What’s it like to be a Brand Ambassador for The House of Angostura? Most people vye for the spot, but only so many ever call themselves one. Neal Ramdhan captured the title in 2016 when he was crowned champion of the Global Cocktail Challenge. The 25-year-old Trinindad & Tobago resident has had a lot to reflect on over the last year, from networking opportunities to an expanded knowledge base.
Read below to hear all about Neal’s experiences as his first year as a Brand Ambassador for the iconic company:
The opportunity to serve as Global Brand Ambassador for the House of Angostura® has been a life changer. My experience equipped me with the tools I needed to become not only a professional bartender but also a professional presenter, and allowed me to travel the world speaking of the craft. Before the Angostura® Global Cocktail Challenge (AGCC), traveling to different countries and continents was a fantasy for me. It has been surreal! And it has truly been an honor to represent such a well-established and internationally recognized organization in the spirits industry.
I am proud to be part of the House of Angostura® with its diverse portfolio of rums, bitters and most recently, Amaro. Being a Brand Ambassador for the House of Angostura® has been the culmination of my career goals. It has allowed me to challenge myself and explore my true potential, and has prepared me to become a true professional on an international stage.
My greatest memory is hearing Sandrae Lawrence, Editor at The Cocktail Lovers Magazine, pronounce me champion at the AGCC 2016. I was immensely impressed with the high level of craftsmanship of the competing bartenders from around the world and the intensity of the competition. It was also an opportunity to experience and live the true ‘Spirit of Trinidad & Tobago” with the cultural immersion and the technical exposure. The camaraderie among the competitors helped me developed a global network.
Part of my strategy for the competition was to practice, practice, and practice. Completing Angostura’s proprietary training programme, The Theatre of Mixing® gave me tremendous brand knowledge and understanding of Angostura’s corporate history. I also borrowed on the expertise of others who had participated in the competition before. Daniyel Jones, who is also resident in Trinidad, was an invaluable resource for me. Future competitors, I recommend that you tap into the experience of the Angostura® Global Cocktail Champion in your area. Daniyel helped me focus on my story telling and my mise-en-place. I also spent a lot of time researching the styles and techniques of industry pioneers on YouTube; people like Salvatorie Calabrese, Luca Cinalli, Ian Burrell and Simone Caporale. My tenure as Angostura’s Brand Ambassador gave me the opportunity to meet these inspiring people at Tales of the Cocktail in 2016!
Travel, of course, has created great opportunities for me. Not only have I expanded my network, but I’ve learnt about special ingredients and techniques from all parts of the world. For example, the reverse dry shake I observed at a bar in Miami, which I later adopted. Also, my first seminar at Tales of the Cocktail 2016 introduced me to Aquafaba, a bi-product of chick peas that can create foams and substitute the for eggs whites in cocktails. It is way more cost effective, easier to work with, and has a much longer shelf life.
Consumers today are dynamic, as a bartender and as professionals, we bartenders need to be able to offer them drink options that are gluten free, vegan and easy on the pocket. This was the driving factor for my use of aquafaba, in my favourite cocktail, the ‘Rumble’. The Rumble was inspired by my love for the classic Daiquiri, which was created by an American engineer and later got its name from an iron or salts mine. The classic calls for rum, citrus (lime) and a sweetener; but following the emerging trend of modern classics, I have included my own twist by incorporating aquafaba as well as an Amaro di ANGOSTURA® float, adding a greater depth, aroma and creamy mouth feel to the classic Daiquiri. I think the result is much more stimulating and palatable for the consumer.
I am a big proponent of substitutions for traditional ingredients. As the industry grows, it is driving competition and innovation. In fact, in my winning cocktail, the Bitter Mayan, I used Oleo Saccharum. The oils of fresh citrus peels are left to steep in cane, sugar creating an economical, single-based ingredient that is a well-balanced combination of sweet and sour.
As Angostura’s® Brand Ambassador I was privileged to attend the Tales of the Cocktail and the Berlin Convention Bar (BCB) shows. I enjoyed both tremendously and learned a lot. Tales of the Cocktail is a vital source of education and helped me keep au courant with industry trends. BCB helped me understand the number of players (traditional and non-traditional) within the industry. Both shows gave me a much better understanding of all the categories of spirits.
The Angostura® Global Cocktail Challenge 2018 will be held in Trinidad on 11th February 2018 and I will be a Judge on the panel. I hope to pass the baton to someone who will continue to work to elevate the craft using Angostura’s fine rums, bitters and amaro. Angostura® is absolutely focused on the evolution of cocktail culture, which is fitting when you consider that ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters was around when Jerry Thomas first mentioned the cocktail. A brand with such a long heritage is uniquely positioned to ensure the longevity of cocktail culture globally.
The competition has been improved this year to challenge bartenders in various aspects of being a Brand Ambassador. The prize remains at US$10,000 and a two-year contract as the Angostura® global brand ambassador.
My advice to those wishing to enter: Research the House of Angostura® and the judges as much as possible. Also, be mindful that this is an international panel with an international palate.
Please visit www.angosturaglobalcocktailchallenge.com to find out more.
2oz Angostura® White Oak
3/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz Aquafaba
2 dashes of ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters
1 bar spoon Amaro di Angostura®/ Port Float
Add all ingredients excepting Amaro/ Port into shaking glass filled with ice. Shake rigorously, strain liquid, dispose of ice then dry shake. Pour cocktail into glass and float Amaro.