Cocktail competitions are one of our industry’s most compelling vehicles for bartenders to flex their creative muscles and showcase their talents in taste and innovation to their favorite brands. Mount Gay Rum & Collectif 1806 teamed up with Thirsty for their second annual More Taste, Less Waste cocktail competition. With so many events and programs getting canceled because of the pandemic, Mount Gay Rum felt it was important to honor their connection with the bartender community and commitment, empower them to “Think Sustainably, Drink Sustainably.”
Moving to an all-virtual format, the competition drew entrants from all across the U.S. and finalists were selected by a blind tasting process resulting in six finalists – Nonna Titulauri, Leanne Favre, Brooke Smith, Nadine Madera, Lizaveta Maliauka and Katie Renshaw. A virtual presentation finale took place with the remote judging panel of Darrio Prescod, Shannon Mustipher, Karen Grill & Naama Tamir.
After deliberations, the judges selected Nonna Titulauri of San Francisco as the grand prize with her ‘Amber Skyes’ cocktail. Nonna wins a $5,000 cash prize as well as a one-on-one mentorship session with Mount Gay Rum Master Blender, Trudiann Branker.
Darrio Prescod, National Brand Ambassador for Mount Gay Rum, shared his feedback on Nonna’s performance, “The judges were very impressed with the performance and passion of each of the competitors. Nonna stood out because her presentation and cocktail encompassed the perfect balance of Mount Gay brand knowledge, history and sustainability. We could tell the extra effort put forth to understand the ways in which Mount Gay continues to push sustainability and then tying that knowledge seamlessly into her storytelling and drink creation; it was pretty much the icing on the cake.”
Of her cocktail, Nonna explains, “When making this drink, I tried using ingredients that can be recycled for planting something new. Knowing how much Mount Gay cherishes the land where the sugarcane grows to produce perfect molasses. Here, I infused Mount Gay with bananas to enhance the notes of vanilla that come through the barrels. Banana peels are widely used in creating compost material for farming, and it produces no waste.”
“By recycling the banana puree for the garnish, I wanted to connect my drink to the theme of the competition, environmental responsibility and sustainability,” Nonna continues. “Making coffee syrup was inspired by the hazelnut notes I get from Mount Gay Black Barrel and hazelnut and coffee go so well together. My mother and I dehydrate and save our ground coffee after making our espresso for our garden. We have a small community space in the area where we live and ground coffee is a traditional way to feed your soil to promote growth of what you plant. The cocktail name is inspired by the beautiful sunset skies of Barbados that I have admired from the pictures on the Mount Gay website. I really hope someday, I will get to visit.”
Amber Skyes Cocktail by Nonna Titulauri
Amber Skyes Cocktail Recipe & Build Instructions
- 2.25 oz banana infused Mount Gay Black Barrel*
- 1 bar spoon coffee syrup
- 2 dashes of Extinct Cocktail Company’s Acid Phosphate
- 1 dash of Scrappy’s Firewater
- Banana & Paprika Leather Garnish**
*Mount Gay Black Barrel infusion: In a glass container, place 375 ml (half bottle) of Mount Gay Black Barrel and 1 peeled, muddled banana. Cover with a lid and let rest for 10 hours. After 10 hours pass, strain out the banana with a coffee filter. Save the banana puree for garnish. To make coffee syrup, take a double shot of your favorite espresso (3.5 oz) and in a pot, combine with 3.5 oz of sugar (I used unbleached “white” sugar). Heat on the stove and stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Set aside.
**Banana & Paprika Leather: Spread your rum rinsed banana puree on a greased baking sheet (depending on the quality of the baking sheet, evenly sprinkle ½ tsp of paprika over your puree. For mine I lined the sheet with silicone and topped with waxed baking paper, lightly greased). Bake for about 45-60 minutes at 175 degrees but keep an eye out for it. Some ovens may be stronger than others, and if your banana puree layer is thin, it will dehydrate faster/
Cocktail Build: In a mixing glass, combine 2.25 oz of banana infused Mount Gay Black Barrel with the rest of the ingredients. Then stir with ice until condensation on the glass forms (about 10 seconds). Strained into a chilled cordial glass and place the banana fruit leather on the rim. Enjoy!
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