Mix it up

Debbie Jacob visits the 2012 Angostura Aromatic Bitters Global Cocktail Challenge and inspects some irresistible creations

  • Carla Cupid: Angostura’s Evening Clencher (left) and Trini Breakfast (right). Photograph courtesy Angostura
  • David Delaney Jr: Five Island Fizz (left) and On Second Thought (right). Photograph courtesy Angostura
  • Competitors share a light moment together after the competition. Photograph courtesy Angostura
  • Rikki Carter, David Delaney Jr. and Jamaal Brown. Photograph courtesy Angostura
  • Jamaal Bowen: Siegert’s Quest (left) and Farmer’s affair (right). Photograph courtesy Angostura

There’s Roxy Rose and African Sunset, a Trinidad and Tobago Cobbler and even a Bacchanal.

It’s Carnival Sunday in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and the Angostura Aromatic Bitters Global Cocktail Challenge is under way at Trotters Restaurant and Bar. Fifteen international competitors are mixing and shaking exotic drinks with names that sound like Carnival costumes.

They’re meeting the challenge with a good deal of creativity. Coconut jam, vanilla ice cream, green tea, cinnamon syrup, lychee juice, rosewater – they’ve all found a home in one recipe or another. The essence, of course, is Trinidad and Tobago’s Angostura rum and the legendary Angostura Aromatic Bitters, brought to Trinidad in 1824 by Dr Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert when he fled turbulent Venezuela for a new home in Trinidad.

Like Carnival bandleaders, these ordinary bartenders and sophisticated mixologists have produced a pageant of colourful drinks catching the essence of the Caribbean, or conjuring up romantic, rugged images of faraway places and tastes.

Roxanne Read of Johannesburg, South Africa, created her Roxy Rose with ingredients like Bombay Sapphire gin, rose extract, lychee juice, Angostura Aromatic Bitters and cucumber syrup, all topped with clouds of billowy egg whites. Her African Sunset required cloves, bitters, rooibos syrup and peach halves.

Rizal Junior Johari of Malaysia dressed up his Angostura 1919 Rum with coconut rum, Angostura Aromatic Bitters, and Angostura Orange Bitters (a modern take on the company’s classic product), adding coconut jam and coconut water, all served in a tiki mug.

From down-under Perth, bartender Joe Sinagra topped his Angostura 1919 Rum-based Black Chevron with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Maxence Traverse mixed black peppercorns with a sweet blend of Angostura 1919 and apricot brandy, calling it Tickled Pink. Dhanpal Parmar represented India with drinks like his freestyle Molasses Delight, featuring sugar cane juice and a ginger/lemon peel infusion.

It is no fluke that several contestants have used Angostura’s legendary 1919 rum, developed after a fire destroyed the Government Rum Bond in 1932: it turned out that the charred barrels had been filled in 1919.

Giuseppe Santamaria, the European Union representative, chose Angostura’s Five Year Old Gold Rum to conjure up his Tobago Spice Swizzle, which contains generous portions of Angostura’s traditional Bitters, lime juice, cinnamon syrup and Amaretto Diaronno. Like a sunbather decked out on the beach, this one basks under a vanilla straw lolling in half-lime caramelised with brown sugar, cinnamon and a hibiscus flower.

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North America has sent three representatives. One, Rachel Ford, is a cocktail stylist with her own consultancy and mixology business. Described as a “fiery personality matching her red hair”, she evoked times past with her freestyle cocktail Seventeenth Century, involving green chartreuse, Angostura Aromatic Bitters, and a lemon twist, served in an old-fashioned glass.

Ilya Bubashvili from Moscow is a surprising and welcome contestant. He grew up with the tastes and smells of his native Russia. As a boy, the enigmatic bar manager of Aloha Bar in Moscow helped his mother prepare traditional Russian fruit compôte, syrupy fruit desserts with almonds, raisins, orange peel or cinnamon, desserts that originated from 17th century France. Ilya merged his childhood memories with his imagined Caribbean to create a freestyle cocktail with Calpis sour milk drink, soda water, lime and pineapple juice served in a goblet and garnished with pineapple slices, mint leaves, cinnamon stick, orange peel and generous dashes of both the traditional Angostura Bitters and the modern Angostura Orange Bitters.

Like most of the other contestants, Ezequiel Rodriguez of Argentina has used Angostura Aromatic Bitters, with grapefruit juice and Seven Year Old Dark Rum for an Angostura Swizzle. The UK representative, Nastassia Martin, a native of Arima in Trinidad, whipped up her Bacchanal with Mezcal, Amaro, Amer Picon, thyme-infused syrup, bitters, and a frothy egg white.

One of the most popular contestants is Carla Cupid, a mixologist for 11 years who now works at the Kapok hotel in Port of Spain. Carla has dared to make a Trini Breakfast Cocktail that turns 1919 Rum and passion fruit liqueur into a sweet, surprising drink with cherry brandy, Grand Marnier, ripe mangos, guava jam, rosemary, and five generous dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Dr Siegert’s humble elixir has come a long, long way from revolutionary Venezuela. When he fled to Trinidad two centuries ago with his secret recipe, he could hardly have imagined that it would become a household name in kitchens and bars, and an essential ingredient in the world’s cocktails. And what would he have made of the many temptations of the cocktail challenge that Carnival Sunday in Trinidad?

