It’s all change at Patrón Perfectionists, particularly here in the UK. There’s a new brand ambassador, new rationale and completely new format. Does all of this ‘newness’ mess with the overall competition? Not a jot. In fact, it takes it in a completely creative and exciting direction.
Since its launch in 2015, Patrón Perfectionists has grown exponentially. And despite the challenges of the past year, the competition shows no signs of slowing down. Sure, the structure has had to be reconsidered and adapted accordingly – what hasn’t? But the good thing is that brings with it fresh ideas, consumer connection and the opportunity for competitors to add even more talents to their skillset.
We spoke to the two big Gs of Patrón Perfectionists UK: Gianluca Pavanello Canella, former Patrón Perfectionists UK finalist turned new Patrón UK Brand Ambassador, taking on the baton from the wonderful Karine Cullimore, and Giulia Cuccurullo, the current Patrón Perfectionists Global Winner. Between them they know everything there is to know about the contest, so lean in as they share vital tips on why and how to enter, as well as giving their personal views on, despite being different, what makes this year’s contest a real winner.
But hurry, entries close on 31st May. Find all the details on the Patrón Perfectionists website here
Gianluca, Giulia, we should have your initials made into a Gucci-style interlocking logo! Before we get on to the nitty-gritty, can we start with what drew you both to Patrón Perfectionists?
GPC: I was born and raised in Peru and being Latin American I’ve always loved that connection between agave spirits and anything related to my culture. So that was one side of it. The other? Because I really believe in Patrón. I love the concept of the competition, its look and feel appealed to me as well. I entered because I thought it was a competition that could open doors for me. And eventually it did.
GC: I was drawn to the fact that you can put your whole self into it. This competition isn’t just about being a bartender, you’re telling your own story, so naturally your presentation is going to be very different, very personal.
Did the perfectionist angle appeal as well?
GC: What I particularly liked is it’s your interpretation of perfection which means you can express yourself in any number of ways.
GPC: One of the many beautiful things about Patrón Perfectionists is that the word perfection is completely subjective. When people ask me what the brief is in terms of story and concept, my answer is always, ‘it’s entirely up to you’. The most successful entries will always be the ones that convey a personal story that’s really well linked to the concept of perfection.
I’ve seen entries where competitors say that perfection doesn’t exist and the way they explain their reason why perfection is unattainable is fantastic. For other people perfection is about their friends and family, so they base their cocktail on that. In my case, it was about my journey from Peru to UK, the places where I stopped along the way and how there was a very important person at each stop before I eventually arrived in the UK. It was about my Latin American background, my Italian heritage, the relationships I built along the way and how they helped me to be constantly strive for perfection.
Gianluca, you entered the competition in 2018, how did it lead to your current role as Patrón UK Brand Ambassador?
While preparing for the competition, I heavily researched the brand. I wanted to know everything about it – the category in general, how Patrón is made and the goals and objectives of the company. I’m not saying that if you’re thinking about entering you should prepare a Patrón masterclass – I’ve witnessed that being done in other competitions and judges don’t want to hear that. It’s okay to apply your knowledge in small bullet points, that would be great but really, it’s all about your story.
I didn’t win the competition but Karine Cullimore, the former Patrón Brand Ambassador did something really great, she made a point of working with every regional finalist in a variety of recruitment methods – from masterclasses and workshops to talks and trainings. She and I did a few sessions together and I think she realised that not only was I genuinely passionate about the brand, I really knew a lot about it as well.
Consequently, she came to me as her replacement during maternity leave and when she was awarded a new role within Bacardi, they offered me the role full time.
What have you learned from your time entering cocktail competitions?
GPC: I’ve learned that competitions are a great way to show your passion for the brand but also an opportunity to build relationships and connections. In my role as Brand Ambassador I still try to work with previous competitors as much as I can. Now we have a few mentors in the UK who are all previous competitors and can advise and support with anything relating to Perfectionists.
Which seems like the ideal time to talk about Patrón Perfectionists 2021/2022. We know it’s going to be different but how do people enter and what should they be keeping top of mind?
GPC: Like most cocktail competitions this year, Patrón Perfectionists will be held virtually. And for the first time we’re stripping things back and asking competitors to devise a simple, delicious and unique drink that consumers can recreate at home.
Naturally, Patrón should be the protagonist, so you can use a minimum of 35ml of one of the three expressions – Patrón Silver, Patrón Reposado and Patrón Añejo – in your recipe. Your drink can feature up to eight ingredients, including the Patrón and garnish, which must all come from the global larder of around 300 ingredients. These range from spirits, wines and liqueurs to herbs, spices and vegetables – you’ll find them on the Patrón Perfectionists website. That’s also the place where you can submit your entry. It’s a straightforward process – simply give your details, the name of your cocktail, together with a photograph, the inspiration behind your drink and a paragraph about yourself. Make sure you submit really clear instructions on how to make your cocktail – this will come into play later.
Another change this year is that you don’t need to be working in a bar to enter, a lot of people have lost or are in between jobs so we’ve taken that into account.
What’s the main criteria people should keep in mind when devising their Patrón Perfectionists cocktail?
GPC: Keep your drink simple and replicable. You can make syrups and infusions but if you use three ingredients for your syrup, all three ingredients must be taken from the list and they need to be deducted from the total you use in your drink. In other words, think simple, but unique, original but hero the tequila.
