On Thursday I attended Patrón Perfectionists 2019, a two-prong event that was held in Franschhoek and in the Waterfront to select the winner of the 2019 Patrón Tequila cocktail competition, out of a finalist list of 15 mixologists from around the country. Cape Town mixologist David van Zyl of Cause & Effect Cocktail Kitchen won the competition, winning an entry into the Global Finals against 21 other mixologists in Mexico in January 2020.
This Blogpost focuses on Part One of the Patrón Perfectionists event. Part Two follows tomorrow.
The PR for the event was handled by OLC Experiential in Johannesburg, which began the communication process with a media release announcing the fifteen finalists. This was followed up with an invitation to attend the South African Patrón Perfectionists finals, both at Foliage in Franschhoek and at Cause & Effect Cocktail Kitchen in Cape Town. I had to contact the PR company to find out if this was an either/or venue invitation, but I was invited to attend both. It was not clear to me what the difference between each event was. Not having been to Franschhoek since my return from my three month long trip, I accepted both invitations.
The first media release contained this description of Patrón:
’From hand-harvesting the highest-quality 100 percent Weber Blue Agave, to the traditional, time-honoured distillation process and individual labelling, numbering, and inspection of each bottle, Patrón tequila is crafted with meticulous precision and care. Though Patrón has grown to become one of the most-recognised and respected luxury spirits brands in the world, it is still exclusively produced in the same small batches and with the same commitment to quality and craftsmanship.’
The Patrón Perfectionists cocktail competition was introduced in the media release as follows:
‘The Patrón Perfectionists Cocktail Competition is a unique challenge for mixologists and bartenders around the world to demonstrate their skills with expertise in creating an elevated, sophisticated cocktail, whilst honouring craftsmanship. Attention to detail and unwavering commitment to perfection are paramount. This competition sees these values brought to life through their cocktail creation and presentation.’
We were to meet at Foliage at 10h00, for an event lasting three hours. The first sign of trouble was when the bus bringing the media representatives as well as the PR company staff arrived late. We were not contacted or informed about this, I arriving punctually at the venue. There was no apology, nor a welcome or introduction, it emerging that the six mixologist finalists were amongst us, as well as three ‘chefs’ who had designed the dishes for the lunch, prepared by Foliage under the leadership of Foliage Chef Chris Erasmus.
Chef Chris did a quick introduction, introducing cocktail food pairing as a new trend, away from food and wine pairings. We were off to forage, he said. We got into a ramshackle bus, and were driven to an area of fynbos near Glenwood wine estate, on the outskirts of Franschhoek. I luckily had my walking shoes in the car, and I had enough time to change into them. The foraging turned out to be an educational walk and talk by Chef Chris along the gravel road, introducing us to various plants and their benefits, as well as the dangerous ones, including the following:
# slangbos, notorious for having snakes nearby
# canola, used to make oil
#. Wild radish
# wild klipdagga
# White sage
# Dandelion, good for the liver and preventing mielie bugs in vines
# Surings, or wood sorrel, used in waterblommetjiebredie.
# oxalis, a natural medicine used in Jan Van Riebeek’s time against scurvy
# wild onion, but not edible
# rose geranium, used in Malva pudding
# pine needles, used in beer pine vinegar once fermented.
The PR company staff did not join this outing, so there was no opportunity to chat with them. We were not given name tags, to know which other media representatives were present, i not recognizing anyone else in the group. Chef Chris had already foraged early in the morning, so neither he nor us did any foraging, despite him having his foraging basket with him.
We sat down at two long tables, being about twenty persons, and were addressed by Patrón Brand Ambassador for Middle East and Africa, Nick Cox, who shared that 30 million liters of water were used in 2018 in the making of Patrón tequila, and that the company is focused on reducing its carbon footprint and in giving back to its community and the environment. The tequila is solely made in Mexico, in an artisanal process. Unfortunately Nick stood closest to the main road doors of the restaurant, which meant that he was barely audible nor photographable, given the light coming in through the doors. I went to him, suggesting that the speakers stand at the kitchen counter, for better audibility and photography. Luckily this request was accepted.
Given the announced event ending time of 13h00, I had arranged to meet a friend in Franschhoek at 14h00. I had to beg her forgiveness in delaying the meeting time by an hour, and still was a few minutes late when the lunch turned out to be a seven course one. We gathered that three ‘chefs’ were invited to design two or more of the dishes of the lunch, each containing Patron, each dish paired with a Patrón cocktail made by a Patrón Perfectionists finalist mixologist. Each dish was introduced by the ‘chef’ concerned, with an extra note by Chef Chris, who had prepared the dishes with his team, followed by the mixologist explaining the ingredients and reasons for the paired cocktail. The three ‘chefs’ were:
Kamini Panther, MasterChef winner and host of Girl Eat World, a Food and Travel show, as well as food writer (right in the photograph).
Katelyn Allegra, owner of Award-winning TheKateTin Blog, focusing on desserts and baking. (left in the photograph)
The third Chef Mbombi was from Johannesburg, but we were not provided with details of his surname. He is a consultant chef.
The seven Patrón Perfectionists Lunch courses were the following, once again presented with a verbal description by one of the three chefs above, in unison with the mixologist who designed and prepared the cocktail :
- Amuse Bouche of wild watercress shot with Patrón Silver, with a Gruyere crisp, topped with a watercress flower, served in a tiny espresso shot cup on a wooden board. This dish was designed by Kamini.
