Aberdeenshire’s own Ryan Rhodes has emerged as the victor at the UK leg of Nicaraguan rum brand Flor de Cana’s Rum Frontiers competition.
Rum Frontiers pits cocktail making experts from around the world against one another, with a grand final taking place at the Flor de Cana distillery in Nicaraguan capital Managua this September. Simply reaching that final is a big achievement and a prize in itself, as all the contenders – who have beaten top class competition in national heats – are treated to six days of Central American adventure before facing the final showdown.
Ryan secured his place after facing off against nine other bartenders at an informative and fun event held at the Drygate Brewery in the East End of Glasgow. In addition to on-stage presentations by the competitors there was music from DJ Rebecca Vasmant, some stunning live graffiti courtesy of street artist Mark Worst and, most importantly, a free bar showcasing some of the finest Flor de Cana serves!
The ten original contenders were narrowed down to four by the judges – Whyte & Mackay Head of Brand Experience Daryl Haldane, Flor de Cana Area Manager for Europe Marc Catalan, Drink Cabinet UK Director Andy Gemmell and Tristan Stephenson, renowned bartender, bar owner and author of the The Curious Bartender book series.
The final four were Ryan, who works in Dusk, Aberdeen, Alex Palumbo of Sygn Bar, Edinburgh, Giorgios Terzakis of The Bon Vivant, also in Edinburgh, and Jamie Buchan of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Cafe. Ryan, Alex, George and Jamie were all engaging presences on stage and had clearly done their research into both the brand and the personality of Nicaragua, producing flavorsome cocktails that reflected the Central American nation’s status as a major coffee producer and advocate of renewable energy.
Ryan, who was supported on the night by a very vocal band of fellow bartenders from up north, got his start in the industry 11 years ago in Inverurie and went on to work for Malmaison, Aberdeen cocktail bar Orchid and Singapore establishment House of Dandy before accepting the role of head bartender at Dusk.
He said, “I have used Flor de Cana for many years in a few bars and have always loved its flavour and character. The way it stands out from the crowd and isn’t afraid to shout about it just fits my outlook on bartending.
“I really love seeing new places and being part of another culture. The vibrancy and exotic feel of Nicaragua will surely inspire me to be more creative with my drinks and future ventures.”
“Rum Frontiers was a fantastic event,” stated Whyte & Mackay’s Jonathan Gillbanks, UK Sales Director for the On-Trade and Specialists division. “We witnessed some of the most exciting bartenders from the UK come together to learn and create with Flor de Cana premium rum. The creations from the competitors were truly outstanding.”
The activities Ryan will partake in out in Nicaragua include sand-boarding on the active Cerro Negro Volcano, a visit to the Masaya Artisan Market, a city tour of Granada and a trip to a private island.