Ioannis Yianni, a bartender from Cyprus was honored for mixing the best cocktail Invictus (Invincible) in the Riga Black Balsam Global Cocktail Challenge 2018. Getting to know the taste nuances of the legendary Riga Black Balsam, 30 bartenders from 15 European countries participated in the international competition this year. The winners of the first three places divided a prize fund of EUR 5000, with the first-place winner going home with a big check for EUR 3000.
“I really liked the cherry-flavored version of the Riga Black Balsam, because it gave me, as a bartender, so many chances to make a variety of cocktails in different formats,” says first prize winner Ioannis Yianni. “This is the first time that a delegation of bartenders from Cyprus participated in this competition, so our achievement is very good. For me it was the first time visiting Riga. Being here we could sample a little of the nightlife in Riga. As a citizen of a hot blooded and passionate nation, I could have some suggestions for making Riga nightlife even more passionate,” Ioannis says with a smile.
Each bartender was given only 7 minutes to make one’s view of the best cocktail with the balsam so well known to Latvians. The international jury evaluated the contribution of each competitor, paying attention to the smallest details such as was the cocktail prepared in the allotted time, was it prepared according to the best standards of bartender etiquette, as well as evaluating taste, aroma, the overall image and the idea.
“I am not a bartender. I am a dreamer and a storyteller. I assume that the pharmacist Abraham Kunze, who started the recipe of this drink in 1752, wanted to make this beverage known to all. Thanks to these international competitions, we have succeeded in making Riga Black Balsam a drink that is favored and understood in many European countries. Like the honorable pharmacist Kunze, I am closing in on the dream where our balsam is known all around the world,” Amber Beverage Group global brand director Maris Kalnins shared his impressions of the competition.
Second place and a EUR 1500 cash prize was taken by Stefan Ludwig from Switzerland with his cocktail Golden Night Riga, and the honorable third place and a EUR 500 cash prize went to a bartender from Latvia, Olegs Hindogins, with his patriotically named cocktail Red and White.
“I am proud that this year we were able to assemble so many great bartenders, both ladies and gentlemen, to make cocktails with this black Latvian power drink. That our championship has become a truly global event is confirmed by the fact that we engaged two world champions to evaluate this year’s cocktails. I am very pleased with the accomplishments of our colleague Olegs, getting Latvia one of the three prize places. This shows that we have world class bartenders in Latvia as well,” Raitis Akerblums, president of the Latvian Bartenders’ Federation commented.
Riga Black Balsam Global Cocktail Challenge 2018 was organized by Amber Beverage Group in cooperation with the Latvian Bartenders’ Federation. This year’s jury was comprised of the 2013 world cocktail champion and president of the Finnish Bartenders’ Club Greta Gronholm, Savoy Hotel bartender Juris Kenins, Edvin Rudzinskas, co-author of the blog Cocktails for You as well as the 2017/2018 world champion in cocktail mixing Mario Hofferer.