Return to the City of El Dorado

8th January 2024

It’s that time of year again, when all bar tenders dust off their swizzle sticks, infuse magical bitters and get submerged in all things rum. That’s right it’s the annual El Dorado rum competition. You may remember that last year I was piped to the post by a truly deserving man by the name of Alex Proudfoot with his Big Serve cocktail. This year I have my eyes on the prize and am determined to bag what is one of the best accolades around and also a nice trip to Guyana to boot!

For those of you unfamiliar with this liquid gold, El Dorado is not just a mythical city of gold but also a truly unique range of incredible rums from Guyana, ranging from a 3 year young filtered white, a 15 year old, voted best rum in the world four years in a row, the only rum ever to achieve such an accolade and trust me it’s well deserved. There is also a 5yr, 8yr, 12yr and 21yr old! Such a range ensures a rum for every pallet and cocktail.

What really makes the range stand out is the care taken in the ageing and distilling. El Dorado is the only rum to be produced in wooden stills. Normally rums and in fact all spirits are distilled in metal stills, so this method of using wooden stills is really amazing and gives such an incredible flavour to the rum.

It’s great to be challenged and pit your wits against the best of the best in the cocktail world, each competition I enter inspires me to create something in keeping with the brands tradition as well as stretching my own creativity to come up with something really special that I hope will stand up against some of the best mixologists in Britain and the world.

Each year the first heats start with a swizzle competition, no that’s not some crazy dance that people start doing after one too many El Dorado’s. It is a category of cocktail using a swizzle stick in the mixing of the drink to give a nice frothy element.

The swizzle stick is taken from the Quararibea Turbinate tree which has an aromatic smell and bitter spicy taste, and is often used in tinctures and teas for medicinal purposes in the Caribbean. Used vigorously enough it will impart a slight flavour to the drink being prepared. The stick is held between your palms and moving the hands back and forth the stick spins around mixing your drink. This method of stirring with a stick may go back as far as the Mayans who also used similar method to froth up their chocolate drinks.

The drink itself goes way back to 1788 in print in A Classical Dictionary of Vulgar Tongue and probably around a fair few years before it was put down in black and white. Swizzles usually would include something sweet like sugar, something sour like lime juice, a juice, and of course rum. Over the years there have been hundreds if not thousands of variations. But what should I create for this epic task?

Stay tuned for the next part where I’ll share how I create a cocktail fit for such a prestigious rum, that might just take me all the way to Guyana.....fingers and toes crossed!

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Bartender's top tip

Shaking is crucial for emulsifying vinaigrettes and cocktails, but not suitable for delicate ingredients that can break apart or become overworked

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