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Kauffman recognises the Martini maestros

Patience Gould looks back on a day of judging Martinis from around the world – the day itself proved to be a cocktail of excellence, quality and supreme artistry

ANYONE WHO thought a Martini was just a Martini should have been present at this year’s Kauffman Luxury Vodka’s Martini Challenge. Staged at the National Theatre’s Deck bar in London, 22 Martinis were created for the judges’ delectation – and all were very different in terms of execution, both in terms of ingredients – aside from “the luxury vodka” that is – and presentation. So different in fact that Kauffman decided to create another category to recognise “innovation” – but more of that later.

The brief was wide open and the only stipulation was that Kauffman vodka was central to the Martini mix. This year’s challenge attracted 90 entries from around the world, including South America, the Far East and, of course, Europe. “In comparison with previous years it was not so much that the number of entries had increased considerably – it was the geographical expansion and the number of countries the entries came from, which was much more encouraging,” said Kauffman’s Irina Klokatova. “This certifies the growing interest that Kauffman has generated, and is generating, from our target audience around the world.”

Indeed such was the standard and quality of the recipes submitted it was decided that 22 had to go forward to the final, rather than nine, which had been the original intention. “The entered recipes themselves were very professional and interesting and it was not by chance that instead of the original nine, that 22 recipes were selected –and this despite the tough selection criteria,” said Klokatova. “All things considered the quality of the cocktails mixed on the day was predestined to be very high, making the final selection tough.”

Happily, many of the bartenders whose recipes had made the final cut were able to be present to make their cocktails – but for those unable to make the trip the redoubtable Jamie Stephenson was on hand. As Daniel Crebesse wryly noted, “It’s a competition with a twist! You can’t make your cocktail but you can get an award-winning mixologist to do it for you – a very nice idea!”

Daniel, who heads the UK Bartenders Guild, was joined on the judging bench by Mark Jenner who oversees the Coburg bar at the Connaught Hotel, and chaired by me, Patience Gould, editor of The Spirits Business. Marking was out of 100 with presentation and taste – out of 40 and 50 respectively – easily taking the lion’s share of the points, while methodology and bartending skills accounted for the remaining 10.

From the very start it was clear we were in for a treat and that every cocktail had been considered and thought out with great care. As a result each drink deserved much sipping, cogitation and deliberation.  However it was becoming very clear that the cocktails that had an elegance and simplicity were the ones that were going to do well. In short the fewer ingredients the better.

In terms of innovation one cocktail stood out and that was Stephen Scheungrab’s Tomatini. With its garnish of basil leaves and mini mozzarella ball it transported one to Italy and it was like a starter in a glass. It was a brilliantly conceived idea and one that needed rewarding, prompting the Kauffman team to add a new award for “Best Innovation”.

While it’s never easy to sort out the winners – there were no losers on this day of reckoning – the judge’s were unanimous when it came to the overall Master; in fact Yoann Lazareth’s Elegance Martini was the only drink to score in the 80s across the board, and as Mark Jenner noted: “It was a very thought-out process – to the extreme almost –and brought in other methods to create a cocktail; an amazing presentation with a delicate touch.” Well I couldn’t have put it better myself! SB


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