Premio Strega Miscelazione Moderna has been launched to further engage the Italian liqueur brand with the global bartending community, though was domestically contested in its first outing.
Cilia, who impressed judges with his cocktail ‘06/09/1950’, wins a trip to the US, in which he will showcase his drink at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and during a guest bartending shift at Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in New York.
Sean Muldoon, owner of the New York bar, was a judge for the competition that took place in Benevento, Campania – the home of Strega Alberti for 150 years.
Muldoon said: “A lot of the drinks we judged were similar, whereas Mattia’s drink was different. The primary ingredient was Strega and he made it work. With the right ice, it would be fantastic. It was a simple drink and he was good to watch too.”
Joining Muldoon on the judging panel was co-owner of Strega Alberti, Antonio Savarese; Matteo Zed, brand ambassador for Strega; Claudio Giovanni Bonomi of Bargiornale magazine; bartender and Cocktail Art founder, Diego Ferrari; and Hamish Smith, deputy editor of Drinks International and editor of The World’s 50 Best Bars.
Sixteen contestants from across Italy took part in the competition having qualified from a pool of 200 entries on the strength of their recipes.
For the competition contestants were asked to make their cocktail in a ten minute period but also to present the concept of a drink that would tie-in with the brand’s artistic traditions.
Cilia’s winning drink was made from Strega, Akragas bitters, lemon juice, sugared oil and pistachio flavoured soda water. It was “zesty and refreshing” and the “perfect vehicle for Strega” said judges.
The winning bartender, who works at Sicily's Villa Athena Hotel but will soon take role at Capofaro Resort in Sicily, has been a bartender for eight years, previously working at Milk & Honey London.
Emotional after the win, Cilia told DI : “It’s not just about winning, it’s about what I learned in the competition – I have learned a lot of new things. Now what I need to do is improve.
“In Italy we are going in the right direction - we have great bartenders that can follow the guys from Milan and Italian bartenders in London.”
Finishing in second place was Walter Gosso from Turin speakeasy Mad Dog with his drink Brutta Strega - a mix of Strega, Bacardi, camomile, lemon and grapefruit juice and saffron syrup - and in third was Katerina Logvinova of Terrazza 12 Milano, with her Scotch and Strega-based Burn the Witch cocktail.