KUALA LUMPUR (24 November 2023) – Creativity, innovation and mixology magic were on full display at the prestigious Marini’s on 57 Lounge this recent Monday. Ten of the Kuala Lumpur’s top masters of mixology came together for an evening of fierce but friendly competition to determine who would be crowned the winner of the 2023 Viva Marini Bartending Competition and its RM10,000 top prize.
The drink-slinging showdown provided lots of entertainment and merriment as many of the bartenders presented unique cocktails that wowed the judges and those present. These 10 finalists were selected based on their entries in the preliminary round, which kicked off on 16 October 2023.
Participants had to submit an original cocktail recipe based on the “Celebration” theme and post a creative video of themselves preparing the cocktail on Instagram. The bartenders with the best 10 recipes and videos were then shortlisted to compete in the final round on 20 November 2023 which required them to make two original drinks in person and be judged live on their presentation, flavour profiles and more.
The Viva Marini Bartending Competition was introduced last year as part of the 10th anniversary celebration activities for Marini’s on 57 and The Marini’s Group. This cocktail challenge is in its second year and is set to become an annual event for the acclaimed dining and entertainment group.
“The Marini’s Group believes in pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation and this year’s competition was an exciting event that saw that happen. We are thrilled and honoured to have had so many amazing talents behind the bar and our judges were once again impressed by the high standards and levels that were seen today. It is truly a testament to the participants’ skills and creativity and we take our hats off to them,” said Cavaliere Modesto Marini, founder and owner of The Marini’s Group.
“Creating cocktails is an art that requires knowledge, passion and a good palate while consistently delivering those unique creations with quality takes skill and hard work. While the Viva Marini Bartending Competition is intended to be an additional stage for our bartending industry professionals to showcase their skills, we also want it to be a fun and friendly platform for young talents and provide a voice for those who need to be seen in this industry,” he added. “We look forward to seeing more displays of excellence next year and definitely welcome global participation in the event.”
The battle of the bartenders at the Marini’s on 57 Lounge saw nine gentlemen and one lady pull out all the stops, showcasing their creativity, knowledge, techniques and different bartending styles in their attempt to deliver the ultimate cocktail to the judges. At the end of the evening, the sole rose among the thorns emerged victorious – Amanda Wan Winchester of Wholly Spirits was named the best bartender of the night and winner of the RM10,000 cash prize.
The 37-year-old presented the Money Pot as her Celebration-themed concoction, a generous sharing drink which contains Haku Vodka, oolong tea honey, lemon juice, passionfruit soda and champagne. For the disco-themed cocktail, Amanda crafted The Sun Never Sets, which is a Tequila Sunrise meets Garibaldi and Mezcal Negroni drink that contains Machetazo Cupreata Mezcal, Campari, Cucielo Rosso and fluffy orange juice made using Naren Young’s technique of juicing the fruit without its peel through a high-speed centrifugal juicer to introduce air into the mixture.
Amanda is the 2010 Malaysian champion of the DIAGEO World Class Bartender of the Year Competition and has been listed as one of Hong Kong’s top mixologists over the years. While elated with her win, Amanda was surprised to find herself the only female bartender in the final line-up.
“Thirteen years ago when I first entered my pivotal bartending competition and won, I was the only rose then. To see the same pattern again broke my heart a little but I would like to encourage female bartenders to step up to the challenge. Women bring so much more to the table with the right opportunities and personal confidence so girls, stand up and stand proud because we need to see you and hear you!” said Amanda.
The first runner-up was Jason Dennis D’Cruz of Te Amo who won RM5,000 cash. For his first drink, the 26-year-old mixed Harmony, a drink that pays a poetic homage to life with its use of Martell Noblige, coffee liqueur, salted caramel syrup, dry curaçao, Angostura Bitters, Angostura Cocoa Bitters and a mystery garnish. His second drink, Cabana Flashback, is a twist on the classic Blue Hawaiian and inspired by a forest excursion during his college days. The concoction uses jackfruit-infused rum, vanilla pods-infused vodka, passionfruit syrup, fresh lime juice and pineapple juice and is topped with jackfruit foam.
Making a return to the competition was Matthew ‘Mattman’ Joseph of BAC Bar, who kept the crowd entertained with witty banter and costume changes. The British national was the second runner-up and winner of RM3,000 cash. His first cocktail was Festive Fizz, a drink that is designed to spark up memories of a Christmas lost to yesteryears. The tasty tipple was a combination of Martell Noblige Cognac, Beefeater Gin infused with Christmas spices, homemade orange sponge cake syrup, lemon juice, egg white and Angostura bitters, and garnished with a dehydrated orange slice and vanilla essence. For the competition, it was also served with German stollen for more festive flavours. Mattman’s second drink was Disco Ball, “a Bee’s Knees that the Bee Gees would drink.” The smooth cocktail was a mix of Beefeater Gin, Sangkoh Langkau, honey, lemon juice, milk, and edible glitter.
During the awards ceremony, surprise additional prizes were announced – RM1,000 cash for fourth place, RM500 cash for fifth place and RM200 cash for each remaining finalist as a consolation prize. In addition to the trophies and cash prizes, all top five winners will also have their winning tipples listed on the Marini’s on 57 Bar and Lounge cocktail menus.
Lee Wei Lung, 25, of Parkroyal Collection Kuala Lumpur won fourth place for his cocktails Roinneadh (pronounced ‘row-na’) and Unconventional Breakthrough while Ram Prasad of BAC Bar took fifth place. The 26-year-old poured Varna Mela and Hot Stuff for the judges.
The finalists and their drinks were:
|DRINK NO. 1
|DRINK NO. 2
|Shandy to Brandy
|Lee Wei Lung
|Parkroyal Collection Kuala Lumpur
|Lamech Prem Lenkalpally
|Marquis Sky Lounge
|Jason Dennis D’Cruz
|Amanda Wan Winchester
|The Sun Never Sets
|Matthew ‘Mattman’ Joseph
|Getting Caught in the Rain
The judging panel for the 2023 Viva Marini Bartending Competition comprised Bastien Michaud, the Pernod Ricard brand ambassador for Martell, Mumm and Perrier-Jouet; Jon Lee, founder and head bartender of Penrose KL and 2019 Gin Mare national champion of Singapore; and Nicholas Ng, F&B journalist of Food for Thought.
The spirits partners for this year’s event are Absolut, Amaro di Angostura, Angostura Caribbean Rum, Angostura Cocoa Bitters, Auchentoshan, Beefeater London, Campari, Chivas Regal, Cucielo Vermouth, Haku Vodka, Jameson Irish Whiskey, The Japanese Bitters, Jura Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Maker’s Mark, Martell Cognac, Mujestic and Roku Gin.