The Havana Club International Cocktail Grand Prix taking place in Havana

2014 Havana Club Grand Prix curator, Anistatia Miller. Photo from Cuba Absolutely.

The Havana Club International Cocktail Grand Prix is an international bartending competition that began in 1996. Since then, the competition has taken place every two years in Havana, Cuba, cocktail capital of the world. The Grand Prix is organized by Havana Club International with the support of the Asociación de Cantineros de Cuba.

The competition’s reputation has grown over the years, becoming one of the most important and prestigious competitions for bartenders all over the world, drawing in top talent from over 30 different countries. After pre-qualifying in national competitions, the finalists gather in Havana for the final stage of the competition.

This year, 2014, will see the introduction of the Cantineros Jam Session, with competitors being judged by their Cuban peers with the intention of making the competition more inclusive for Cuban bartenders.

The Rules

Competitors are permitted to bring their own barware and tools. Each competitor has 10 minutes to prepare three original cocktails. The first cocktail must use Havana Club rum as its base and the second must use Havana Añejo 7 Años. The third cocktail must be a reinvention of a classic Cuban rum cocktail. While preparing their drinks, the participants must be able to hold a conversation and multi-task.

The bartenders are judged out of 250 points: 150 points for the three cocktails based on the appearance, aroma, taste, finish and balance of the drink, and another possible 100 points for the technical skill, knowledge, innovative thinking, creativity, communication skills and overall image of the bartender. The final three competitors have 15 minutes to prepare the same three drinks, plus an additional drink that will test their creativity using secret ingredients given to them at the last minute.

–From Cuba Absolutely