On Thursday evening I attended the 2019 Finals of the Patrón Perfectionists tequila cocktail competition at Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar in the Waterfront, after a first part of the event had been held at Foliage in Franschhoek earlier in the day. Despite the largest number of female finalists over the past three years of the South African participation in the competition, the 2019 SA finals was won by David van Zyl, mixologist at Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen!
On entering the Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen, I met South African Bacardi Brand Ambassador Aidan Powrie. We exchanged notes about the disastrous morning event in Franschhoek, which both of us had attended, but we did not meet there. Both of us chose florals for our attire for the Patrón events.
Cause Effect has a new home in the Waterfront, having previously been located in Gardens. On arrival, guests were offered a Spekboom Patrón cocktail made with Patrón Silver, in a branded bottle. I loved the Cause Effect interior design, with lots of greenery, and a large bar counter. I reconnected with Cause Effect owner Kurt Schlechter, not having seen him in quite a while. I was very lucky to find an empty bar stool next to grandfather Alan and father Gavin of Finalist Josh Kaplan (left) of So Cal bar. They were clearly proud of their young family member, and how far he has come, having started off his mixology career at Caprice in Camps Bay, and paying his own way to travel to his favorite destinations in Asia. At school he won debating competitions, especially the unprepared topic ones, and this showed when he spoke, definitely not lacking in confidence. He certainly looked the part of the classic bartender, being the best dressed of all the Finalists.
I was able to telephonically interview Aidan earlier this week, not having received a media release since the event on Thursday, despite a promise from the Patrón PR company to let me have it on the same day of the event.
Aidan told me that Patrón is sold in 32 countries, South Africa being the only African country to sell the brand and to participate in the Patrón Perfectionists cocktail competition. The competition is being held in 22 regions, the winner of each going forward into the Global Patrón Perfectionists challenge to be held in Mexico in January 2020. Patrón is one of the brands owned by Bacardi, which was established more than 150 years ago, in Cuba as a family-owned rum company originally, in its beautiful Art Deco building I visited in Havana in July (right). Bacardi is an umbrella company which owns a number of brands, not only rum labels.
Patrón is a young brand, created in 1998, and its unique proposition is that all aspects of it is hand made, without taking any short cuts. It has become the first premium tequila, and is the largest selling tequila brand internationally. The foundation of the brand is to not compromise on quality, it employing 2000 staff, a number which could have been lower had they mechanized more of the production, but that would go against the grain of their philosophy. The glass bottles are blown individually, corks are hand made in Portugal, seven to nine year old agave plants are harvested to make the tequila, and 200 year supply contracts have been signed with agave farmers in Mexico, to ensure that the farms stay in the family, hence ensuring consistency. The company is sustainability conscious, using osmosis to recycle water. The agave remains are composted to grow new agave plants. Production is done small-batch, rather than in one ever-growing production plant. The bitter agave leaves are baked in the oven to activate the sugar levels. Two liquids resulting from the production process are distilled separately, and then aged in one of five barrel types, depending on the variant it is to become. The Patrón variants available in South Africa are the three following:
Patrón Silver: Made from Weber Blue Agave, fruit and citrus flavour, with a light pepper finish. 40% alcohol.
Patrón Reposado: Oak and agave aroma and taste, with notes of fruits, citrus, and honey, and a light floral and vanilla finish. Aged in oak barrels for more than two months. 40% alcohol.
Patrón Añejo: Aged in American, French, and Hungarian oak barrels for three years or more. 40% alcohol content. Aroma of dried fruit, vanilla and light banana, taste of fruit with notes of light agave, honey and vanilla, and a finish of oak, vanilla and dried fruit.
Snacks were served during the event, starting with Arancini balls, a Greek salad served inside fermented hollowed-our cucumber, hamburgers, and an attractive platter of dips of corn, hummus, and guacamole.
Cause & Effect Cocktail Kitchen was previously located in Park Street in Gardens, but moved to the Rocket Shed in the Waterfront, a building name few Capetonians would know. It is next to Mitchell’s, in a building that was a small Cape Town Tourism branch for many years, with a Truth coffee stand outside it. Now it is all combined to create a trendy bar, with lots of fashionable greenery hanging from the ceiling. The mixologists create a mix of classic cocktails, botanicals-infused creations using lots of Cape fynbos, and some outrageous cocktails. The Cocktail Kitchen offers three course experiences: an aperitif spritz drink as starter; an Experiential cocktail as the main course; and a dessert cocktail to end off the experience. Potstill brandies are in the house too, an offering of more than sixty. All the courses of cocktails can be paired with food offerings.
Details of the event were skimpy, the PR company OLC Experiential not helping in providing minimal detail about the event, the Patrón brand, and the Patrón Perfectionists competition. No information was provided about how the 15 Finalists were shortlisted down to six. The MC of the event was not introduced, but stood out in wearing a hat. On requesting his name, the PR company informed me that he is Nick Koumbarakis, Brand Ambassador for Bacardi SUSA.