2. Zucchini noodles, beetroot and almond pesto, broadbeans sourced from Chef Chris’ garden, and topped with goat milk cheese and buchu, which we were to mix into the dish, we were told when the dish was served. This dish was designed by Kamini too.
Mixologist Dave van Zyl of Cause & Effect Cocktail Kitchen in the Waterfront designed the pairing cocktail, but he was impossible to hear from where we sat. Despite a request to the PR company for details of the dishes and the cocktails, and promised these on the same day of the event, nothing has been received at the time of writing.
3. Katelyn introduced her Ceviche of Santer fish, a sustainable fish variety, grapefruit, smoked fish oil, soutslaai herb, and topped with a Mexican benelos pastry lid.
The paired Patrón Cocktail was based on Paloma and French 75 cocktails, of which I had no clue, and this was not explained to us. It was presented by Kim Munro of Sin + Tax in Johannesburg. It consisted of Patrón Silver, grapefruit, coriander, olive, ‘champagne’, and fresh citrus, very refreshing but overly sweet.
4. This course was presented by the chef from Johannesburg, a classic but modern dish, he explained. It was a Kudu Fillet, samp, and a gravy. I had never eaten samp, and loved its creamy taste, Chef Chris explaining that it was made in a risotto style.
The Patron Perfectionists pairing was created by Taneale van der Merle of The Little Fox in Johannesburg, using Patrón Silver, who designed it to be fresh and light in contrast to the rich Kudu dish, calling her cocktail Nova Lux. Interestingly she mixed mixed-spice and brown sugar and affixed it to the outside of the glass (unfortunately not explained how she did this). The other ingredients were lost in the noisy space.
5. The chef from Johannesburg presented the second main course too, a chorizo of tripe served with an interesting fondant of chakalaka and mielie pap, a modernized African dish, he explained, and taking him back to his Mozambiquean roots. This dish was less impactful compared to the chefs previous meat dish,
Cam Henning of Marble in Johannesburg prepared the cocktail pairing, using the aged Patrón Reposado, using a dandelion infused tequila with vermouth, and Prosecco. Once again, she looked to contrast the heavier food dish with her lighter cocktail.
6. The first dessert was designed by Kamini, using the 18 – 36 month aged Patron in her dish of almond cake with syllabub whipped cream, finished off with a slice of orange and a daisy.
Her mixologist pairing partner was Josh Kaplan, of So Cal in Cape Town, an extremely confident young man, so confident that he introduced his cocktail before Kamini had introduced her dessert. The cocktail contained Patrón Añejo tequila, fig jam, mint, and honeybush tea.
7. Katelyn introduced the second dessert, being a caramelised White Chocolate creme brûlée, although not looking like one at all, with Honeybush infused Patrón Reposado, accompanied by burnt vanilla ice cream.
The Patrón cocktail pairing was prepared by Lungiswa Nduna of The Little Fox, preparing the best Lunch cocktail as far as I was concerned, consisting of coconut cream, almond syrup, Patrón Reposado, mint, and crushed ice.
At the end of the lunch there was a round of applause to the Foliage chef team for its Lunch preparation, a feat of serving seven courses within two hours, and to the Mixologists, four of the six Finalists being female. The full list of fifteen short-listed mixologists follows below, with an asterisk of those mixologists who made it into the Final Six:
1. Josh Kaplan – Fresnaye, Cape Town – SoCal *
2. Burdett Geiling – Sea Point, Cape Town – Gorgeous George Hotal Bar
3. Kim Munro – Westdene, Johannesburg – Sin + Tax *
4. Leighton Rathbone – Silverhurst Cape Town – Orphanage Cocktail Emporium
5. Shaz Dorfling – North Beach, Durban – Lucky Shaker
6. Cameron-Leigh Henning – Sandton, Johannesburg – Marble *
7. David Van Zyl – Protea Hoogte, Cape Town – Cause Effect *
8. Bradley Botha – Parow, Cape Town – Sip Exclusive
9. Sabrina Traubner – Milnerton, Cape Town – The Athletic Club & Social
10. Taneale van der Merwe -Greenstone Hill, Johannesburg – The Little Fox *
11. Peter Lebese – Cape Town (CBD) – Sip Exclusive
12. Nicholas Brown – Sandton, Johannesburg – Molecular Bars
13. Ella Gedye – Cape Town – Cause and Effect
14. Lungiswa Nduna – Johannesburg (CBD) – The Little Fox Mix cocktail bar *
15. Ncube Gugulethu – Cosmo City, Johannesburg – Mix cocktail bar
Given my frustration of not having received any further information from the PR company since my request for it on Thursday, I will write part two of the Patrón Perfectionists event as a separate story, hoping to find more information to complete the missing gaps to this story, and to make the second part of the Patrón Perfectionists story perfectly …. perfectionistic!
POSTSCRIPT 6/10/2019: I received this email from Lela Siyengo of OLC Experiential, after posting this story, and after speaking to Bacardi Brand Ambassador Aidan Powrie this morning. The event took place on Thursday, and the media release had been promised for Friday!
‘Good morning Chris!
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein