You know that saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? You could use it to sum up this year’s Patrón Perfectionists Cocktail Competition. Rather than allowing the challenges of the past 18 months or so to restrict it in size or status, the team behind the annual global contest have switched things up to make Patrón Perfectionists 2021/2022 the most ambitious yet.
There’s no denying that the effects of Covid have had a huge impact. With bars closed, travel off limits and more of us flexing our cocktail-making muscles at home the contest has been reimagined. Of course it had to go virtual – what hasn’t? But they’ve used the medium to their advantage. For the first time in the competition’s seven year history, Patrón Tequila chose to actively engage with the growing number of cocktail-loving consumers through the Patrón Perfectionists, calling on them to vote for their favourite recipe from a shortlist of 30 inspiring concoctions per country which were published online.
Voters had almost a month to show their allegiance to a particular drink and the creator behind it before the national top 10 were announced. And when they were, in the UK, all ten drinks were replicated to the bartenders exact specifications and made available for home consumption via the expert team at The Drinks Drop. Talk about a stroke of create genius, this exciting collaboration meant that the bartenders Perfectionist cocktails were available for home delivery to a nationwide audience.
We tasted all ten (hey, we take our moniker extremely seriously), so we know that the next stage of the competition ain’t going to be easy. This is where the big guns come in. Enter Tom Sellers from Restaurant Story, Giulia Cuccurullo, global winner of the latest Patrón Perfectionists Cocktail Competition; Deano Moncrieffe, agave spirits expert and founder and director of Hacha Bar, and Claire Presland, Brand Director for Patrón, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Between them they’ll decide who will be numero uno and represent the UK at the Hacienda Patrón, Mexico, in January 2022.
However, instead of showing off their skills IRL, the top 10 will be doing it virtually. The national final will be broadcast online for the public to follow on October 11 at 6pm. We caught up with all of them in the middle of polishing up their presentations to ask three questions about the new format, their drinks and how they plan to bring their cocktails to life from behind a screen.
This year’s Patrón Perfectionists Cocktail Competition UK finalists are:
Ellie Raeside from Tonic Bar in Edinburgh with her cocktail Down Time
La’Mel Clarke from Lyaness in London with his cocktail In Motion
Morgana Toro from Artesian Bar in London with her cocktail Escoffier
Liam Scott from The Corinthian Club in Glasgow with his cocktail Jalisco Sunset
Tiegan King from Babel in Belfast with her cocktail King’s Rose
Benjamin Shelmerdine from Filthy XIII in Bristol with his cocktail Silver Century
Stefan Oancea from the London Cocktail Club Shoreditch in London with his cocktail Nabu
Kat Stanley-Whyte from Uno Mas in Edinburgh and her cocktail Escape The Box
Yannis Heracleous from Hawksmoor Spitalfields in London with his cocktail Brick by Brick
Danny McManus from The Gate in Glasgow with his cocktail The Pursuit
Congratulations to all of you on making it through to the Top 10. This is the first year that the public have had a vote in the Patrón Perfectionists competition, which element of your cocktail do you think captured their attention and why?
ELLIE: I think the pickled mango in my drink would have grabbed people’s attention! It’s a bit different and not necessarily the top of your list of things to pickle – or to drink! Either that or the IPA. Everyone loves beer!
LA’MEL: I think a part of what made my entry stand out was my use of the common, accessible ingredients and then transforming them into something quite unusual. For example, the use of celery salt to make a syrup and over brewing Earl Grey tea to create texture via the tannins.
MORGANA: I think Escoffier has a very approachable flavour combination. Peach, raspberry and vanilla is often used in pastries, cakes and desserts as a twist on the Peach Melba dessert made by the chef Auguste Escoffier on the 1890s, so it’s a familiar taste. And combined with Patrón Añejo, just sounds delicious. Plus it has this beautiful peachy pink colour!
LIAM: I think my ability to combine the unusual. Tequila and wine with chilli oil – who would have thought it would work?! But it does!
TIEGAN: My use of mellow flavours such as rose and sage and the way in which I’ve incorporated such earthy elements into such a powerful tequila intrigued the voters. Most tequila cocktails are sharp, punchy or bitter while the King’s Rose is sweet, herbaceous, floral, spritzy and elegant, yet playful.
BENJAMIN: I think there were a couple of factors why my cocktail captured people’s attention. Firstly, the pairing of flavours is something unique and certainly has been a talking point for myself and others. Secondly, the visual aspect of the drink is something that also catches the eye. The cleanliness and unassuming character of the drink is something I think and hoped intrigued people about the drink.
STEFAN: I think that the 60% of people that voted for my drink and for me they did it because they know me and they know the hard work I put into it. The other 40% they know about cocktails and the job that we do, probably what made them voting for my drink is the perfect balance between all the ingredients, and the recipe being quite unusual.
KAT: Escape The Box was designed to be a contraption of connectivity, resourcefulness, artistry and community. Creating a serve that is vastly different in style to previous years of the competition enabled the Escape the Box cocktail to capture the attention of the general public and stand apart from the crowd. Utilising the bag in box serve delivers the cocktail with ease allowing for mobility and the ability to serve the celebrations of our communities upon slow return to pre-pandemic normality. Up-cycling the Patrón bottle packaging creates an artistic approach to how we deliver cocktails and allows for an additional design element to showcase the cocktails story and musical connections.
YANNIS: I think the element of my cocktail, Brick by Brick, that captured the public’s attention is that the majority of the ingredients are familiar to everyone, with most of them being things that people can find in their kitchens and fridges at home. By using a template of a classic sour drink, I wanted to create a cocktail that was easily accessible and easy to make, but full of rich flavour.