He introduced Nick Cox, Brand Ambassador for Patrón in Africa and Middle East, whom I had met at Part One of the Patrón Perfectionists event in Franschhoek earlier in the day. He told us that the South African winner of the competition would go into the Global Finals in Mexico in January. He shared their marketing promise that 60 hands go into making Patrón perfect, but that ‘62 hands make it perfect for you’.
The three judges were introduced so quickly that I only caught the name of one judge, Bruce Dorfling, who was the 2018 Patrón Perfectionists winner for South Africa, which he described as a once in a lifetime experience. On request, the PR company supplied the names of the other two judges: Brent Perrimore, described as a renowned mixologist; and Nick Cox.
The criteria of judging the cocktails were rattled off so quickly that I could not get the weighting of them in the evaluation of each Finalist: appearance (10), service and hospitality, taste (20), originality, and flavours.
Each Finalist was given two minutes to set up for the preparation of his/her cocktail, a flexible timing it appeared, and then a strictly-timed 8 minutes for the presentation and making of the cocktail. From where I sat, we were reliant on the TV screen to hear and to see the presentations, not 100% ideal in barmen crossing back and forth in front of the screen, and an increasing noise level as the tension got heated in the venue, as each Finalist’s team cheered on their friend and colleague, the Cape Town Finalists clearly having an advantage.
Cocktails prepared by the six SA Patrón Perfectionists Finalist mixologists and an outline of their presentations, to be judged as winner, were as follows:
Taneale was the only Finalist who dressed up for her cocktail, which was an ode to the ‘Cape Coloured’. She described this as an ‘under-celebrated’ part of the Cape Town population, with long-standing traditions, creating their own culture and foods, of which koesisters is one of the best known. They work hard, and only take off one day of the year, on Tweede Nuwe Jaar. Her cocktail was as handcrafted as the koesisters are, she said. She added ‘Vat hom Flaffie’, with a reference to the Springbok team and the Rugby World Cup. I tasted the cocktail, finding it very sweet and potent.
Name: Kaapse Koeksister
55ml Patrón Silver
3 bar spoons koeksister syrup (home made)
3 dashes shortbread bitters (home made)
7 drops of saline
Garnish is a smile rimmed glass with roasted and dried desiccated coconut and koeksister syrup
Place all ingredients into mixing glass.
Lots of ice into mixing glass.
Served with 5×5 ice blocks (50mm by 50mm) for the serve to make everyone’s life easier as oppose to carved ice.
2. Josh Kaplan of So Cal in Cape Town
As written above, Josh impressed with his dress suit and bow tie, who could have stepped out of a James Bond movie. He was the youngest contender for the title. He was the only one to offer the judges a glass of water, with a choice of still and sparkling, being the fifth presenter. He traveled to the East on his own steam, and the ingredients and flavours he experienced there influenced his cocktail. He praised the attendees for being at the Finals rather than being at Cape Town’s pmost popular monthly event, First Thursday. He used a variety of flavours combined to make his special cocktail. He added citric acid, and a secret mix of honey and soy. He exceeded his time limit by a few seconds, and was forgiven for this by the judges. I liked his cocktail best.
Fresh pineapple juice blend, sesame bitters blend, teriyaki and Patrón Silver
-char grill a pineapple until Finals on both sides and use a 2:1 ratio with a normal pineapple juice
-bitters are very complicated
special-Mix soy sauce and honey to your desired sweetness
3. Kim Munro of Sin + Tax in Johannesburg
Kim honored the gold from her home city, and shared that it is beautiful but not superficial, gold traditionally going back to the Aztecs, it reflecting love and compassion, it being malleable, having heat-conducting benefits, not being corrosive, it being used daily in electronics, and being recyclable. She was representing the lustre of gold in her cocktail. Her cocktail had a dominant cinnamon taste.
Name: White Gold
50ml Patrón Reposado
50ml Spiced Schezuan Apple Cordial*
15ml Citric Syrup **
Edible gold dust
Edible gold leaf dust
*Spiced Schezuan Apple Cordial
600g Golden Delicious Apples
150g White Wine
3x bay leaves
2x star anise
15g schezuan pepper
1x cinnamon stick
400g White Sugar
10g Citric Acid
4. Cameron Leigh Henning of Marble in Johannesburg
Cam, as she was introduced to us earlier in the day, was the most shy and reserved of the six Finalists, She was the first presenter. Her cocktail title ‘Valiente’ represents courage, and a story of boldness, reflecting her journey and her courage to present at the Finals. What was unusual about Cam’s cocktail was the addition of Pinotage, our country’s unique wine cultivar, as well as blended cooked corn. She used another traditional South African ingredient, powder from the baobab tree, on the rim of her glass. The taste of the Pinotage and cinnamon dominated in taste for me.
Baobab Powder Rim
Methodology Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake with cubed ice. Double strain.
