maandag 3 december 2018

Amaro Montenegro Residency 2018 (1/2) : The competition, workshops and masterclasses

Disclaimer :
Amaro Montenegro Residency 2018 was an international event which took place in Bologna, Florence and Rome. For this reason I decided to write the articles about this event in English. I was invited to this press-event by Amaro Montenegro and their distributor Cinoco. The complete content of these articles are my personal opinion and describe my experiences during this trip. I don’t want to promote any kind of abusive drinking. Enjoy quality drinks, but don’t drink too much. During this trip we always had rented transport with a professional driver to take us back to the hotels.

Amaro Montenegro Residency 2018 was een internationaal evenement dat doorging in Bologna, Firenze en Rome. Om die reden heb ik besloten om de artikels over dit event in het Engels te schrijven. Ik nam deel aan deze perstrip als blogger/verslaggever op uitnodiging van Amaro Montenegro en hun distributeur Cinoco. De volledige inhoud van het artikel is mijn persoonlijke mening en het relaas van mijn ervaring. Ik wil absoluut geen drankmisbruik promoten. Geniet van kwalitatieve drankjes, maar met mate. Gedurende deze volledige reis hadden we ook steeds een gehuurd transport met chauffeur ter beschikking om ons terug naar de hotels te brengen.

Amaro Montenegro Residency 2018 (1/2) :
The competition, workshops and masterclasses 

A. The serious stuff

After a first dinner on Sunday evening where we met our amazing international group of bartenders, bloggers, press and industry professionals, Monday was completely packed with workshops and masterclasses.

First on the list was a visit to the main factory of Amaro Montenegro, just outside of Bologna. We  walked through the production process of both Amaro Montenegro and Vecchia Romagna brandy. The “sexy outfits” we had to wear because of the food inspection regulations were close to hilarious.

The first workshop was probably the most intense and interesting masterclass of this whole week. Matteo Bonoli, Head Herbalist of Amaro Montenegro (and also one of the judges during the competition) gave a very hands-on workshop about the 40 herbs and spices that are used in the production of Amaro Montenegro.
The bartenders were invited to make their own maceration, which then went to other side of the table to be distilled (live!) to a spirit.
After this the whole group could experiment. We got a glass with a mix of water, alcohol and sugar. On the table was a suitcase with all the herbs and a range of liquids which were already prepared macerations of these herbs.
We would experiment with adding these liquids to the glass to get as near as possible to the real Amaro Montenegro. One table almost nailed it. Mine was certainly a bit too sweet and not dark enough in color.

After lunch we got a very nice line-up of speakers during the afternoon workshops :

Rudi Carraro “The Interesting journey of Amaro Montenegro… and myself”
Rudi inspired us with his personal journey starting from washing the dishes to serving his first cocktail to customers, being  part of the Nr.1 barcrew at The Artesian (London) and now Amaro Montenegro Global Ambassador.
He also prepared a range of basic Amaro Montenegro cocktails for us to taste and explore.

Daniele Gentili “From an idea to a business”
Daniele is the Head Bartender at The Corner – Marco Martini, a Michelin Star restaurant in Rome. Because lots of bartenders dream of having their own cocktailbar, Daniele took us through all the things you really have to consider when you want to open your own bar. For me this was more or less basic knowledge, but I could notice the bartenders soaking in all this information.

Marian Beke “Bar products and ingredients vs bartender”
Marian Beke is the Head Bartender at The Gibson in London. He also created his own gin together with Copperhead. His mindblowing presentation showed us how you can think out of the box as a bartender. How about re-distilling Amaro Montenegro to separate a clear spirit from an almost non-alcohol (3%) herbal residue. Both liquids have the flavors and aromas of Amaro Montenegro and can be used to make a cocktail (e.g. Montenegro Martini) and a mocktail. He also got us interested and excited up to a level where we all tried a cocktail with insects.

After these workshops the contestants got to speed-date with Rudi Carraro, Marian Beke, Peter Dorelli and Salvatore Calabrese to get some personal tips and advice. I’ll get back to Peter and Salvatore later.

