Flor de Caña discovered the new UK ‘Rum Frontier’ Champion on Monday night, as guests basked in the electric vibes of Nicaragua enjoying street food, Flor de Caña cocktails, live street art and a world renowned DJ in one of Glasgow’s best loved venues, Drygate.
Featuring an incredible line-up of first class mixologists from all across the country, each finalist pushed the creative boundaries of cocktail making to the edge in a live heat where they were challenged to design innovative cocktails inspired by the exotic home of Flor de Caña rum. The cocktails were fashioned around many areas of Nicaraguan culture, from its world famous coffee beans to the unique and vibrant art that fills the streets, the volcano which Flor de Caña’s own distillery sits at and the fact that the country is run on 58% clean, renewable energy.
Ten finalists battled it out to be crowned the #RumFrontiers UK winner and get their hands on the coveted prize: a trip of a lifetime to Nicaragua where the winner will represent the UK in the worldwide final as well as enjoying incredible tours of Nicaragua’s top attractions.
The winning cocktail blew away the judging panel, boasting an incredibly diverse and creative skillset from bartender Ryan Rhodes of Dusk in Aberdeen. Named Lava Flava, Ryan’s drink was inspired by the artist Scott Lambeck and his colourful interpretation of Nicaragua which adorned the sides of the glass. Ryan described his cocktail as a drink which he felt reflected Nicaragua; vibrant, fun and playful.
As well as the excitement of live heats, earlier in the day attendees enjoyed a masterclass run by two of the esteemed judges: Daryl Haldane (Head of Brand Experience, Whyte & Mackay) and Tristan Stephenson (The Curious Bartender). Also tasked with judging the cocktail creations were the highly-regarded Andy Gemmell (The Drinks Cabinet) and Marc Catalan (Flor de Caña).
Jonathan Gillbanks (UK Sales Director – On Trade & Specialists, Whyte and Mackay) said: “RumFrontiers was a fantastic event; we witnessed some of the most exciting bartenders from the UK come together to learn and create with Flor de Caña premium rum. The creations from the competitors were truly outstanding.”
Ryan will experience six days of adventure in Nicaragua this September, including sand-boarding on the active Cerro Negro Volcano before spending the night in the historic city of Leon. He will then return to Managua for an exclusive tour of the Flor de Caña distillery ahead of the world wide #RumFrontiers final. The remainder of the trip will be packed full of excursions including a visit to the Masaya Volcano, Masaya Artisan Market and Apoyo Lake. There will also be a City Tour of Granada along with a trip to a private island before returning home.
Flor de Caña’s bartender advocacy programme “Rum Frontiers” will come to a pinnacle this month with the leading lights of the bar trade and their aspiring protégées competing to win the trip of a lifetime to Nicaragua – the home of the award winning single estate rum.
13 leading bartenders from a selection of London’s leading establishments were invited to take part in the Rum Frontiers mentorship programme – a cocktail competition with a difference. Each was asked to nominate three bartenders whom they would mentor through training and mixology while learning about the heritage and craft of the family owned brand.
The mentors and their aspiring bartenders will come together for the London final, set to be hosted at the old ticketing hall of Shoreditch Station on Wednesday 2nd March. As part of a showcase of Central American hospitality and the spirit of Nicaragua, the finalists will compete in front of peers and industry guests while the finest award winning Flor de Caña rums will be served alongside incredible cocktails from Matt Whiley (Talented Mr Fox), a selection of Nicaraguan street food and a soundtrack of the finest Latin house music.
As the leading rum brand in Central America the Nicaraguan Embassy is an active partner of Flor de Caña Rum Frontiers, and Nicaragua’s Ambassador to the UK, Her Excellency Guisell Morales-Echaverry, joined the mentors to explain the importance of the rum brand to her country. She commented on the launch of Rum Frontiers saying, “Nicaragua is defined by three things – lakes, volcanoes, and Flor de Caña”. The rum is more than just a famous export, she explained. It is woven into the very fabric of her country.
Rum Frontiers Mentor Finalists
Max Chater – Consultant
Liam Cotter – Consultant
Francois Bertrand – Marc Group
Joseph Lewis, White – The Savoy
Tiago Mira – The Ritz
Constanca Corderio – Peg + Partriot
Russel Burgess – Loves Company
Georgi Radev – Mahiki
Elliot Ball – Cocktail Trading Co
Danillo Tersigni – Mr Fogs
Fillipo Previero – Cahoots
Tizano Tazzo – Zuma
Spenser Large – Jamie Oliver Group
Recently, I had the chance to sit down and experience a range of expressions of a rum I’ve seen becoming more and more embraced by the bartenders here in the UK. Flor de Caña, from Nicaragua, is perhaps a rum you’ve never had yourself, but I’m sure the packaging of the bottles are recognisable. Either way, lets dive in and check it all out.