1:1 – Pinotage to white sugar
Methodology Bring to a simmer and let it cool
Add cooked corn from 2 cobs to a blender with:
– 125ml water
– 125ml rice milk
– 125ml corn juice
– 30ml white granulated sugar
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Methodology: Blend together and refrigerate
3:1 – Angostura Bitters to Yellow Chartreuse
5. David Van Zyl of Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen
David was the last Finalist to present, and received the most support, being a mixologist at Cause Effect, having all his colleagues proudly cheering him on. David told an interesting story about the family tradition of being carpenters, handcrafting wood as much as Patrón is handcrafted in its production. Getting a taste of bartending, he decided to break away from the family tradition, and to develop as a mixologist. He used a piece of wood as the base of his cocktail preparation, and told us that he had learnt from his family of how to join wood using the dovetail, which he made the name of his cocktail. He burnt cedarwood chips on the board, and overturned the cocktail glasses over them to add a smoky taste to his cocktail in a unique way, which must have impressed the judges. He used liquid nitrogen to create the final creative touch in the presentation of his cocktail.
Name: Dove Tale
Angostura Orange Bitters
Dovyalis Caffra Juice
Cedar Cone Syrup
Lemon pelargomium spray
Muddle, stir and strain
6. Lungiswa ‘Lungi’ Nduna of The Little Fox in Johannesburg
Lungi was a confident and entertaining presenter, describing herself as having a Xhosa heritage which dies not prevent her from supporting our Springbok team. She spoke out belonging, and that she decided to be,no to the bar industry. I found her presentation to be too me-focused, with no mention of the Patrón brand.
50 ml Patrón Reposado
50 ml banana consomme
– pecan nuts
20 ml banana mageu
– mielie meal
2 dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters
banana and cinnamon dust
dehydrated banana slices
Rub fresh lemon on strip of chilled coupe and frost with the banana dust. Stir all ingredients in mixing glass. Strain off into glass and float dehydrated bananas on top.
At the conclusion of the event the Finalists were praised for their creativity and dedication in using Patrón, and each was presented with a bottle of Patrón Platinum. Cause Effect was thanked for its expertise and professionalism in hosting the event, and its bartenders praised for showcasing the Patrón brand. The trophy for the 2019 South African winner, going to David van Zyl of Cause Effect, was made by a Mexican artist. Aidan told me in the interview that he was impressed with all the Finalist cocktail creations, but that David’s stood out in the handcrafting link, and because he is an experienced mixologist.
Note: Due to the unsatisfactory supply of information from the Bacardi PR company, I will be meeting winner David van Zyl this afternoon, to interview him. I will add details from the interview to my Blogpost later this evening.
Interview with David van Zyl on 9 October
David van Zyl has an interesting background, with other occupations in addition to being a bartender (he prefers this title to mixologist). He grew up in Rawsonville, but went to school in Clanwilliam, attending an agricultural school, the only such school with girl learners too. When a rugby injury prevented him from continuing with the sport, David volunteered to take up Salsa dancing at the school, his parents being avid langarm dancers. Working in the building trade by day, including in a family carpentry business as well as other related building businesses, David always worked as a bartender at night, initially choosing bars which offered Salsa dancing too. Not only did David work in the building trade, but he worked on wine farms too, helping winemakers in season, and also learnt to make beer at a brewery. He has worked in Clanwilliam, in Namibia, in Franschhoek, and in Cape Town in the past year, having been approached by Cause Effect owner Kurt Schlechter.
His botanist father developed the love for foraging in David, which was enhanced when he got to know Chef Chris Erasmus from Foliage in Franschhoek, learning a lot from the chef, and describing Chef Chris as having a ‘mastermind in gastronomy’ . David teaches his colleagues at Cause Effect about Fynbos, and is in charge of sourcing it for Cause Effect.
David’s favorite botanicals are Buchu, wormwood, and Rose geranium. David likes the medicinal properties of Fynbos, wanting his patrons to leave the bar feeling healthier and happier than when they entered it. David sources his Fynbos for Cause Effect from farms in Rawsonville, having a plot in this area too. For his winning cocktail, David created a cedarwood syrup from the sap of the tree. For the Lunch at Foliage, David’s cocktail was served first, so he created an aperitivo style drink, to get the tastebuds in the mouth stimulated, using Patrón aged tequila Añejo, extra dry Martini, with bitters of florals, cinnamon, and cardamom, topped with a smoking cinnamon stick on the glass.
When making a cocktail for patrons, David talks them through the creation of the cocktail, involving them in it right from the start. He is often asked to create something for patrons, with special requests as to what to specifically include and to exclude. David offered a Patrón Añejo, so that I could taste it neat. It was a smooth drink, served ice cold, completely different to the tequilas I have drunk when dancing. Cause Effect only stocks premium spirits brands, and therefore does not offer salt and lemon with its tequilas.
It was interesting to hear that Bacardi’s Aidan Powrie previously worked at Cause Effect, creating many of the cocktails on its menu.
David says he is likely to create a brand new cocktail for the Global Patrón Finals in Mexico, not yet having received the competition cocktail brief.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein