Loudon emerged victorious from a field of 48 international bartenders from 43 countries, after impressing judges with his Jose Marti Especial cocktail (recipe below).
The biennial competition - which was organised by drinks historians Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown and hosted by spirits writer Dave Broom and Havana Club brand ambassador Meimi Sanchez - had a renewed focus this year, with the mission “to find the next classic Cuban cocktail”.
Taking place over two days, the global final was part of a four-day immersion programme in Cuban culture and was the culmination of national finals that took place around the world over the last year.
In both rounds of the grand final, bartenders were asked to make a classic cocktail, with an emphasis on simplicity, that could be reproduced in any bar around the world – and particularly in Havana Club’s domestic market. Bartenders were therefore asked to use only ingredients that could be obtained in Cuba.
The judging panel for the event comprised Brown; global rum ambassador Ian Burrell; bartender and writer Naren Young; 69 Colebrooke Row’s Tony Conigliaro; 2012 Grand Prix winner Julien Escot; Alejandro Bolívar, head bartender at Havana bar El Floridita; and Juan José González of Barcelona bar Boadas.
The final round saw the field narrowed to 15 competitors and included a speed round in which bartenders produced one classic cocktail five times in five minutes – they were drawn either the Daiquiri, El Presidente, Mary Pickford or Rum Collins.
The classic drinks were judged on quality and speed by a panel of Cantineros [Cuban bartenders] in a round that represented 15% of judges’ total marks.
With his Havana 3 YO, pastis and sherry-featured concoction, it was Loudon that prevailed, impressing judges with his drink’s “simplicity and balance”.
The bartender has been working in the bar industry for seven years but told DI the Grand Prix had been his first international competition. Loudon said he hoped winning the competition was just the beginning for him. “[I will] keep doing what I love. I will try to meet more people that can teach me more things,” he said.
Judge Brown added: “The bottom line is that it was a great drink – a drink you could have all evening. It used an unusual format of ingredients but was only steps away from a daiquiri so it felt familiar. The fundamental question is always: is it good? And it was a good drink.”
Loudon takes the prize of a bottle of Havana Club Maximo - the brand’s most expensive rum at around €1,700 a bottle - and will return to Cuba for the Havana Club Grand Prix in 2016.
The recipe for the winning Jose Marti Especial cocktail was: 40ml Havana Club 3 Year Old, four cloves, 2ml Pastis, 20ml lime juice, 15ml Tio Pepe and 20ml sugar syrup.
The second placed bartender Indika Bandula Silva, representing Germany, made the Machetero’s Punch. It comprised 60ml Havana Club 7 Year Old, 30ml Cuban Switchel (made from a batch of 100ml wine vinegar, 70g fresh ginger, 120ml honey, 50ml water) 5ml lime juice and two dashes of Angostura bitters.
In third place was Alessandro Palumbo, an Italian representing the Cayman Islands. His cocktail El Cantinero consisted of: 60 ml Havana Club 7 Year Old, 10 ml honey, two bar spoons coffee beans and four mint leaves.