The fourth annual Bartenders’ Brawl, originally created by Island Temptations Magazine, was hosted and produced by the Renaissance Aruba Resorts & Casinos, and held on the Festival Plaza in downtown Oranjestad, this past Saturday. The elegant event showcased a record of nine of Aruba’s top bartenders impressing event-goers with their original craft cocktail creations.
Aruba’s local spirit distributors were the essential collaborators to make this event happen—supplying all the liquor and necessary ingredients to produce these exciting libations for attendees of the event to enjoy. Renaissance’s culinary team fueled the guests with savory noshes like juicy beef sliders, mini chicken skewers, Spanish tapas, and kesio for dessert, while local deejay extraordinaire, Deejay Jason, provided an upbeat, lively backdrop to the festivities.
This year, in addition to the People’s Choice Award, a panel of judges selected the Judges’ Choice. Receiving the most votes from guests at the event and earning the People’s Choice Award was “Cunucu Sublime,” with Grey Goose Vodka presented by Tropical Bottling, created by Glenn Kemp, a bartender for Blue Bar, Renaissance Marina Tower.
Glenn used a number of fresh locally grown ingredients such as dates, shimarucu berries, aloe and passion fruit for his mix, and flavored it with lemon grass, and orange peel, adding an extra kick with Grand Marnier, Apricot Brandy, and Licor 43. Cunucu Sublime was garnished with edible flowers, looking and tasting phenomenal.
The five judges, three of them in the bar business, Ken Mata, Danny v/d Linden and Danvid Webb, event planner Maria Silva, and senior graphic designer Kyrenia Jonkhout, came to a unanimous decision on their favorite—the “Batch 27,” from bartender Nathan Schwengle, of the Apotheek Bar & Lounge, representing the Aruba Trading Company.
The judges praised the degree of difficulty in creating a nicely balanced cocktail with Monkey Shoulder, a blend of three single malts, with muddled blackberries, orange bitters, simple syrup, a dash of ginger ale, garnished with an orange peel.
The judges also lauded, second place winner Antonio Altomonte, representing Pepia Est NV, a bartender at the Lobby Bar & Restaurant, for his Kentucky Passion, made with Buffalo Trace, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Bols Banana Liquor, Cointreau Noire, grapefruit bitters, ginger beer with a dash of vanilla sugar, garnished with a sliced strawberry topped with passion fruit puree and a basil leaf.
The judges were impressed by how well the Bourbon was paired, appreciating the bartender’s passion.
Another special commendation went to “Pasiflora Remedy,” presented by charismatic bartender Michael Gomes, for Manrique Capriles, with Fair Juniper Gin, made in Belize, paired with simple syrup, passion fruit, muddled cucumber, muddled ginger, topped with vegan garbanzo foam, garnished with crioyo cucumber and black sesame seeds.
Although there were ultimately just two winners, everyone in the crowd seemed to have their favorites.
Fitzgerald Arends, a bartender at La Vista Restaurant, Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino created “Purple Dragon,” with Fair Vodka, from Belize, imported by Manrique Capriles, with simple syrup, orange juice, Kumquat and Acai liquors, and lime juice, topped with egg white foam and colored sugar. Fitzgerald says the name of his libation was inspired by his baby sister, a purple dragon fan.
Effervescent Paola Cisneros, a bartender at Gelatissimo, Gianni’s Group, created “Dream Catcher” with Belvedere Vodka, of the Aruba Trading Company, with freshly made lemon sorbet, green apple and pear syrup, topped with chic Italian Prosecco, for a purple-pink- white creamy cocktail, she felt was cool, fresh, and elegant.
Lee Croes, a bartender at Heart Bar, created “Apple Pie,” which he called the story of his childhood in a glass, having spent many years in the USA. He mixed Bacardi 8 with the local Tamarijn juice, adding a simple syrup made with raisins, apples, sugar and pumpkin spice, topped with egg white foam, respecting the integrity of the dark Bacardi 8 brand, he said, and lightening it up with caramelized fruit.
Yanis Garcia, a bartender at Azia restaurant and cocktail lounge, Gianni’s Group, and last year’s title winner, created Blanca Mia, with Rum Diplomatico, of La Cava NV made with Diplomatico Blanco Reserva, aged for 6 years in the barrel, simple syrup, a dash of cinnamon, leeches juice, homemade mango, lime and ginger jam, Falernum sweet syrup as a traditional Caribbean modifier to the rum, and a hint of deoxygenated chili peppers, wonderfully balancing the opposing tastes.
Errol Allemekinders, a bartender at Salt & Pepper, served a cocktail created by Kevin Kock, of Divino Wine & Spirits, “Deconstructed Blackberry Mule,” with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, blackberries, and ginger air foam, a contemporary twist on a much-loved classic.
The team at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino and Island Temptations/wheninaruba were proud to provide a venue for Aruba’s talented bartenders to showcase their creativeness and further elevate the island’s growing craft cocktail scene. Cheers to all the bartenders and distributors that helped make this a dynamic evening!
Miss Aruba Anouk Eman and Food & Beverage Director Diego Lemasson, helped with the trophy presentation, both #1 place winners also received a weekend stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort.