This year, the Opihr World Adventure Cocktail Competition was opened up to mixologists and bartenders from South Africa, with the regional leg of the finals recently held in Cape Town. The challenge invites bartenders from across the world to submit a bold and unique cocktail recipe that transcends cities and cultures, and thoughtfully pairs a key local ingredient with Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin.

Six finalists took part in the regional finals at Zeitz MOCAA, each competing for a spot in the global finals, which will see 10 professionals battle it out in Istanbul for the ultimate title of The Spirit of Opihr. Each regional finalist performed a live demonstration, talking the judges and guests through each step of their cocktail recipe, as well as sharing the inspirational story behind their creation. “The passion and level of creativity that the bartenders demonstrated in using their local ingredients, plus the taste profiles of the cocktails and the visual expressions was amazing. We also really enjoyed the authenticity of the stories behind their creations,” said Meredith Ellis, Marketing Manager (Spirits & RTD) at B2C Premium Drinks Company.

The local judging panel included bar owner and mixologist Mmiso Luphondo, photographer and director Justice Mukheli and last year’s global winner Aaron Pollack from Chicago, who was enjoying his first trip to the country.

In the end it was Julian Short, owner of the speakeasy style bar Sin+Tax in Rosebank, Johannesburg, that took the prize with his truly extraordinary cocktail entitled ‘Manilla’. The delicately balanced yet punchy cocktail paired Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin with Caperitif and sour fig, two ingredients unique to South Africa. “Manilla was extremely well balanced, without too much citrus or sweetness, and the inclusion of his local South African ingredients didn’t overpower the backbone of Opihr but rather embodied what can be done with it. Above all, it was truly authentic, inspiring and innovative,” added Ellis.

Short will be flying the flag for South Africa at the final taking place from 24-27 September 2018 in Turkey where he will be judged by an international panel including Simone Caporale from The Artisan bar in London (holder of the title of World’s Best Bar), Ondrej Pospichal of Proof and Company in Hong Kong, and Aaron Pollock the 2017 competition winner.