After more than 1,700 entries, 30,000 online votes and an incredible global final, we finally have a PATRÓN Perfectionists Global winner – ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for Mr Harrison Kenney from Cantina OK! in Sydney. His cocktail, Teal, a delicate balance of PATRÓN Silver, fino sherry, pressed celery, kiwi and lime juices with a kiss of vanilla olive oil for a rich mouthfeel, ticked all the boxes on the replicability front and delivered big-time in the taste department too.
Mind you, it wasn’t an easy ride. He faced stiff competition from the other 14 contestants who came together for five unforgettable days at the stunning Hacienda PATRÓN in Guadalajara.
We caught up with Harrison and UK finalist Kat Stanley-Whyte to give us the low down on the entire competition, including a new digital format, consumer votes and where they found perfection during the global final.
Please give us three words to describe your highlights of the entire experience of this year’s PATRÓN Perfectionists competition. How have these impacted you personally and professionally?
Kat: Familia, flavour and passion
It’s hard to put into words how incredible this experience truly was, but if I had to it would be these three.
Familia: as I have made the most beautiful friendships through this competition and truly felt welcomed into the PATRÓN Familia.
Flavour: the flavours that were brought to this competition this year truly solidified the talent we have in this industry. It was also a magnificent part of my mentorship program and enabled me to work with incredible people such as Paul from A Bar With Shapes For A Name to develop flavours I didn’t know I could create.
Passion: It was an inspiring situation to be included and surrounded by incredibly talented and passionate bartenders and ambassadors all celebrating the wonders of Agave.
Harrison: Tequila-fuelled fantasy! It’s been a wild ride, it feels like a giant leap in my career, if you had told me a couple years ago I’d compete and win in Mexico I never would have believed you. Personally, I’ve made some very close friends and the world feels like an infinitely smaller place.
Moving on to the Hacienda PATRÓN, where did you find perfection during your stay? If you could share only one photo to encapsulate your time there, what would it be and why?
Harrison: Everywhere! It’s such a beautiful place, maybe specifically as close to the copper still as possible. Learning about the production, tasting and blending this amazing spirit was an experience like no other. Below is a pic, I call it ‘euphoria delivered.’
Kat: Again almost impossible to choose just one! I think this photo shows how people from all over the world with the same passion can create utter magic and lasting bonds, this is not just a competition, it’s a chance to be a part of something really special.
Looking back on the competition from national to globals, what stands out most for you and why?
Kat: Arriving at the gates of Hacienda. I cried. I cried a lot to be honest! The good kind of tears. Dreams coming true type tears.
Planting my own agave was a really special moment. Having my wee name on the stunning agave fields of Jalisco will forever be in my heart.
Harrison: Undeniably its the global travel. After the past few years of lockdowns and isolation it was totally surreal to not only be travel via plane but to be half way around the globe.
This year was the first time the competition took in a consumer angle, how, if at all did this affect your entry?
Harrison: Well I suppose it affected my entry positively, I think it’s a great idea, let the people decide!
Kat: This changed the way I decided to develop my concept. I changed my focus from the drink itself to create a whole new experience and that was a challenge I revered.
How about the online voting, how did it work and what did you learn from the process?
Kat: Through a blind judging panel, the Top 30 were whittled down and then the online voting contributed towards the Top 10 shortlist, so it was a pretty significant element. It gave me the inspiration to design a website that included a lot of the drink inspiration and music element to enable a wider reach. It was another challenge and made it much more of a talking point in the bar – I loved introducing people to the concept of Escape the Box regardless of if I got a cheeky vote or not!
Harrison: Social media is obviously such a big part of the world now, and particularly the industry. I suppose I learned how important it is to post and keep people updated with your journey, people are so invested, I guess even I was curious as to what the other competitors were up to.
What were your favourite and least favourite parts of the new format and why?
Harrison: Honestly I loved it all, you can always find a way to make things work in your favour, naturally the least favourite was not being able to present to people in person, it’s a different kind of connection, or lack there of.
Kat: I loved that this year it wasn’t all just about our perception of perfection and that it was about the entire concept and bartender, creating more of a showcase in turn. There’s always the worry with online popularity/presence with a voting element but it did make me think about the bigger picture and not just about the cocktail.
What stands out most for you about the programming of the global final and why?
Kat: Being able to be a part of the PATRÓN production was definitely the biggest stage I’ve presented on so far and it was a bit daunting, however the second I got behind the bar that’s home. The bar is where I want to be and it flowed from there. The filming aspect is fantastic and I was honoured to have so much support from back home!
Harrison: The schedule leading up allows you to connect with each other but also the brand, there’s plenty of resources you can take in to the final which is a massive advantage. Take me back to the agave field!
Community is at the heart of PATRÓN, now that you’ve been to the Hacienda, how did this manifest itself to you?
Harrison: We spent an entire week singing and dancing, laughing and crying (happy tears). It’s like being a part of a bar team at first, then you realise you’ve made close friends and family for life.
Kat: In everything. From the people we met at the distillery who were insanely passionate about their roles to the agave field owners families everything about this trip screamed community and Familia. Every competitor was so welcoming and open to this experience that enjoying it all together made us a community (miss you Harrison!)
If you were to enter again, is there anything you would do differently and what are your tips for those thinking of entering the competition this year?
Kat: I don’t think I would enter again purely to ensure that more people get to experience what I got the absolute pleasure to. What I would suggest is that it’s not just about the drink, it’s about you. Your passion, your commitment, your style. That’s the exciting part!
Harrison: Haha I guess not! But I would say to those entering, be yourself! Enjoy the moment, take the time to talk to people and fully immerse yourself in the experience.
While winning is the cherry on the cake, what does taking part in the competition and making it to the global finals mean to you?
Kat: I’ve said it before but the PATRÓN Familia is the reason to compete. Being able to make connections the way we did is something that cannot be passed up. It has always been my dream to go to Mexico and to experience it with a brand such as PATRÓN was truly an honour. Quite literally it’s making it to Hacienda that is the real prize. It’s life changing.
What does winning mean to you?
Harrison: It means I’m impacting the industry in a positive way and to me that means everything!