Sustainability is the buzzword in the cocktail world at present. It’s taken on a whole new meaning and gone much further than shunning the straw or using every bit of a lemon; it’s evolved to tackle sustainable living and mental health and wellbeing within the trade.
‘What is super impressive is that sustainability now feels less of a theme and more a true element of modern craft cocktail making,’ Dre Massó, co-founder of Altos Tequila, told Imbibe. ‘Bartenders have re-configured their mindset to be far more resourceful than ever before.’
Sustainability was the name of the game for this and last year’s Tahona Society Cocktail Competition, which Massó judged and Kelsey Ramage of Trash Tiki fame won in 2016.
Danish bartender Jeppe Nothlev has some big shoes to fill after scooping the title this year.
‘Kelsey and the other winners before me set the bar high and I am just humbled and honoured to be in their company as winners of Tahona Society Cocktail Competition,’ Nothlev said. ‘I have great respect for what she and Iain are doing with Trash Tiki. I see them as front figures to some of the most important challenges our industry faces these years.’
After coming second place in four consecutive competitions, the Helium bartender took a year off the comps.
‘It really threw me off,’ Nothlev said. ‘Looking back at it, those four second places really gave me a lot of the experience.’ Earlier this year, he and Nicklas Jørgensen won the Absolut Invite global final and now he can add the Tahona Society trophy to his back bar.
‘My favourite thing about the Tahona Society Cocktail Competition must be the philosophy that starts with Altos tequila. "From bartenders to bartenders”. It shines through in the whole competition from the regional finals to the global finals. I was fortunate enough to make it all the way, but already at the first steps of the journey, the competition gave me so much to work with on the bar. I have learned a ton from this competition about, first and foremost, tequila and agave but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,’ he explained.
The sustainability angle was also a big factor. ‘The sustainability concept was important sure, but when you put it like that it doesn’t make much sense to me. So I wanted to take this ubiquitous word and turn it into something easy to relate to. Because how will you conceive a “sustainable drink” on a menu?
'So I did it simply by reducing the waste on the drink by using the rhubarb pulp when making the syrup as a dried garnish mixed with salt and I used the lime husks from the juice for the drink in the spent scent I finish off my drink with. Now that is something my guests can relate to and suddenly it is not some faint idea of saving the world but an actual step on the way to a more clever way of utilising your ingredients on the bar.’
Nothlev’s drink Sweet Effort was inspired by a love for tequila and rhubarb. ‘It was an effort to try and incorporate a more clever way of utilising your ingredients and thereby reducing your waste,’ he said. ‘The clash of tequila and rhubarb came to represent Danish and Mexican culture and the drink was a celebration of all the hard work put into the craft that is tequila.’
Massó said Jeppe embodies everything the judges were looking for in the Tahona Society champion and ambassador. ‘Throughout the week he impressed us with his camaraderie and brotherhood with all the bartenders, judges and guests. Always the gentleman, always smiling, always having fun! Apart from that he had the best tasting drink of the day and a brilliant and honest story to go with it.’
Already ‘part of the family’, Nothlev joined the Altos team at the launch in Berlin. ‘Together we represented Altos at Bar Convent Berlin and took turns in partnering up for guest bar shifts – it was great fun. He has passed his initiation test with flying colours and I look forward to collaborating and travelling more with him over the next 12 months.’
When asked how he celebrated his win, the Dane said: ‘Hugs, hugs and hugs. I am a hug-it-out-kind-a-guy so I certainly hugged it out with everyone who dared come near me. As soon as I got of stage, I called my fiancée back home. It’s a seven-hour time difference to Copenhagen where we live and I knew she wouldn’t get any sleep until she heard from me. She’s the one who’s had to endure me all the way while I’ve been preparing for this whole thing and she’s been very patient all along. I couldn’t wait to tell her.’
With a new family and love, Nothlev represents sustainability in more ways than one.
Method: Mix the Altos Plata, Pedro Ximénez Sherry, rhubarb syrup, lime juice and egg white, shake and pour into a highball glass and top with grapefruit lemonade.
50ml Altos Plata
30ml rhubarb syrup
30ml lime juice
10ml Pedro Ximénez Sherry
dash of egg white