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Italicus announces Aperitivo Challenge winner

Esmeralda Castrogiovanni, of Sips Drinkery in Barcelona, has been crowned the winner of The Art of Italicus Aperitivo Challenge.

Esmeralda Castrogiovanni (pictured middle) from Sips Drinkery was crowned the winner

The final of the Italian aperitivo brand’s cocktail competition took place at The Court in Rome over the weekend on Sunday 12 May, when 13 bartenders competed for the title.

Castrogiovanni’s Alloway was the cocktail that impressed the judges the most – made with the brand’s Rosolio di Bergamotto, white bitter and apple soda, plus an edible napkin garnish of apple jam and caramel. The drink was inspired by English art critic and curator Lawrence Reginald Alloway.

Of her winning creation, Castrogiovanni said: “With ‘Alloway’ I wanted to provocatively make people reflect on the concept of art and what it represents for each of us.

“To do so I was inspired by what pop art represented in the 1950s, an artistic movement that revolutionised the world of art, making it accessible to ordinary people and no longer just to a few.”

As a prize of her victory, Castrogiovanni will head to Miami for a mentorship programme guided by Julio Cabrera, the owner of Café La Trova.

Jan Križaj, from Kavarna Moderna bar in Slovenia, was named the runner up – his Congelato cocktail consisted of Rosolio di Bergamotto, dry vermouth, pesto and tomato cordial, garnished with Grana Padano with tomato powder. The drink was inspired by photography.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Wullschleger, from Herz Bar in Switzerland, took home third place for her Lucha Libre cocktail. Inspired by Mexican wrestling, the drink featured a combination of Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, kiwi-jalapeño cordial, and soda, garnished with a red kiwi fruit.

Entries for the contest were accepted from 13 countries and participants were tasked with crafting cocktails inspired by various art forms, and made using a minimum 40ml of the brand’s Rosolio di Bergamotto expression and a maximum of five ingredients.

The winning ‘Alloway’ cocktail

The panel of judges consisted of Giuseppe Gallo, founder and CEO of Italicus, Paloma Difford, managing director of Difford’s Guide, and Julio Cabrera, ‘maestro cantinero’ and owner of Cafe La Trova, Miami.

On closing out the sixth edition of the contest, Gallo said: “The Art of Italicus Aperitivo Challenge is a programme designed to discover and showcase emerging talents in our industry year after year.

“This competition serves as a creative platform, allowing bartenders to express their artistic sensitivity and imagination without any barriers or limits.

“This year, we had the honour of witnessing a competition featuring young bartenders of the highest calibre in both technique and style. We are thrilled to see so many talented individuals eager to participate in the programme, aiming to enhance their skills and grow professionally.”

In March, Leicester-based bartender Brandon Stead was revealed as the winner of the UK final of the challenge.

Last year’s global winner was Fabrizio Candino, of Italy’s Sartoria Cocktail Bar.

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