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Cocktail chat: Patrón Perfectionists programme

Tequila brand Patrón is bringing back its Perfectionists bartending programme for 2024, with its educational platform, called Academia Patrón, enriched with more modules.

Patrón’s Perfectionists
Patrón’s Perfectionists is a year-long competition in 15 countries

*This feature was first published in the July issue of The Spirits Business magazine.

The newly extended platform will offer additional digital mentoring sessions, and enhance the brand’s hub with renowned on-trade personalities and an ‘educational ecosystem’.

The competition aspect of the programme is open to entrants between 1 July and 30 September 2023, and this year focuses on the Paloma cocktail. The entire Perfectionists programme, including the competition, will be rolled out to 15 countries, and runs for the whole year.

Academia Patrón is set to run three blocks of educational modules from this month to March 2024, including an entry challenge requiring bartenders to create a Patrón Paloma inspired by their “favourite global city”. The Paloma should feature Patrón Reposado, soda water, a creative cordial flavoured “as the bartender likes”, and grapefruit in some form.

Lauren Mote, Patrón Tequila
Lauren Mote, Patrón Tequila

The Paloma was specifically selected this year for sharing a traditional and “almost iconic” upbringing in the same way the Margarita has, explains Lauren Mote, global director of on-trade excellence at Patrón Tequila, and leader of the Perfectionists programme, who adds the Paloma has grown from being a “Mexican classic to an icon”.

“It’s a must-have on every bar menu,” she says. “It’s the epitome of the encounter between Mexican culture and the global bar scene. As a way of bringing to life our Patrón Reposado, which is perfect in the Paloma, it gives bartenders the opportunity to step into a new type of drink, and make their own creative spin on it – perhaps a drink that they hadn’t really spent much time on in the past.”

While entries are open, bartenders will be able to become inspired by the new Paloma Perfecta modules released on the online platform, which are hosted by Kat Stanley-Whyte, bartender at The American Bar at The Savoy in London; Giulia Cuccurullo, head bartender of London’s Artesian; and Yeray Monforte, head bartender at Madrid bar Bad Company 1920.

Cuccurullo says: “One of the main skills a bartender can gain from Patrón Perfectionists is how to look at things in a different way. In the case of the Paloma Perfecta educational module, you get to know the Paloma cocktail, and you understand what a Paloma is but also how it carries different flavours without losing its DNA.”

Stanley-Whyte was a Patrón Perfectionists global winner in 2022, Cuccurullo a winner in 2020, and Monforte a winner in 2019.

The Paloma Perfecta training, in the form of modules on the Academia platform, will focus on Ritual & Theatre, and Science & Experimentation. The global final of the competition will be held in Mexico.

“This competition isn’t just a competition,” says Stanley-Whyte. “It’s a chance to quite literally change your life in the most exciting way – getting the opportunity to go to Mexico and experience it with a brand such as Patrón is one of my proudest achievements.

“The biggest surprise was how quickly we all became a family, competitors and ambassadors alike. I knew we’d all end up close but the group of people I was surrounded by are loving, kind, fascinating, adventurous and eager to continue our great work in the industry together.

“We continue to stay close; we’re each others’ cheerleaders and support; we’re family from La Casona.”

Global competition

Mote explains how the Perfectionists programme started as a local initiative in 2015 to work with bartenders in the UK, then expanded to become a global competition in 2016.

“From there, every year after – even during Covid – there was an incredible influx of creativity from the bartenders. More countries got involved [in Perfectionists], and now it is one of the most beloved trade-advocacy programmes around the world.”

She adds: “Originally, Perfectionists was just a competition. So when we transformed the programme last year, we moved from a single cocktail contest into a 365-day bartending programme, to make sure that we pushed leadership through education first for global bartenders, as a way of supporting our global on-trade.

“The competition has just become more detailed, and tougher, and it’s spreading to many more bartenders around the world to flex their creativity and their style.”

Patrón Tequila is made with three ingredients: agave, yeast and water, and makes no secret of the fact it contains no additives. This aspect brings a “handcrafted, natural” element to the competition, Mote explains, which bartenders can then “springboard from” with “so much creativity to unlock”, with this as a starting point.

“What the bartender stands to gain is everything, and lose nothing, which is amazing. And programmes like this are really important in terms of developing the very nature of where bartenders need to go in their career,” she says.

A number of bar-training programmes are coming to the fore now: just this year, Calvados brand Avallen developed an eight-point training programme for bar owners and staff, while non-profit consultancy firm Diversity Distilled launched the Black Owned Spirits Symposium (Boss) Accelerator Programme to boost brands’ resources. So what makes Patrón’s programme unique?

Monforte says Patrón Perfectionists provides the opportunity to learn “more about Tequila culture, the craftsmanship and heritage behind this category, and Mexico in general. All of this is something unique that Patrón can give you access to through the most creative and engaging platform available in the on-trade.”

An equal balance

Mote says a bartending programme combined with a competition element results in bartenders learning “more about themselves” as it “tests bartenders in a way that they seldom get tested and pushed if it’s education alone. So we blend both together to make sure there’s an equal balance.”

Speaking of highlights from previous years, Mote discusses Cuccurullo’s talents with cocktail craft. “She made this mind-blowing Paloma with shiitake mushrooms infused into her agave spirit, to create this earthy incredible sensation with the Tequila, with the lime, grapefruit, salt, then with the mushrooms. It’s delicious. It just goes to show you that you’re not confined by parameters. The bartenders that participate in Perfectionists think so much outside of the box that it becomes a question of ‘what else can they do?’

“It always becomes a surprising experience to see what happens in their brain, and how it translates to the glass.”

The cocktail that won Cuccurullo Patrón Perfectionists in 2020 was called The Bridge, and represented a bridge between her past, present, and future. The drink was a blend of Patrón Silver Tequila, rhubarb cordial, fortified wine blend, tomato water, and salt solution.

Mixology talent has also been clearly demonstrated by Stanley-Whyte, whose winning cocktail in 2021, Escape the Box, aimed to represent how consumers felt as they transitioned back to being around family and friends following the pandemic. The serve combined Patrón reposado, Crème de Framboise, raspberry syrup, French Malbec (Le Coq Perdu, Pays d’Oc), saline solution, and fresh raspberries and demerara sugar to garnish. Meanwhile, in 2019, Monforte’s cocktail, Wind, was made with Patrón Silver Tequila, orange honey, lemon juice, olive oil, egg white, and fino Sherry. The drink was inspired by his upbringing in Spain, with olive oil used in honour of his father’s work as a chef, and fino Sherry used to represent his grandfather’s work in the Sherry industry.

Patrón has already made a name for itself in the bartending community, with the Perfectionists programme talked about in an industry that sees brands regularly launch schemes of a similar footing. Yet other spirits are yet to make steps as big as this Tequila brand, as its international programme arguably stands tall as the most notorious, for its taking bartenders on a journey of taste, education, community, and competition.

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