Like your drinks to be a real pick-me-up? The finalists of the #LavazzaChallenge certainly do, as they demonstrated in a closely fought competition to find a modern, classic coffee cocktail
Coffee’s diversity in cocktails is something that many bartenders are aware of, yet rarely explore past the ubiquitous Espresso Martini, a winning combination of vodka, espresso and coffee liqueur. With this in mind, top coffee brand Lavazza decided to organise a cocktail competition with Imbibe.
The challenge? To create a classic, modern coffee cocktail made from Lavazza espresso. The recipe was allowed to have a maximum of five ingredients, including the coffee, and the three judges – David Cutler, head of training for Lavazza coffee, Davide Segat, bar manager at The London Edition, and Imbibe’s Laura Foster – were looking for a drink that was flavoursome, easy-drinking and an instant classic.
To create their drink and practice ahead of the competition, the bartenders were each provided with an in-home Lavazza A Modo Mio Minù coffee machine, which has a stop and go function, giving the user control of how much espresso they want to make. They were also sent Lavazza Tierra, a sustainable blend of Arabica beans from Brazil that results in a fruity coffee with notes of milk chocolate.
Eventually, the finalists gathered in the elegant Punch Room at The London Edition to battle it out. Cutler opened proceedings with a talk on the history of coffee and Lavazza’s background.
Founder Luigi Lavazza opened a grocery store in Turin in 1895, where he would sell green coffee beans, which people would roast at home before crushing and brewing it. It was only in the 1920s that selling roasted coffee came to the fore, and Luigi decided to focus on roasting coffee and selling the finished product. The rest is history – 120 years of history, in fact, which was the anniversary that Lavazza celebrated last year.
Shake it out
It was finally time to get on with the competition. Icebar’s Mateus Mendes was up first with his drink Espresso Yourself, which incorporated 1800 Tequila with Lavazza Tierra, PX sherry, agave syrup and Old Fashioned aromatic bitters to create a delicately sweet drink with plenty of fruit and chocolate flavours.
Dmitrij Markovskij from Oblix drew inspiration from the film Cast Away, and even brought Wilson along for the ride. He mixed Lavazza Tierra with cachaça, homemade almond milk and Becherovka to create a delicate drink with milky sweetness.
While most of the competitors used the A Modo Mio machine to make their espresso, Hubbard & Bell’s Franck Duval used his own filter equipment. ‘Rather than Tierra I’ve decided to use Lavazza Delicato, which is perfect in a mocha or as a filter coffee,’ he explained. His drink was inspired by the Negroni, combining Campari, Amaro Montenegro and Sipsmith Sloe Gin, and was bright and fruity with the coffee flavours playing a supporting role rather than acting as the main event.
In fact, a few competitors combined Italians’ passion for coffee with their love of vermouths and amaros. Bar consultant Lukas Stafin also used Amaro Montenegro with Lavazza Tierra, along with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, whisky barrel-aged bitters and an orange and vanilla syrup; while Julien Billet from Salt Room in Brighton went for Amaro Ramazzotti,
plus Aqua Riva tequila, agave syrup and, of course, Lavazza espresso.
Dandelyan’s Alex Lawrence drew inspiration from the breakfasts he enjoyed on a trip to Colombia and created a dry twist on an Espresso Martini, incorporating Havana Club Añejo 7 Años with Lavazza coffee and a touch of Ancho Reyes chilli liqueur, crème de banane and coconut cream.
‘I prefer acidic, fruitier styles of coffee – that’s what I like about this machine, because you can change the length of the extraction,’ said The Clove Club’s Rob Simpson when he went behind the stick. He played upon the fruitier, fresher side of
the Tierra coffee by mixing it with calvados, meadowsweet syrup and Yellow Chartreuse, resulting in an aromatic, expressive drink full of apple and floral characters before it developed into some chocolatey coffee flavours on the finish.
Winner takes it all
With that, the competition was over and the judges retired to deliberate. As the standard of competition was so high, the judges took their time before deciding on the champion. It was eventually determined that Simpson was the winner, thanks to his unique flavour combinations.
‘You could really taste the calvados coming through, and the drink was really simple but very effective, and very much in the Clove Club style,’ said Segat.
Alex Lawrence was a close second, and both Lawrence and Simpson have won a trip to Turin, to the home of Lavazza, to discover the city and visit the Lavazza Innovation Centre. Simpson also won a dinner for two at Outlaw’s at the Capital.
Everyone was a winner, however, as all the finalists were informed that they were able to keep their Lavazza machines. ‘I’ve had a great day and am so pleased to have won,’ said a delighted Simpson. ‘I’m really looking forward to our trip to Turin.’
Orchards, Meadows & Plantations
Rob Simpson, The Clove Club
Glass: Small wine glass
Garnish: Grated nutmeg
Method: Spray the glass with Yellow Chartreuse to act as a rinse. Add the other ingredients to the shaker. Double shake
and then double strain into the glass.
50ml Dupont Calvados du Pays d’Auge Hors d’Age
35ml Lavazza Tierra
20ml meadowsweet syrup (1:1)