DANNY: I feel the that the combination of the strawberry and toasted coriander seed caught the public’s attention. Strawberry is a winner for most people, whereas coriander can be an ingredient that divides the room. By combining both a feel that a lot of people would think to themselves “I should try this”.
Tom Sellers, a Michelin-starred chef and inspiring storyteller, will be judging your cocktail in the UK final; how do you plan to impress him with your cocktail’s story?
ELLIE: I plan on impressing him with being able to relate with one another. My story stands for every person I know, and don’t know, and I feel like everyone will have the same beliefs towards it. Hopefully he’ll be on my wave length and agree!
LA’MEL: The aim of my entry right from idea conception, was inviting people into my process as a dance artist and showing how the intersectinality of bartending and dance can create something quite interesting. I want to introduce people to viewing cocktail making through a different lens.
MORGANA: I’m hoping the story behind my cocktail will resonate with him, since my drink was inspired by chef Escoffier’s creation who changed completely the way we eat at a restaurant and the way we cook in a professional kitchen. Being a former pastry chef myself (still am by heart), I can see Escoffier’s legacy in places I didn’t even realise before researching about him for this competition.
LIAM: I have always been impressed by Tom’s ability to share his journey to becoming a chef through his food, as demonstrated in his signature Candle dish relating to his working class roots. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I feel that from just the photo of my cocktail you can see my signature flair for combining the unusual. My story will tell Tom how I got to this point.
TIEGAN: Each element of my cocktail tells part of my story and is essentially a building block. I chose each ingredient carefully as they all have significant meanings and are tied to fond memories. Two of the flavours I have chosen to work with can be overpowering if used in the wrong way/volume. I have found the perfect balance of each which is hard to do and I think this will impress a chef of his standard. It’s all about taking the risk and perfecting it. When you take one mouthful of this cocktail, it may take a split second, but it feels like a minute as you can uniquely identify each component as it passes your lips. The story tells itself!
BENJAMIN: The creation of Silver Century has been a story in itself. It had been a drink born out of a particular moment in my career where everyone thought I was crazy! So I’m planning on harnessing that story and also highlighting my creative process.
STEFAN: My drink story is all about my uncle and the feel of being alone and what made him defeat that feeling.
KAT: I designed this cocktail to reflect how the vast majority of us feel; we’re slowly transitioning to being able to be around family and friends, host weddings and run off to far away lands for a few days. The flavours of this cocktail are a reflection of this and I look forward to transporting the judges through the palette during my presentation. Furthermore, the focus of community connection runs deep throughout the Escape the Box ethos as it does with Patrón. I spoke with my good friend and local musician Joseph Malik to include his latest release “I Quit My 9 To 5” as part of the contraption of deliciousness – a record that brings an emotional honesty to the response of people being furloughed or laid off, not just in the hospitality industry but all the chefs, taxi drivers, musicians and ordinary people on the street. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the cocktail, hopefully engaging the judges in the conversation of how we as a community have been supporting one another with the background sounds of Malik and powerhouses of the Easter Road Northern Soul Band.
YANNIS: It will definitely be nerve wrecking having a Michelin-starred chef judge my cocktail, however, I believe the fact that I decided to take a chefs approach in creating my drink, by using ingredients that you would usually find in cooking, especially in Indian and Mexican cuisine, should catch his attention.
DANNY: In much the same way as Tom Sellers creates plates of food with an individual narrative in mind, my drink, though not a plate of food, is still a specifically curated combination of ingredients with a story at its foundation. I hope that we can connect on this similarity as I feel that there is a particular mindset we might share when it comes to establishing recipes, wet or dry.
What super power will you unleash in the virtual final to bring your cocktail to life?
ELLIE: I see a lot of myself within my drink, and hope that will be portrayed well enough through my presentation. It’s easy going, down to earth and a lot of fun. I’m hoping a big cheesy (nervous) smile also counts as a super power.
LA’MEL: Hopefully my left field sense of humour will elevate me, as I haven’t quite mastered the power of telepathy yet!
MORGANA: It’s a secret, you’ll have to watch it to find out!
LIAM: I think I pose a double threat. The power of teleportation, taking judges to a Mexican sunrise with just one sip of my cocktail, combined with Glaswegian charm, to bring that extra kick.
TIEGAN: We will have to wait and see! The judges will be able to taste the drink before they’ve even tried it, as I take them through the method and madness behind it!
BENJAMIN: The superpower is simply the drink. It’s a progressive step forward and something to be enjoyed around the world.
STEFAN: I’m a fan of superheroes and if you asking me which power I’ll bring to the virtual final, probably I’ll say myself, a Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist! Yes, I do love Iron Man!
KAT: Being a very visual learner I have always enjoyed the ability to bring the creative to life. Having experienced several artistic director roles I plan to put what I have learned working on productional photoshoots and film making to the forefront and create a scene in which the judges will be transported. Having a different style of serve brings variety to the competition and I’m eager to show the capabilities of its powerful palette and characteristics.
YANNIS: Although this may not seem to be a usual super power, I believe my super power to be passion. Passion for loving what I do and the stories behind any drinks I create, especially Brick by Brick. With this being my first major competition, I came into it with unknown expectations, but with the passion and drive to create and share my drink with everyone and have fun with it.
DANNY: I will be harnessing the power of Scottish hospitality, something is Scots are famous for. If there’s something I’ve learned whilst working here at The Gate it’s that the drink is only one part of the whole experience and it’s our job to make sure that you have a drinking experience you’ll never forget.
The Patrón Perfectionists UK Final will be aired online on 11th October 6pm BST. To watch it and see all the other countries’ national finals, visit facebook.com/patronperfectionists