Ten talented bartenders, a day of inspiring stories and a range of delicious drinks designed for sharing. Amaro Montenegro, The Vero Bartender competition is back. And it couldn’t be more welcome.
After an enforced hiatus since 2019 Amaro Montenegro, The Vero Bartender came back in style at The Light Bar in Shoreditch, London on 5th September.
So, what is The Vero Bartender?
“Vero” translates from the Italian as “True”, and represents Amaro Montenegro’s authentic heritage and the very special connections it creates when shared. And after those two or so years when so many people were deprived of all important human interactions it was especially fitting that the theme for the competition’s return was Sharing the Essence – an invitation to bartenders to create a sharing cocktail inspired by a personal journey.
But first, let’s remind ourselves about Amaro Montenegro
Perfected in 1885, Amaro Montenegro is a complex blend of 40 global botanicals. A blend of sweet and bitter notes, it’s long been a favourite of bartenders for its versatility to twist classic cocktails and as a base for new creations. Over 130 years old but totally contemporary, it’s the perfect inspiration for today’s bartenders. Which brings us nicely back to…
The UK final 2022
Having been selected from over one hundred entries the top ten bartenders had already impressed. When they gathered for the UK final it was all about telling their stories, presenting their drinks and impressing the judges. And a pretty formidable panel of judges they were, including internationally renowned bartender and co-owner of Tayer + Elementary, Alex Kratena. Alongside him was Rudi Carraro, Amaro Montenegro Global Brand Ambassador; Cristiana Pirinu, the 2019 competition winner and Hamish Smith, Editor of Class Magazine.
Miriam Pomioli, Amaro Montenegro Brand Activator UK, put the significance of the day in context. “The Vero Bartender competition is very important because it’s not just about winning, it’s about connecting with the bartenders and for them to showcase the incredible versatility of Amaro Montenegro in the range of drinks they create with it.”
And that significance became increasingly apparent as the clock ticked towards the 2 o’clock start, with the laughter and chatter gradually giving way to tension. Then right on time Amaro Montenegro, The Vero Bartender UK final was underway.
The bartenders, the journeys , the cocktails…
Opening proceedings was Emilio Giovanazzi from The American Bar at Gleneagles Hotel, Perth. His was a very literal journey from his home in Italy to bartending at an iconic Scottish venue. Particularly eye-catching was the traditional Italian clay vessel, known as a cup of friendship, in which he served his drink Pilgrimage to Bologna. A nice twist was the creation of three different aroma sprays to add personal choices of garnish to the sharing experiences. Liam Grogan, from The Absent Ear, Glasgow, also had quite some journey to share as he spoke about his experiences working in China. The resulting Golden Hour was a blend of Asian ingredients that had been resting in the serving bottle for eight days before being poured over ice.
Mia Kumari, usually to be found working in The American Bar at The Savoy, London, had a different take on the concept of a journey. For her it was about being reunited with her family after being separated for a number of years. The memory evoked her Indian heritage as she remembered the aromas of the feast her aunt had prepared in anticipation of her return. She captured the essence of the dishes and used them to compliment the flavour notes of Amaro Montenegro itself, serving the drink in a sharing carafe and naming it Sunita after her aunt.
Joseph Theo Millar, Loose Cannon Cocktail Bar, Bristol, described his journey as a progression from boy to man whilst travelling in Singapore. Utilising ingredients he associated with his experiences there, such as lychee and lemongrass, he paid homage to that time and place in Our story, Our Village.
Dominic Horsley, from the Botanist in Leeds, talked of a love of all things Italian and wanted to evoke the country’s food particularly at harvest time. Served from a bottle entwined with rope to represent a local wine, Abundance was served from a picnic hamper and paired with bread and figs. The Italian influence was present too in the presentation of Matteo Basso, from London’s Malt Bar & Lounge. This time, though, Amaro Montenegro was combined with Saki to represent his journey from his beginnings as an Italian bartender to his current working home in a Japanese restaurant, resulting in Monte Fuji.
By the halfway mark the versatility of Amaro Montenegro as a base for highly imaginative sharing cocktails was already obvious. Lorenzo Ammirata, Milk Thistle, Bristol, though reminded everyone with 6 O’Clock that it was the perfect aperitivo. A clever touch was serving the drink from the Italian oil and vinegar bottles found in every Italian home and shared by the family during a meal.
Across The Pennines literally described how Joshua Brown, Science + Industry, Manchester, had made that journey to the place he now called home. And it was from this home that he shared some local produce, fresh strawberries, using them both as an ingredient and a cream accompaniment. The penultimate journey took us to a farm in Canada,, where Grant Coffield, from Glasgow’s The Gannet Restaurant had spent time. It was a particularly evocative story about the owners of the farm and how they had taught him the craft of pickling and preserving food, which were key to his creation Jeff & Tara named in their honour.
