition, however, as the day was filled with activities including a seminar from the legendary Tiki master Jeff "Beachbum" Berry from New Orleans. One of the godfathers of the modern Tiki revival sweeping the globe he was here to share his wisdom of all things rum, tiki & more. Drink in hand we listened as to not miss a thing!
The Wisdom The Beachbum regaled of the history of rum in general, how sugarcane & sugarcane spirits had made their way from as far as India until they finally settled in their newfound home of the Caribbean. How the modern history of the punch as a cocktail was very different depending on who you asked & how the punch had developed over time in recipe to cater to the changing of the times.
One of the rhyme's was written in the New York Times August 8th in 1908. It would go something like this: This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong —I know whereof I speak.
It is interesting to note that the formula for Planter's Punch was originally inverted with 2 sugar to 1 sour. Luckily for the rest of us we saw better & developed it into the recipe we love & know today. Otherwise the whole world would be suffering from Diabetes. Regardless good times were had by all & even as a veteran bartender I believe we all learned something that day as we got to keep the Tiki mug developed by the Beachbum alongside Reàl just for the occasion. As long as you finished your drink!
The Competition As the educational part of over & the sun set over the beautiful marina it was indeed time to get to business. Beachbum was joined by none other than William Hinkebein of Reàl. He shared with a unique Tiki mug created for him as a gift from his kids. Cocktails For You jumped on the occasion to use this one of a kind vessel & as a result our very own Tiki cocktail was born on the spot. Ladies & gentlemen I present to you "The Smashing Bill"
Name: Smashing Bill Ingredients: 40ml DonQ Anejo 10ml Wray Nephew 25ml Aperol 30ml fresh lime juice 25 Reàl Pineapple Puree 2 dashes angostura bitters 8-10 mint leaves Method: Shake & Strain
The competition itself was fierce as everyone was battling for the coveted prize of champion of the Reàl cocktail challenge. There were exotic plants everywhere, mint sprigs were flying & someone of course broke out the dry ice as a showstopper. It was hard to tell who the Tiki'est of them all as the variety of the cocktails on offer through flavour curveball after curveball.
Find below some of our favourites from the event, the drinks were coming out quicker than we could take photos of them!
At this point it was coming up to midnight, we were about 28 cocktails in & quite a few shot of local rum too. The atmosphere was electric as the hostess with the mostess was ramping up the tension before announcement of the winner who would be taking home the prize of not only 500USD but the bragging rights of Champion of the Reál cocktail challenge. People were now missing their arm bands, there was signing of books from the Beachbum & loose was the theme of the night.
So without further ado:
Name: Self Made Bartender: Luis Joel Perez
Ingredients: 30ml Bacardi 8 15ml Mezcal 15ml Lime 30ml Reàl Passiofruit 15ml Reàl Pumpkin
Method: Shake & Strain
In the end It was the best of times & it was the worst of times. The night was still young according to the locals & as such with our new wisdom of Tiki & a thirst for adventure we ventured forth into the abyss in search of the real truth behind it all.
On to the next one bartenders!