What about the scoring, how does that weigh up?
GPC: 40% of the score is for flavour, 30% for your inspiration and engagement, and 15% each for appearance and originality.
Gotcha! What happens next?
GPC: From there the judges select 30 recipes out of all the entries. Consider this the semi-final, where for a little over a month all 30 cocktails will have their profile on the Difford’s Guide website, so people can vote for their favourite cocktails. At this stage of the competition we give everyone who has reached this stage all the support they need to elevate their experience. The results will be announced late June.
When you say people, is this where the consumer vote comes in?
GPC: Exactly! This section will be consumer-led but anyone can vote – your community, colleagues, friends, family – it’s a great opportunity for the top 30 to make lots of noise about their entry and they have from 25th June to 25th of July to do so. Social media plays a big part too and having your drink available on your bar menu would be another plus, making it accessible, getting people to buy your drink and also for them to have a go making it for themselves at home.
So the votes come in and are counted, then what?
GPC: The top three from the consumer vote will go through to the National Final, and because we want to keep it balanced, the judging panel will put through their choice of seven entries, making it a Top 10. The announcements will be made on 30th July. From then on, this is another period to make noise about your drink, get exposure and increase popularity.
Where does the virtual side of things come into play?
GPC: At this stage. The fact that it’s virtual might frighten some people initially, but you shouldn’t be scared. Think about it – all bartenders know the feeling of presenting and suddenly feeling incredibly nervous and getting the shakes – this competition is much more approachable. We’re not doing it on a live stream as we know that WiFi connections can fail which adds another layer of nerves to the proceedings. Instead, for those who get through to the top 10, there will be plenty of advice and support on setting up the videos, filming and the tools and equipment needed to produce more professional recordings. And as you’re doing the filming in your own time, in your own space, you have the opportunity to do as many takes as you like, so you’re totally in control and you submit your entry when you think it’s absolutely perfect.
Excellent stuff! Is there a time limit to bear in mind?
GPC: Yes, the film shouldn’t be more than eight minutes in total.
How does it work for the judges?
GPC: The judging panel will each receive a cocktail kit with your ingredients and instructions to assemble the drink themselves, that’s why it’s important that you’re as clear with your method as possible. They’ll see the video of your presentation, make your drink and taste it in a virtual format. From there, they’ll decide on a winner.
That will be in September and before the Global Final in January we’ll work with the winner to refine their presentation through a mentoring programme. This will be with industry leaders and cover everything from speech and movement to the way they present themselves on stage. We did it with Giulia and she found it extremely helpful.
The competition has changed, does that mean the fabulous prize of going to the Hacienda Patrón for the Global Final has changed too?
GPC: Absolutely not! The UK winner receives a money-can’t-buy trip to Mexico, home of Patrón for the Global Final in January. It’s a beautiful place and an amazing experience, in fact, it stops being a competition, it’s a week of cultural immersion where you get to learn and connect with people from around the world.
Tips from the top
GPC: Start from the story. Find a story you’re passionate about, then find a connection with Patrón and the drink that you’re making. The list of the ingredients that you’re allowed to use is really vast, so you’ll definitely be able to find something you can use with your story.
GC: Be over prepared. The more you know what you’re saying, the more you know the moves you’re making, the more calm you will be. You’ll be so focused on saying those words, your concept and the movement there will be no space for the stress and panicking.
GPC: My tips for the initial entry process are: don’t copy and paste your presentation in the ‘inspiration behind your cocktail’ box. I suggest treating this part as a teaser to your concept, piquing the judges interest into what inspires you.
GC: As a judge, I don’t want to see someone who I know is a fun bartender being stiff. I want to see people being loose and enjoying themselves. I’ll be looking for a sparkle of personality in everything, that goes for the presentation, to the drink and the overall story.
GPC: You don’t need to submit a professional photograph of your drink but take an image that makes it look nice and clean.
GC: When it comes to the presentation side, if you make a mistake, don’t bring our attention to it. No-one knows it’s a mistake other than you!
GPC: Even though a minimum of 35ml Patrón is suggested, my advice is to push it up a bit – it’s the protagonist after all. Also pick the right expression for your drink – think how it’s going to interact with your ingredients and showcase the versatility of the tequila.
GC: Have fun. When you enter Patrón Perfectionists, don’t think about the limitations, you can have fun – the list of ingredients is huge, besides, this isn’t something that you haven’t done before – you work with your guests preferences to make great drinks they enjoy every day. This whole experience is super fun. Relax and enjoy it.
GPC: I definitely echo what Giulia said. Also, reach out to the brand team and former Perfectionists competitors, ask then to try your drink, or if you’re not sure of certain things. You have five fantastic mentors, including Giulia, Mick McGinty, Jack Riley Northern winner, Kieran Grieves from Newcastle and Chelsie Bailey, supporting with London and the South West – they are there yo support you.
Giulia, this year you’re going to be a judge. In your experience as a competitor and global winner, what will you be looking for?
I’m looking for someone who is completely natural, someone who can make a real connection between their drink, their story and Patrón, connecting everything together but still being themselves.
And the last word goes to Gianluca – what would you say is the most invaluable part of Patrón Perfectionists?
This is so much more than a competition. You really do become part of a big family and the brand will always be there for you. It’s up to you when you want the journey to end.
See patronperfectionists for more details and to apply. Entry closes 31st May.