Flor de Caña started life at the San Antonio Sugar Mill in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua back in 1890. The site of the first distillery, the company was founded by Francisco Alfredo Pellas, a name that is still attached to the company today by the fifth generation of the Pellas family. It wasn’t until 1937 though that Flor de Caña was formed, a separate entity within the distillery Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua, and had the ethos of producing and marketing rum. Once 1950 hit, Casa Pellas, which was founded by Don Carlos Francisco Pellas Vivas, began the commercial distribution of the Slow-Aged™ Rum in Nicaragua, showing off Flor de Caña to the masses of South America by 1959 and rallied by the release of Flor de Caña Añejo Clásico 5.
After some modernization of the distillery in 1963, the brand became internationally recognised for its consistency and profile, earning Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua to be the first rum producer in the world to obtain ISO 9000 certification of quality. The company has since earned environmentally friendly ISO 14000, HCAAP and Kosher certifications too. At the turn of the century, Rum Marketing International (RUMMI) Ltd. was founded in Miami, Florida to oversee the international expansion of Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua’s products, essentially taking Flor de Caña worldwide (it’s now available in over 50 countries). In celebration of the new Millennium too, Flor de Caña Centenario 21 Commemorative Edition was introduced.
I mentioned above about the Slow-Aged™ Rum method. Essentially this is a term that Flor de Caña is proud of as it sums up the natural elements to its ageing process for all of its expressions. Natural temperature and ventilation across all of its warehouses, whether new or old buildings, are consistently the same and never modernized (no air-conditioning for example). With the tropical climate, there is a higher risk of rum evaporation within the ex bourbon barrels, effectively known as The Angel’s Share. Flor de Caña see this as how nature intended, so they leave it be, despite losing a little more than in the maturation process than most rum producers would like.
So how does this natural effect fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on the core range –
Flor de Caña 4yr Extra Dry – 40%
Soft upon the nose, with light leather, coconut and vanilla notes coming through. Very light on the palate, soft with a thick texture of natural coconut flesh and vanilla, offering a short finish.
Flor de Caña 7yr – 40%
Honey notes on the nose, with caramel and light aromas of nut present. Very thin upon the palate, rather mellow, with a dry spice and a warm finish.
Flor de Caña 12yr – 40%
Honey, toffee and fudge notes combine on the nose, with clotted cream and soft stoned fruits present too. Thick cream texture on the palate, with butter and almond flavours offering a dry, lingering finish.
Flor de Caña 18yr – 40%
Rich, sweet fudge notes on the nose, with dark cocoa and fresh spice following. The palate enjoys a soft texture of coffee, caramel, treacle and tobacco, leaving a lively yet dry finish.
Flor de Caña 25yr – 40%
Soft spice, fudge and toffee flavours on the nose, with slight oak and almond aromas following. Coffee, raisin and prune flavours blend well on the palate, with slight maraschino cherry and dark chocolate kicks on the long finish.
Some fantastic expressions here, with the 12yr and 25yr the standouts for myself. But how about combining with other ingredients? Try one of these –
Stir all the ingredients within a mixing glass full of ice. Once chilled, pour into a wine glass and serve with a twist off orange peel.
An alternative serve to your usual rum cocktails, and one to try at home with the winter nights rolling in. Pick up a bottle for your cabinet, and look out for the expressions in your local bar as bartenders start to embrace the South American styles of rum!
The biggest cocktail master class came back in full force this year in the form of Cocktails in the City. Located within Manchester Town Hall, 15 of Manchester’s bars teamed up with 15 brands ranging from tequila to rum and vodka to create a cocktail that would wow the consumers and tempt them to part with their tokens. Not only that though, The Liquorists held tasters for all ranging from ‘The Taster’ which involved two cocktails, main stage demonstrations and a cocktail booklet to ‘The Connoisseur‘ which included a champagne cocktail reception, food from Almost Famous, three cocktails and a Liquorists tutored tasting session.
This year, I was lucky enough to be asked to judge, giving me the perfect opportunity to see what the bars and brands came up with.
Starting the night with the bar in the sky, Cloud 23 served up two cocktails in the form of what myself and fellow judge Keeley Watts described as a Starter and Dessert using rum brand Ron Zacapa. The ‘starter’ came with Ron Zacapa, sherry syrup, yuzu juice and whisky aged bitters that were served with bread, chorizo and feta cheese, whilst the ‘dessert’ was created using Ron Zacapa, maraschino, Tip Pepe sherry, sweet vermouth and came with smoked almonds. Pop-up bar specialists Escapade were next with their unusual takes of creation and glassware. The creations being their enthusiasm and team work to create a Blue Lagoon within a closed jam jar (check out the photos, link at the bottom, to see what I’m on about!) plus a Heinz Bloody Mary using Heinz tomato soup, vodka, lemon and spice mix – served in the Heinz soup can. Innovative, and it worked! 31DOVER,the premium online drinks retailer, collaborated with BarChick, the best bar guide on the internet, to come up with a signature cocktail for the evening named The 31 Dover – gin, lemon juice, honey syrup and topped with Champagne.
