Jason Clark from Betty's Function House & Bar and Hummingbird Eatery is winging his way to Jamaica after winning Appleton Estate Rum's sixth National Cocktail Invitational last night at Auckland's Tyler St Garage.
Jason's talent behind the bar helped him take the top prize in the face of tough competition against five other finalists from Queenstown, Wellington and Auckland.
James Goggin from Suite Bar in Auckland came second and Connor Sainsbury-Canham from Queenstown's No. 5 Church Lane took out third place. Wellington was also represented in the final by Peter Lowry from Hawthorn Lounge and Tom Egerton from Motel.
Competition rules stipulated that each cocktail presented to the judging panel must be influenced by a song of choice which then played as the finalists mixed their drinks.
The Wellington bartender impressed judges with his inspiring 'Hot Banana Buttered Rum' which he mixed to the banana boat song 'Day-O'.
"I'm really excited about my win. Some of the other contestants' Appleton Estate cocktails were incredible and I've learnt a few tips from them which I'm looking forward to trying out myself.
"Winning the trip to Jamaica is really just the cherry on top of what has been an amazing experience. It will be an honour to have the chance to represent New Zealand in Jamaica for such a prestigious rum brand," says Jason.
Jason will now jet off to Jamaica to represent New Zealand at the 2012 Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum Bartender Challenge in November. There he will take part in the showcase alongside the cocktail making elite from ten other countries including USA, UK, Canada, Mexico and Australia.
As part of his prize, Jason will also have a chance to spend time with Joy Spence, the world renowned Master Blender for Appleton Estate, and of course visit the famed Appleton Estate, home of one of the finest rum ranges in the world.
Nigel Owen, Brand Manager of Appleton Estate at Lion, says Jason showed real aptitude and flair at the final which culminated in him being crowned the winner.
"We would like to congratulate Jason for his outstanding performance and thank all of the other bartenders for taking the time to enter. We were blown away by how each finalist found a way to connect with Appleton</a> Estate Rum and show its versatility in cocktails. The creativity and sheer talent we saw from the finalists in creating unique flavour combinations was phenomenal," he says.
Each competitor was personally invited to submit their two favourite cocktail recipes via Facebook and then received a personal visit at their bar from the judging panel. They were also 'mystery shopped' on their performance and the promotion of Appleton Estate cocktails in their bar was also taken into consideration.
The judging panel included Frankie Walker (Lion's Luxury Spirits Ambassador), Nigel Owen (Brand Manager for Appleton Estate) and Barney Toy from Suite Bar (last year's Appleton Estate National Cocktail Champion).
Hot Banana Buttered Rum
5x 5mm thick slices of fresh banana
Large pinch spice mix (equal parts nutmeg & cinnamon)
15ml Butterscotch liqueur
45ml Appleton Estate 8yr Rum
1.0g butter (little fingernail size)
45ml *Banana Cream (30ml Banana Liqueur to 300ml cream)
1. To a hot pan on a gas stove add the above ingredients (in order), to the following instructions
2. Fry and muddle the banana (20 seconds)
3. Add spice to toast
4. Immediately add butterscotch to caramelise sugars and stir (20 seconds)
5. Add water and bring to boil
6. Add Appleton Estate Rum 8YO
7. Heat until just before boiling point (approx 75 degrees Celsius)
8. Remove from heat
9. Strain into a heated vintage martini glass (or similar)
10. Add small knob of butter
11. Layer banana cream
12. Garnish with grated dark chocolate
13. Accompany with a ginger nut biscuit - dip into Hot Banana Buttered Rum and enjoy!
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