Vero Bartender Global Final 2018

The most exciting moment of the Amaro Montenegro Residency 2018 was the global final of the Vero Bartender 2018 cocktail competition. Just a few months ago Xander Dedroog, bartender at Bar 9 (Leuven) and Dirty Rabbit (Antwerp), won the Belgian competition.
In Italy he had to compete against nine other country winners in two rounds. For next year Amaro Montenegro is hoping to double or even triple the amount of competing countries. It’s their aim to find bartenders who have a true heart for hospitality and who want to be creative with low ABV cocktails.

The competing finalists :
  • Elsedio Huta – Albany
  • Will Krepop – Australia
  • Armin Mohebbi – Austria
  • Xander Dedroog – Belgium
  • Markus Müller – Germany
  • Michael Limoni – Italy
  • Lukas Sedimaier – Netherlands
  • Andrea Civetinni – Spain
  • Aleksandra Jaworska – UK (Scotland)
  • Kyle Erkes – USA
On Tuesday 27th November we were welcomed at the Palazzo de’ Toschi, which was the battleground for this competition. In a first round each contestant could present his or her personal twist on a classic, with Amaro Montenegro as a main ingredient. In a second round, they were paired with another contestant and had to prepare a new cocktail on the spot to match a dish which would be presented to them from a secret box. The dishes were prepared by Chef Davide Degiovanni from a London based Gordon Ramsay restaurant.
After both competition rounds the jury went into conclave and we got a very nice intermezzo by cocktail-industry icons Peter Dorelli and Salvatore Calabrese with their very funny presentation “100 years of bartending”.
Between the both of them they actually have more than 100 years of bartending experience. Both of them succeeded to lift their London based bars up to the very top in this industry. They are known and respected by every single bartender in the world. They shared stories and anecdotes of their bartending adventures throughout the years. They served cocktails to royals, presidents and celebrities. Salvatore told a touching story about a famous artist who entered his bar and asked if he could play a few songs on the piano. When he was done he stood up and turned to Salvatore with the words “from one artist to another”. And that’s true, bartenders who put their passion in their creations are not only liquid chefs, they are true artists.  
At the end of a long and nerve-wrecking day, Andrea Civettini, bartender at Bar Paradiso in Barcelona, took away the first Vero Bartender trophy. He won a whole bundle of prices among which a personal workshop by a star-chef and a ticket to Tales of the Cocktail in the US, which is the Nr.1 cocktail-event in the world. Our Belgian contestant also did very well. They didn’t communicate the scores to the public, but several people confirmed that Xander was also very high on the list. This fantastic day in the heart of Bologna ended with the official Vero Bartender After Party at The Nu Lounge.
We ended the workshops the next day in Florence. Alex Kratena did a presentation “The business of creativity”, pointing out common mistakes in a bar which can easily be avoided.
B. The not so serious stuff

During this week we also did a lot of fun stuff. Of course we visited lots of excellent bars and restaurants, which will be featured and listed in our second article (!!!) about this amazing trip. We discovered amazing drinks and had a lot of shots of Amaro Montenegro in excellent company.
But we also got to visit and experience some other things :
On Wednesday we did a Fiat 500 Tour “The colors of Chianti in fall”.
A 3-hour tour around Florence which also brought us to the Villa Le Corti San Casciano, a local producer of extra virgin olive oil and Chianti wines.
We visited both production facilities and the gardens. We ended our stay with a culinary tasting of their wines and oils.
One of the most interesting facts : They only produce extra virgin olive oil, which leaves a very rich residue, which is not used for less quality olive oil in a second pressing. They use it to heath their building.
On Thursday we could join a pizza-making class by Chef Fabrizio di Leginia at Voia, a new bar and restaurant in Rome.
We learned very fast that making a pizza and scooping it up and into the 300° oven isn’t that easy at all.
We laughed and learned a lot this week.

More about all the great bars and restaurants in our next article !  

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