Cuban bartender Amaury Cepeda has picked up the coveted champion’s trophy at the 11th biannual Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix, one of the longest running and largest cocktail-making challenges in the world! Running for over 20 years, the popular event is an exceptional tribute to the Cuban cocktail tradition and to Havana Club. Amaury beat bartenders from over 40 countries in a two-day finale in Havana, Cuba and cemented his place as one of the top rum mixologists in the world.
The thirteen finalists were tasked with creating the next rum classic serve by combining Cuba’s cocktail tradition, authenticity and local ingredients with their own personal experiences. Amaury impressed the expert panel of judges with his cocktail, Cunyaya, which included Havana Club 7 Year Old, bitter orange and cane sugar juice, honey and Havana Club Essence of Cuba to create a serve worthy of a true Cuban Cantinero. The cocktail was inspired by the traditions of the slaves brought to Cuba in 1515 and created after an immersive, five-day brand experience with seminars, workshops and masterclasses courtesy of the Havana Club team.
In a Havana Club first, Amaury has won the unique opportunity to undertake a global rum project jointly with Havana Club and in-line with his ambitions, such as creating his own rum, writing a book on the spirit or even creating his own rum pop-up. He will also be returning as a judge at the next global final in 2018.
Povilas Veilandas from Lithuania and Marian Krause from Germany were awarded second and third place at the highly-contested final. The exclusive judging panel included mixologists from the World’s 50 Best Bars including Hidetsugo Ueno (Japan), Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni (Argentina), Alejandro Bolívar (Cuba) and Thanos Prunarus (Greece), plus cocktail and tiki expert Scotty Schuder and winner of the 2014 competition, Andy Loudon. Renowned spirits writer Dave Broom also joined the judging team while award-winning drink historians Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller, authors of over 36 titles including Cuban Cocktails, collaborated with Havana Club to curate the event.
Nick Blacknell, International Marketing Director of Havana Club, comments: “As all of the talented contestants have demonstrated over the course of the event, there is simply no better way to make a Cuban cocktail than with a true spirit born and produced in Cuba. Havana Club is known here and around the world as “El Ron de Cuba” and represents the true Cuban soul. The talent on show this year is testament to the continued popularity of the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix amongst bartenders and reinforces its position as a global influencer on Cuban cocktail making. Cepeda’s great skill and creativity really impressed the judges this year, so we can’t wait to start our collaboration in support of his dream rum project. We have no doubt that a bright career lies ahead of him and look forward to inspiring many more classic serves in the years to come.”
Amaury Cepeda, from Taberna Yayabu Bar in Cuba, winner of the 11th Havana Club Grand Prix comments: “Cuban cantineros must have all their senses in their cocktail; their heart, their soul and a profound respect towards bartending. I am very proud to have won the 11th Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix and I am very looking forward to starting my collaboration with Havana Club. Above all, I am excited about having the opportunity to continue to better myself!”