So who won?

The winner
David Delaney Jr. (Massachusetts, US)
Five Island Fizz featuring Barrits Ginger Beer, Angostura Five Year Old Gold Rum, Velvet Falernum, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and Angostura Bitters.
On Second Thought, freestyle cocktail: a tangy sweet, tantalising combination of Laird’s Applejack, Benedictine, cherry liqueur, maple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice and Angostura Aromatic Bitters.

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Second place
Rikki Carter (New Zealand)
Gregor’s Legacy, featuring Mandarin Napoleon, Angostura Bitters and mango juice.
Johann’s Bittered Sling, a smooth rum cocktail with a lime bite.

Third place
Jamaal Brown (Barbados – resident mixologist and trainer at the Sandy Lane Hotel)
Farmer’s Affair, a fruity mixture of orange vodka, kola tonic, bell pepper, pineapple syrup, lime juice, twelve hearty dashes of Angostura Bitters
Seigert’s Quest, a rum cocktail that infused sage leaves and mango juice with Angostura Aromatic and Orange Bitters and Angostura 1919 Rum.

• Tony Abou-Ganim (head judge) A pioneer in the world of classic cocktail making
• Eric Forget, cellar master at Hine Cognac
• Andy Griffiths, winner of the 2011 Angostura Aromatic Bitters Global Cocktail Challenge
• Vidia Doodnath, executive director for technical operations, the Angostura Group of Companies
• Jacob Briars, internationally renowned mixologist.


David Delaney

1 ½ oz Laird’s Applejack
½ oz Benedictine
½ oz Cherry Heering Liqueur
½ oz Maple Syrup (medium grade “A”)
¾ oz Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
5 dashes Angostura ® aromatic bitters
5oz Coupe
Garnish: Cinnamon dusted dehydrated lemon wheel
Method: Add all ingredients into mixing tin, add ice, shake and strain into pre-chilled coupe. Garnish and serve.

RUM COCKTAIL: Five Island Fizz
1 ½ oz Angostura ® 5 Year Gold Rum
¾ oz Velvet Falernum
½ oz Fresh squeezed lime juice
¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 ½ oz Barrits  Ginger Beer
5 dashes Angostura ® aromatic bitters
Glass: 12oz  Collins Glass
Garnish: Lime Wheel wrapped around a Luxardo Cherry
Method: Add rum, falernum, lime, and maraschino into mixing tin. Add ice, shake briefly and strain into Collins glass. Add ginger beer, fill with crushed ice and dash bitters to float on top. Garnish and serve.

Jamaal Bowen

4oz Orange Vodka
3oz Kola Tonic
3oz Bell Pepper Syrup
6oz Fresh Pineapple Juice
Juice of a lime
12 dashes Angostura ® aromatic bitters
Glass: Pilsner Glass
Garnish: Bell pepper & pineapple skewers
Method: Place all ingredients (except bitters) into a large mixing glass and mix gently; place ice into pilsner glass and dash bitters on. Pour cocktail over ice , stir, garnish and serve.

RUM COCKTAIL: Siegert’s Quest
3oz Angostura ® 1919 rum
1 ½ oz Falernum
10 dashes Angostura ® aromatic bitters
dashes Angostura ® orangebitters
8 sage leaves
4oz Mango juice
Glass: Lowball glass
Garnish: Mango slices & sage leaves
Method: Muddle sage in a mixing glass with aromatic bitters  and orange bitters. Add all other ingredients  and ice then shake vigorously. Double strain into lowball glass the garnish & serve.

Carla Cupid

FREESTYLE COCKTAIL: Angostura’s Evening Clencher
1 ½ oz Angostura ® 7 year old Dark rum
½  oz Ruby port wine
¾  oz Egg whites
1 bar spoon white cane sugar¾ oz  Evaporated milk
½  Vanilla pod
1 ½ tablespoons fresh sour sop
5 dashes Angostura ® aromatic bitters
Glass: Cocktail Tulip
Garnish: Sour Sop canapé with vanilla wafers
Method: Emulsify egg whites with white cane sugar; Muddle sour sop with vanilla pod, adding 7 year old rum, Ruby Port , Evaporated Milk and aromatic bitters in mixing tin. Shake ingredients using “Japanese Hard Shake”.

RUM COCKTAIL: Trini Breakfast Cocktail

1 ¼ oz Angostura ® 1919 rum
½  oz Passion Fruit Liqueur
¼  oz  Fernandes Cherry Brandy
1 ¼ oz Grand Marnier
2-3 Slices of fresh ripened mangos
1 bar-spoon Guava Jam
1 sprig Rosemary
5 dashes Angostura ® aromatic bitters
Glass: Cocktail
Garnish: Mango slices glazed in honey
Method: Sauté mango slices , Grand Marnier, Rosemary and 3 dashes of Angostura ® aromatic bitters heated skillet. Place sautéed ingredients into mixing tin and add 1919 rum, passion fruit liqueur , cherry brandy , guava jam and Angostura ® aromatic bitters. Muddle and shake all ingredients in Cobbler Shaker and double strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add Garnish