Kelsey Ramage, from stylish south bank bar Dandelyan in London has stormed to victory in the 2016 Tahona Society Cocktail Competition. Now in its sixth year, the prize awarded by leading tequila people, the Tahona Society, pits 21 of the world’s top bartenders against each other.
The competition, which this year took place in Guadalajara in Mexico, takes the form of a week of challenges that see the participants’ creativity put to the test. As well as this they are tested on their presentation skills and asked to blind taste Altos Tequila. The final test sees competitors create their own cocktail. Ramage used local ingredients to create a drink called the Never Die, which really impressed the judges.
The cocktail that netted her the prize, was an aromatic mix of Altos Plata with bespoke mole orgeat made with pink pine nuts and allspice berries, a dash of angostura, four dashes of piquin chilli tincture.
The participants had been asked to create a drink using seasonal or foraged produce, sourced from Guadalajara’s vibrant markets that would reflect the vibrant food scene of the area.
Dandelyan is part of star bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana’s liquid empire, an innovative and pioneering bar housed in the lobby of the seriously swish Mondrian hotel in the former Sea Containers House overlooking the Thames. It’s one of the best bars in the city, without a doubt. Even so, Ramage was up against stiff competition, including David Fuentes from Cantina y Punto in Bogotá, Colombia, Nuno Figueriredo from Tabik in Lisbon, Portugal, Thalita Gabriela from Bulletin Place in Sydney and Max Green from hip bitters bar Amor y Amargo in New York.
The competitors were coached in various areas, including sustainability and global trends, hosted by leading figures in the industry to help support their development, which was useful as the 2016 Tahona Society judging panel featured some of the industry’s top figures including the renowned Dré Masso, who co-created Altos Tequila in 2009, Chicago bartender Charles Joly, one of the founders of Crafthouse Cocktails, and Mike Capoferri, a key figure behind the Soho House Group. In addition to the panel, and there as guest of honour, was local star chef, Poncho Cadena, a pioneer of modern Mexican cuisine, and owner of Guadalajara’s foremost restaurant, Hueso, Ramage, the sixth person to win the competition, will now become the Tahona Society Global Ambassador and be given the opportunity to host Tahona Society programmes around the world in the coming year. Bethany Ham of Corner Door in LA and Simon Kistenfeger of Bristol Bar in Norway took home second and third place respectively.