Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Competition raises the bar for cruise cocktails

Competition raises the bar for cruise cocktails

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightTastes coming to a bar on a cruise ship near you: cucumber, elderflower and ginger.

Those were some of the ingredients in drinks that made it to the finals of the ninth annual Bacardi Cruise Competition, a contest for bartenders on cruise lines and ferries.

Six finalists were chosen from among nearly 1,800 competitors, including three from Carnival Cruise Lines and two from Norwegian Cruise Line.

The winner, however, came from the lone ferry entry, Tallink Silja Line. Estonian native Liisi Kutt’s entry was the Summer Fairy, a blend of prosecco, several fruits and fruit-flavored liqueurs and geranium flowers.

The cocktail is both a wordplay on ferry and a light, ethereal drink meant to capture the evanescence of the Baltic summer. Judges for the competition liked Kutt’s inspiration for the drink and the overall mix of flavors.

Judge Julio Cabrera, winner of Bacardi USA's Most Inspired Bartender 2013 and bartender at Regent Cocktail Club on Miami Beach, said that simplicity is also a quality he looks for.

“On cruise lines, they don’t have the range of ingredients we can find on land,” Cabrera said. Balance and creativity are two other criteria, he said.

Several cruise lines have jumped on the trend toward more creative cocktails. Celebrity Cruises has its Molecular Bar and Carnival has the Alchemy Bar, which tend to work fresh herbs, along with gels, infusions, foams and atomized sprays into their offerings.

Norwegian Cruise Line recently expanded its partnership with Gabriel Orta of Miami-based Bar Lab Cocktails.

These trendy bars can be a real addition to a cruise ship’s overall appeal. While guests from top metro areas may be able to sample molecular cocktails at home, many passengers might never encounter them except on a ship.

The Bacardi-sponsored competition is a popular one with cruise ship drink slingers. There’s a $5,000 cash prize, and the winner moves on to compete in the Bombay Sapphire Most Imaginative Bartender contest in Las Vegas this week.

Kutt is looking forward to seeing Las Vegas. Her plans for the Bacardi prize money include getting a tattoo representing her winning drink. “I don’t know where,” she said.