Competition Update: Sombra Mezcal & Amaro Montenegro

By Neat Pour Staff |

It’s time again for the competitive cocktailers to start making their way through the preliminary rounds towards the unimaginable spoils of the finals and distillery junkets. This week, Sombra Mezcal announced the first round of victors in their unique collaboration with Trash Tiki and Amaro Montenegro tapped the U.S. champion in their inaugural international The Vero Bartender competition.

Amaro Montenegro’s The Vero Bartender

On Tuesday (10.16), Kyle Erkes of Raleigh, NC topped a field of ten competitors to take home the Montenegro crown. His prize-winner was a riff on the classic Bamboo—with amaro added, of course (1 oz. Amaro Montenegro, .75 oz. Bodegas Grant La Garrocha Amontillado Sherry, .5 oz. Pikesville Rye, 1 barspoon of Benedictine and ten drops Basil-infused oil). 

“Since its inception, Amaro Montenegro has been as an irreverent celebration of flavor and discovery,” said Rob Cullins, Regional Director of the Americas, Gruppo Montenegro in a statement. “With The Vero Bartender competition, we set out to find the most innovative minds mixing drinks around the world – the true masters of their craft. Kyle Erkes’ winning cocktail evokes the boundary-pushing style our brand is known for, and we are excited to see how he advances in the global competition.”

Erkes (Courtesy Amaro Montenegro)

At the end of November, Erkes will travel to Bologna, Italy to face off against the other finalists. Italy, Germany, UK, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Albania will be represented during the final showdown.


Sombra Mezcal’s Sustainability Showdown

Sombra Mezcal’s latest competition took their sustainability game—emphasis on game—to the next level. The Sombra team existed Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths of Trash Tiki to judge a debut sustainable cocktail competition.

On Monday (10.15), one dozen finalists out of 100+ entrants were announced based on sustainability, originality, creativity, overall flavor, and of course, “best showcasing of Sombra Mezcal.” 

“The submissions really ranged from simple and classic to quite complicated in execution,” said Ramage and Griffiths in a release. “Since the entries left what is a sustainable ingredient really open to interpretation and the contestant’s own creativity, we really got the full spectrum of different ingredients and cocktails. The top 12 were all really close, as they had all taken the step of creating an original anti-waste recipe. We thank every bartender that participated.”

The grand champion will announced next month and bag a week long trip to Sombra’s palenque in Oaxaca. The list of finalists, their cocktails, and Trash Tiki’s comments follow…

  • Tristan Bragaglia-Murdock, “Curse of the Cactus” (Jabberwocky, Ottawa)
    “Tristan showed some great creativity by giving our chopping board cordial a killer update and the mint stem sherry was also a lovely touch!”
  • Luke Carnevale, “Piña Dorado” (Manna Avenue, Wilmington, N.C.)
    “Luke’s bar is located in North Carolina and he made excellent use of local ingredients sourced from his area. He made a longleaf pine syrup and used a sea salt extracted using solar evaporation by a local couple.”
  • Marshall Davis, “Hyena Fang” (Gallo Pelón Mezcaleria, Raleigh, N.C.)
    “Marshall paired Amontillado sherry with peanut-infused Sombra Mezcal and a peanut shell salted Zucca, which is a really creative use of flavors and an interesting use of the shells that we hadn’t seen anyone do before.”
  • Michael Dumapias, “El Jefe” (Broken Shaker Miami)
    “Mike showed why we’re always in awe of what the Shaker fam produces. This was just a great drink that we hope makes its way onto a menu real soon! The coffee liqueur recipe we’re def stealing.”
  • Kate Gerwin,  “Like White on Rice” (Front & Cooper, Santa Cruz, Calif.)
    “This drink just had us smiling, brilliantly creative and bold, just like everything Kate does, and we were happily drinking the extra rice fennel horchata for days after!”
  • Tony Lamperti, “The Devil’s in the Details” (Ace Hotel, New Orleans)
    “Tony’s drink stood out as he made a simple twist on an old tequila classic, the El Diablo. However, he had made each ingredient out of something from his bar that would have ordinarily been destined for the trash.”
  • Melissa Markert, “Oaxaca Colada” (The Dead Rabbit, New York)
    “Loved Melissa using buttermilk, showing how by-products can still be commercially viable and the lime sherbet added a great kick an incredibly well-balanced cocktail.”
  • Jon Mateer, “Para La Tierra” (Death & Co. Denver)
    “Para La Tierra translates to “For the Earth,” and it was the interesting use of ingredients that made this drink stand out. Jon used tops and tails of bell peppers that were left over from the kitchen of the hotel, along with open Chardonnay and an onion skin ash, along with a citrus scrap cordial.”
  • Blaze Montana, “Scoby Wan Kenobi” (Front & Cooper, Santa Cruz, Calif.)
    “Best name of the comp! Also loved the bold direction of submitting a fully batched drink and, as kombucha lovers, the way this works with Sombra Mezcal is something we’ll definitely be revisiting as a flavor profile for future drinks!”
  • Maggie Morgan, “Todo Bien” (Manolito, New Orleans)
    “Maggie used tops and tails of Serrano and bell peppers, along with strawberry tops, to create a “basura” cordial that paired up with a pineapple tepache that we thought were great flavors to pair with Sombra Mezcal.”
  • Zach Sapato, “Peach Buzz” (The Lowry Uptown, Minneapolis, Minn.)
    “Zach’s drink was delicious, but also made use of the whole peach, including the juice and using the nut to make an orgeat syrup. He paired it with a dill infusion and prosecco vinegar.”
  • Brendan Wooldridge, “Smoke & Pearls” (Chambar Restaurant, Vancouver)
    “Brendan flexed hard with a truly creative serve and the multi-use on the strawberries.”
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