We chatted to South African mixologist, Dino Batista, who placed second at The Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge and also snapped up the prize for Best Rum Cocktail.
How would you describe mixology?
Mixology, in essence, is the creating and mixing of drinks using various ingredients and the balance of those flavours – achieving what is both good in taste and appealing to the eye.
What was the highlight of travelling to Trinidad and Tobago?
The whole trip was a highlight – what an incredible experience. It’s a little clichéd, but the culture and the people and the food. I ate so much I didn’t fit in to my competition pants anymore – always travel with a spare.
Any travel tips for those heading there?
If you’re going to Trinidad, you have to go during Carnival time. Every night, there’s a different party for almost a month building up to Carnival. Be prepared to dance down the street for 12+ hours. Don’t worry, you will only feel the pain of your labour the next morning. My competition pants fit again after Carnival.
What sort of challenges did you encounter?
I’m grateful that there weren’t too many challenges. An obvious one would be working behind a bar that you’ve never seen before – it’s different to what you’ve practised. Fresh ingredients were a bit of an issue too. I had to look for ruby grapefruit, which was impossible to find and the only pineapples are green-skinned, white-fleshed and sweet – I needed the total opposite.
I also thought I was going in with no South African support present in the audience, but was overwhelmed to see that individuals from the South African Embassy (some not even South African, but Trinis working there) had come through with flags to cheer me on! So a huge thank you to them.
And you had to make two cocktails in under seven minutes? Phew!
It’s part of the rules so before you’ve even arrived in Trinidad, you’ve had time back home to come up with cocktails specific to the requirements, link them to Trinidad and Angostura, and practise them until you’ve got them nailed. I was prepared, but once you’re up there, seven minutes feels like 30 seconds. You’ve got to hustle and deliver a winning performance while mixing two drinks and making sure to showcase the brand and not get blinded by the lights – no pressure.
What were the highlights?
I met the whole Angostura team behind the bitters and the rums – they truly are amazing!
There were several industry icons judging and giving masterclasses so that was also a real treat. People who you admire from a distance become your harshest critics and then your best friends on a yacht down the Caribbean.
When it comes to the other competitiors, I now have a home when I travel in 11 other countries. Everybody rocks up as strangers the first day, but, by lunchtime, you’re as close as friends can be – that’s the truly incredible thing about the industry… you have family no matter where you go.