Contestants were each asked to create two cocktails in seven minutes, and had to use Angostura bitters for each cocktail. How did you find this task?
Relatively simple. The biggest challenge was making use of products that I had not yet been exposed to [like] Angostura rums and orange bitters – we only get aromatic bitters in our market – and figuring out their flavour profiles. But once that was nailed, it was learning to put up four cocktails with a presentation in under seven minutes. [That was difficult], it’s not a lot of time, especially when you’re up on stage, [then] it’s time to “dance”. I think I completed on the seven minute mark with no extra time to spare.
You took second place overall. What was your initial reaction to this achievement?
I was in complete shock. I didn’t register that they had called my name for a while as I had tasted most of the cocktails from the other competitors and the competition was definitely quite stiff. Once I realised what had happened, I was over the moon. It’s the highest I’ve ever placed in a global competition and the highest a South African has in any cocktail competition.
You also won the award for Best Rum Cocktail. What do you think set your rum cocktail apart from the cocktails of the other contestants?
Probably the expression of the spirit. What you need to do is combine flavours that won’t mask your star item (in this case, Angostura five-year-old rum and the Angostura aromatic bitters) but rather help it shine through and amplify the natural flavour notes already in it.
The finals of the competition consisted of twelve contestants. How did the other contestants influence your performance in the competition?
They definitely made me step up my game a little and got me more determined to do well. We are talking about some of the best bartenders in their regions representing their countries on a global scale, so you [had] better come prepared to fight.
The competition was held on the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. How did you experience this exotic location?
[It was] absolutely incredible. You’re in the Caribbean, how wrong could it possibly go? We never had a chance to visit Tobago, but Trinidad is truly special. The food [was] delicious and plentiful, the people [were] super friendly with the best accent, and the culture – if ever you go to Trinidad, be sure to go during Carnival. You won’t regret it.