Above: Alejandro Millán Ponce De León and Max Warner, Chivas Regal Global Brand Ambassador
There’s no denying that Alejandro Millán Ponce De León looked calm, focused and the epitome of the perfect host throughout each challenge thrown at him and the other 14 finalists in the three-day Chivas Masters Cocktail Competition in Shanghai this week. But did we think he would be the overall winner? Not really. He was personable but not the most outgoing of the group; his drinks were perfectly balanced and inventive but you wouldn’t single them out for being more spectacular than the rest. What he did display though was consistency. It was his winning combination of charm and genuine hospitality mixed together with well executed drinks that saw him make the top three in the first stage of the competition; it was his ability to know when to lead, when to nurture and when to allow others to step into the limelight that earned him the title of Chivas Master 2016.
We spoke to him at the end of Finals Day, after the announcements were made to find out how he’s put himself and his bar, Bootlegger Puebla in Mexico on the global map.
Full round up of the competition to follow.
BEACH BROTHERS, L-R: Stanislaw Domin, Santiago Ortizjácome, Alejandro Millán Ponce De León, Ben Rojo, Tomas Melzer
The first stage of the competition was about individual skills, the second part was leading a team. How did you go about choosing the group you would be working with in the final challenge?
Everyone had an important role to play in the team and I chose them all for their individual skills. I went for Ben Rojo because he works at Shingo Gokan’s Angel’s Share in New York and the style there is very much about technique and good service. Santiago Ortizjácome from Spain has a wonderful knowledge of cocktails. He also speaks Spanish which was very important as it meant I could communicate easily with him behind the bar. Stanislaw Domin from Poland is good at hosting people, he has a warm, friendly personality and I felt he would involve people in what was going on in the bar. Tomas Melzer from Czech Republic is a completely different character, he’s very quiet but like Ben, has a wonderful technique and I knew he would be vital to the team as he sees the fine details and is good at coming up with what the people want. We all worked together very well.
Team sorted, you had approximately an hour-and-a-half to come up with a concept and name for your bar, you also had to devise a signature drink. How did you go about the process?
We went for a tiki theme as I felt it was suited to the personalities of the whole team. It’s also something I feel very confident with and I knew I’d be able to organise the concept perfectly. I come from Mexico where we use a lot of fruit and spirits in our drinks – I also teach this style of drinks in the school where I work, so I felt strongly that I’d be able to manage a team using this philosophy. We called our bar the Beach Brothers – the name brought everything together. As for the signature drink, we wanted to represent our newfound brotherhood, so each of the Beach Brothers included an ingredient from their home. Tomas added Becherovka from Czech Republic, Ben included maple syrup from North America, Santi included lemons from Spain and so on – we mixed everything all together to create Cinco Hermanos (Five Brothers) the Beach Brothers signature drink.
Victory for the Beach Brothers: announcements at the Long Bar, Waldorf Astoria on the Bund
In your opinion, what does it take to be a good team leader?
It’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team, listen to what every person has to say and encourage their contributions. You have to inspire, create a healthy working environment and motivate your team so they are proud to be part of it.
What does being a Chivas Master mean to you?
When you do what you love, you do good things. I went to Shanghai with one objective and that was to show exactly what Mexico has to offer through bartending. To win the competition with my new brothers is a bonus.
Who are these pretty boys then? The Chivas Regal Global Brand Ambassador, judges and Chivas Collective, from l-r: Max Warner, Chris Lowder,
Stanislaw Domin, Santiago Ortizjácome, Alejandro Millán Ponce De León, Ben Rojo, Tomas Melzer, Naren Young, Leo Robitschek and Dre Masso
#ChivasMasters #ChivasCollective #WisprSociety
Alejandro’s Local Way Cocktail: El Jornalero was inspired by the Jornaleros who work in the fields of Mexico where Alejandro sourced his ingredients
50ml Chivas Regal 12 Year Old
20ml Amaro Averna liqueur
15ml extra dry vermouth
15ml homemade cacao and dry chilli syrup
2 spritzes of mezcal infused with coffee beans and orange peel
Pour ingredients into mixing glass, add ice and aerate by ‘throwing’ several times. Serve in a black mud jar. Garnish with dry orange wheel, sugared cacao powder and mint.