Rounding things up was Katie Rouse from Couch in Birmingham, who despite a long afternoon brought great energy levels to the final proceedings as she talked passionately of a round trip of a journey from the small village in which she grew up, to various bars further afield, before returning home to open her own neighbourhood bar. She paid tribute to this journey and the area she clearly loved with locally foraged ingredients complimenting the Amaro Montenegro in her drink Ten Acres Punch.
Presentations concluded, the atmosphere became noticeably relaxed once more as judge Alex Kratena summed up what he had experienced.
“I was amazed by the standard today, particularly the flavour combinations in the drinks. I also loved that there were some ready to drink cocktails that ten years ago would have been frowned upon, but now is a positive thing when executed well.”
As for the winner…
“They scored really high in every area of the judging. They had great technique, their drink was fantastic and their presentation touched everyone and was very personal.”
And that winner is…
Mia Kumari, for her family reunion inspired serve, Sunita.
When she finally caught her breath she said simply, “The whole day’s been amazing and now I can’t believe it, I get to represent the UK in the final!”
And Mia has a lot to look forward to when she joins the other 16 finalists at the home of Amaro Montenegro for brand experiences and seminars in the beautiful region of Emilia Romagna. She will also have the opportunity to spend time with some of the world’s most influential bartenders (previous years have been judged by the likes of Erik Lorincz, Salvatore Calabrese, Peter Dorelli and today’s head judge Alex Kratena).
Judge and 2019 winner, Cristiana Pirinu, offered Mia this advice. “Being in the global final is a very tough challenge, but you need to believe in yourself. Don’t just think about the competition and winning, think about enjoying the whole experience, make new friends and drink some Amaro Montenegro!”
We wish her well on the next part of her very special journey as she shares her drink on the global stage!
#AmaroMontenegro #TheVeroBartender Instagram @amaromontenegro_ww
Photography by Joe Brayford, aka todays_tipple
Event live streamed by Dean Callan, Bartenders’ Broadcast Network
Hosted by Nicolas Medicamento, UKBG Events and Digital Exec.
Amaro Montenegro, The Vero Bartender competition is co-ordinated by Distinctly Aware
Roll of honour
Mia was the winner but every single UK finalist at Amaro Montenegro The Vero Bartender 2022 was outstanding…
Emilio Giovanazzi, American Bar, Gleneages, Perth
Pilgrimage to Bologna
50ml Amaro Montenegro
15ml liquore nocciola
10ml porcino and sage grappa
2.5ml sage stock
Liam Grogan, The Absent Ear, Glasgow
45ml Amaro Montenegro
20ml fino sherry
20ml makrut lime and manuka honey cordial
40ml sparkling white wine (Cremant de Loire used in recipe creation)
Mia Kumari, The American Bar at The Savoy, London
37.5ml Amaro Montenegro
37.5ml apricot yogurt washed Pinot Grigio
80ml yellow chartreuse
1 dash citrus balsamic
Joseph Theo Millar, Loose Cannon Cocktail Bar, Bristol
Our story, our village
45ml Amaro Montenegro
45ml Giffard Lichi-Li Infused with Pandan Leaf and Lemon Grass
20ml Nori Liqueur
30ml cold brewed oolong Tea
1.8ml Black Walnut Bitters
Dominic Horsley, The Botanist, Leeds
35ml Amaro Montenegro
150ml Muyu Jasmin Verte Liqueur
150ml fig-infused Cucielo Bianco Vermouth
10ml lemon and orange oleo saccharum
Matteo Basso, The Malt Lounge & Bar, London
30ml Amaro Montenegro
20ml Plymouth gin
30ml sparkling sake 3 cl
15ml pickled orange juice
Lorenzo Ammirata, Milk Thistle, Bristol
40ml Amaro Montenegro
30ml rosemary olive oil fat-wash rye whiskey
20ml sardinian vermentino white wine reduction
1 dash saline solution
Joshua Brown, Science + Industry, Manchester
Across The Pennines
30ml Amaro Montenegro
20ml Hepple Gin
20ml strawberry shrub
40ml tea soda
Grant Coffield, The Gannet Restaurant, Glasgow
Jeff & Tara
35ml Amaro Montenegro
25ml Blackberry Liqueur
12.5ml carrot juice
3ml white balsamic
2ml lacto-lime tincture
Katie Rouse, Couch, Birmingham
Ten Acres Punch
30ml Amaro Montenegro
150ml fig leaf cordial
Filtered cream and tartaric acid blend