Bahamian bartender Marv Cunningham has won the 10th anniversary edition of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge. Cunningham even dressed the part, donning a white jacket printed with tropical leaves as an added touch to his performance. He certainly impressed the judges because he also won the award for best rum cocktail. Second place winner Rohan Massie of Australia came in second, copping the prize for best Amaro (Angostura’s special liqueur) cocktail. Rounding up the top three was Agung Satria, who hailed from Vietnam via Bali.
A humble Cunningham thanked his colleagues, praising their professionalism, adding that he learnt much over the few days he spent with them preparing for the competition.
“It’s all about each one reach one, teach one. You are all winners in your right. I’m proud to be here among you,” he said.
Along with a medal and a trophy, Cunningham walked away with a US$10,000 prize.
The challenge is a hallmark event on the global bartending calendar, held biannually. This is its tenth year, and took place on Saturday at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
The nine finalists come from all over the world, including TT’s own Shana Rajahram. She’ll be up against Marv Cunningham from The Bahamas, Chad Lawrence (Canada), Gustavo Costa (Brazil), Mike Jordhoy (France), Rohan Massie (Australia), Simon Dacey (United Kingdom), Vasile Dorofeev (Dubai) and Agung Satria (Vietnam).
Judging the competition were celebrity DJ Christopher “Jillionaire” Leacock, head judge and James Beard award-winning beverage professional, Maxwell Britten; Eryn Reece, bar director at New York’s The Wooly Public; Joe Schofield, co-owner of Schofield’s Bar in Manchester, UK; Angostura chief brand educator, Raymond Edwards; and the reigning Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge champion, Raymond Letoa of New Zealand (who wore a variation of a traditional Maori dress but made out of custom-printed cloth featuring an iconic Angostura bitters bottle). For the next challenge, Cunningham will return as a judge.
The event also doubled as a mini Carnival fete to get people ready for the season. Along with the Angostura bar featuring some iconic cocktails like the Queen’s Park Swizzle, there was also an after party after the competition, featuring performances by soca stars Nailah Blackman, Patrice Roberts and chutney soca star Ravi B (famous for his songs about rum. Capping the night off was Jillionaire, who performed a specially curated set for the night. There was also a performance by Polish bar tending performance partners Tomek Malek and Marek Posluszny, known professionally Flair Factory, who impressed with their bottle tossing skills.
Angostura’s chairman Terrence Bharath notes that Angostura has been an official part of Carnival since about 1950. “We are intrinsically linked, like spice and sugar. Without White Oak (the brand’s signature white rum) and soca there would be no Carnival,” he said. Angostura was a sponsor of Carnival, he added.
“We are here. We will always be here and we intend to be here for years and years to come.”