Saint James Cocktail Competition 2019 BeLux won by Victoria van Wassenhove.

All the candidates went on a rhumbullion rumpus, but only the lady came out Victorious!

Photography by Geertrui Van Goethem

It has been two or three years since we last judged the Saint James Cocktail Competition and one thing was very clear, even from the beginning, the level of this competition has risen dramatically. The event location was the beautiful Quartier Papier in Zaventem, Brussels and before the competition kicked off there was a fantastic workshop by world famous chocolatier Dominique Persoone who showed us how he got inspired to produce some of his crazier chocolate ideas. It summarises in the following advice: ‘Don’t be afraid of the customer! When you have an idea, just do it. Collaborate and team up whenever you can and have fun.’ He brought a selection of chocolates to illustrate some of his collaborations and, by God, they were awesome! I frankly never had any better chocolate in my entire life up and until then. So if you have the chance, visit his shop: The Chocolate Line in Bruges and Antwerp.

Saint James Rhum is a French style rum – or rhum agricole – which means that it is made solely from sugar cane juice ( unlike English style rums, which are mainly made from molasses). It’s produced since 1765 on the tropical island of Martinique in the Caribbean. Rums from Martinique have a distinct terroir which we absolutely love and adore. It’s a bold rum with an intense green, fruity and floral flavour. There’s a lot of that agricole funk going on in a glas of Saint James and we love it. It’s a rum with character and personality that gives a distinct touch to your cocktails and punches. They have a broad range with many different expressions because of the typical way they approach the production and harvest of the sugar cane.

Every harvest gives different cane juice and every cane juice gives different cane wine. On top of that Martinique has only two different seasons: a dry one and a wet one. So, for example, when you make a blend of the best sugar cane juice harvested only during the dry season, you get Fleur De Canne, a very aromatic white rum, very different from their normal Rhum Blanc. when the sugar cane juice is exceptionally good that year, they make a Millésime. And certainly one of the most spectacular rum bombs is the blend of the 7 or 8 best Millésimes together in one bottle, the oldest one being from 1885.

The competition consisted out of 9 candidates and they all had to make a Saint James cocktail and a non-alcoholic cocktail with a Caraïbos fruit nectar of their choice. The theme of the game was gastronomy, especially desserts.

Cédric making his Geisha.

Third place went to Cédric Buscemi from La Pharmacie Anglaise, Brussels. He made a very interesting cocktail called: ‘Geisha’s Travel’ with Saint James Coeur de Chauffe, coconut water, white cacao liqueur and homemade wasabi cream. I liked it a lot, it felt like a tropical/eastern milk punch. A creamy, dessert like cocktail with a lot of character. Also the Saint James Coeur de Chauffe is probably my favourite white rhum, distilled in an 18th century pot still. Flavour bomb!

That’s sugar, of course, in front of the Geisha.

Cédric’s mocktail was named: ‘Wake me up before you mango.’ With an exceptional mango vinegar and a very nice falernum-like spiced syrup. A little bit too diluted though.

Kasim shaking it up!

Second place was the stylish mister Kasim Kiseli from Goodlife Shaker. A bartender with a lot of panache and attention to detail and cleanliness who gave us an entertaining presentation. His cocktail was based on Saint James Ambré, mango juice, lime and passion fruit syrup. The mocktail was a mix of Aloe Si, Yuzu, melon syrup and lime, paired with…marshmallows.

And of course, first place went to the charming Victoria van Wassenhove from Loft, Brussels. Her cocktail was named: Banana in Pijamas, based on Saint James Ambré, clarified lime juice, popcorn syrup and no less than five dashes of Aztec chocolate bitters. The drink was topped with a merengue mousse made from Caraïbos Banane and lime zest. Very yummy! I mean who doesn’t like rum, chocolate, popcorn and bananas! Her moktail was called the Koni Baje with Yuzu, Fraise, Aloe Si, Pêche, freshly pressed ginger and topped with soda. The garnish was lemon thyme and black pepper.

Victoria van Wassenhove, the winner of the Saint James Cocktail Competition 2019 with trophee and a bottle of Millésime 2000, which isn’t bad at all! 🙂

Don’t be nervous Victoria and knock ’em all dead at the finals in Paris!

Cheers! or Santé!

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