Why South African bartenders are taking to the international stage

South Africa has become a highly sought-after participating region for international cocktail competitions as mixologists bring their local ingredients, culture and creativity to the world.

Over the past ten years of the Angostura® Global Cocktail Challenge, South African bartenders have represented the country’s exciting bar culture both at home and abroad

Dino Batista of Molecular Bars entered the Angostura® Global Cocktail Challenge 2016 and made it all the way to the Final, taking second place overall and the award for Best Rum Cocktail.

George Hunter of Copper Monkey won the AGCC 2018 South Africa National heat and moved on to the Africa & Middle East Regional leg, placing second.

Then in the latest 2020 edition, Leighton Rathbone from Orphanage Cocktail Emporium won the South Africa National heat (2019) and came second in the Africa & Middle East Regional competition.

Well-known mixologist and curator of flavour at Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen & Cape Brandy Bar, Kurt Schlechter competed in the first edition of the Angostura® Global Cocktail Challenge in 2010 placing second globally. Schlechter has also been a judge and MC of the AGCC SA National for several years. He says “As a judge and competitor it has been rewarding to be involved in such an awesome global competition. I think it’s one of the best competitions in the world as you are competing to be a brand ambassador – it’s not just about the drink. It’s a consistent competition with similar expectations year-on-year, which adds to the legacy of a great competition. It’s not an easy competition to win, which makes it even more rewarding, and the fact that you become an ambassador for the House of Angostura makes this a competition a must for all serious bartenders wanting to stake their place on a global scale”.

Kurt Schlechter at the AGCC 2018 regional heat event Why South African bartenders are taking to the international stage
Kurt Schlechter

The competition runs over the course of a year. First is a series of national events per country, moving on to regional events encompassing national winners and, finally, the Grand Final between regional winners during the greatest show on earth, the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival.

Dino Batista commented that the standard of AGCC entries is extremely high, “The recipes truly showcase interesting expressions of the Angostura range and what a mixologist is able to achieve with such distinguished products”. Of Hunter’s win in 2018 he said, “I am extremely excited to represent South Africa with amazing products like the Amaro Di Angostura, the unmatched quality of Angostura Bitters and their award-winning rum range”. Most recently, Rathbone remarked, “That little bottle of bitters with the yellow cap has been with me from day one of bartending. In fact, I initially thought that every other bitters was a knock-off of Angostura. Angostura is by far the best… It was a pleasure to compete with the national champions of Africa and the Middle East, and to have placed second. But the true prize was the people I met on this journey and the friends I made”.

The Angostura® Global Cocktail Challenge is one of the most prestigious cocktail competitions in the world, intended to nurture the young talent of the constantly evolving cocktail industry. It is a key event for bartenders around the globe and one of the most respected titles that those in the business can have under their belts. This year the competition celebrated its tenth anniversary; proof of The House of Angostura®’s commitment to cultivating the industry. Competition is always healthy to push contestants to be their best.

For more information about the competition, visit www.AngosturaGlobalCocktailChallenge.com.