One of the new kids on the scene, The Liquor Store, collaborated with well-known tequila brand Jose Cuervo Tradicional to create the Maria Pickford which involved the tequila, lime, maraschino, pomegranate syrup and topped with pineapple foam and cracked pepper. A fantastic blend of flavours, and one that used the worlds first tequila in the best way. Chase Marmalade were partners with Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar to produce Harvey’s Marmalade Fizz. Using the ever popular marmalade vodka, Campari, lemon and lime juice as well as egg white, sugar, Seville marmalade and topped with soda, the serving of it all in a jam jar complete with a dried orange wheel created one of the more visually stunning cocktails of the evening. A look that complimented its name went to Mojo’s and their cocktail with tequila brand Calle 23. The Pink Chihuahua had the simple ingredients of a healthy dose of Calle 23, pomegranate juice, lime, orgeat and egg white, served in the classic coupette glass.
Visiting one of the bars on the outskirts of the city next in the form of Chorlton’s Proof and their collaboration with Lambs Navy Rum. Two cocktails available from these guys – Any Port in a Storm used Lambs Navy, port, ginger, sugar and lime juice whilst the Mutiny on the Bounty had Lambs Navy, dark chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao and cocoa cream complete with a piece of Bounty for the garnish. Next to them were fellow rum brand Flor de Cana and Sandinista. Going for a ‘rum connoisseurs choice of drink’, they came up with Fat Like Buddha – Flor de Cana 7yr, Antica Formula, Benedictine, Cointreau and maraschino liqueur. Venturing back on to the outskirts soon after, visiting Didsbury’s The Violet Hour and Dutch gin Sloane’s, with their two options – Summer Picnic (Sloane’s, elderflower, lemon, apple juice, marmalade and vanilla) or a more Traditional Cocktail using Sloane’s, curaçao, sugar, lemon and Angostura Bitters.
Another new kid in Neighbourhood partnered with Absolut Elyx to create a Lavender Cosmopolitan. Using pre-steeped lavender and sugar mix to the Absolut Elyx, Grand Marnier and cranberry juice created what Neighbourhood called ‘a seductive zingy Cosmo twist’. The use of Whitley Neil and The Whim Wham Cafe to create the African Sky caught the attention of many an enthusiast, mainly for the loud toots of owner Alix and his African horn (take that how you will) but also for their creation of a cocktail that looks literally like the African sunset. Created using Whitley Neil gin, Cointreau, marmalade syrup, cranberry juice, lime and Peychaud Bitters. Dry ice bellowed from the next bar as Apotheca teamed with Ketel One and made full use of their copper kettles. Creating the Citizen Kettle, they used a double healthy dose of Ketel One, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, white grape and Peychaud Bitters.
Northern Quarter guys Dusk til Pawn went with white grain spirit Bootlegger to create the aptly named One Old Boot. Using Bootlegger, whisky barrel bitters, sugar, marmalade and ginger, they created a stirred drink with a nod to the Prohibition styles. Cross back into Europe and Belvedere vodka created a twist on the Bramble with Epernay. Using Belvedere, poppy liquor, sugar and lemon, the short yet powerful drink set us up nicely for the trip across the corridor to the The Lord Mayor’s Parlour and three of Manchester’s tiki bars.
Starting with The Liars Club and El Dorado, they created a Liars Club Party Punch using ingredients such as El Dorado 5yr, Prosecco, apple and grapefruit juice, Yorkshire tea and sugar. It came complete with an El Dorado cake courtesy of rum lover North West Nosh! Keko Moko were up next partnering with Chairman’s Reserve to create The Keko Fizz – both Chairman’s Reserve and their Spiced variety as well as cloudy apple juice, egg white, lime, passion fruit liqueur and ting. Described as ‘definitely tiki’, the next and last bar of the evening, Hula, had its work cut out with Havana Seleccion de Maestros. Creating an El Presidente using Havana Club, sweet vermouth, Cointreau and grenadine, the classic went down way too easily.
The winners haven’t been announced yet, but I can tell you that it was no easy task to narrow it down for best cocktail, best bar and best personality. If you can, try each of the above cocktails at some point in the bars, they’re definitely worth a try and maybe you can decide for yourselves who you think should be the winners. While you at it, you may want to keep your eyes peeled for next year, a fantastic atmosphere is not to be missed!