Rohan Massie shares his experience mixing it with the world’s best in Trinidad

Rohan on stage during the global final.

Rohan Massie has come back from the trip of a lifetime, competing in the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge finals in Trinidad.

It was a thrilling experience, says Massie, competing against the best from around the world and experiencing the madness of Carnival in Trinidad.

Here, he shares just what that experience was like, and his tips for those wanting to compete in the next round of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge.

You’ve just come back from competing in the global finals of the Angostura Cocktail Challenge. How did you get on?

It was such an amazing experience, from meeting the competitors and Angostura staff who were all so kind and welcoming, to the thrill of the competition itself and the exhausting fun of carnival.

What kind of preparation did you do?

A lot of things really. I found it so important in this competition to have a script down pat as time was so tight. This way I had a solid understanding of what I wanted to say on stage and felt comfortable even if I went, and I did, go off script. I did repetition in the car and also staged the competition using family, friends and colleagues as my audience and judges giving me invaluable feedback. There were sooo many beetroot soda trials and banana fermentations, I don’t think my bar team will ever want to see beetroots or bananas again! But it was important to ensure I was taking the best possible ingredients over.

What made this comp different to others you’ve competed in? 

Having to make two drinks in seven minutes means that you have less time for embellished chat. It has to be succinct and to the point and I think that makes it more about the drinks than the story. The prize also definitely separates this competition as it’s almost like you’re doing a job interview, which I love because it can make such a difference to your career.

The Angostura Alumni are some of the best in the business. Did they offer you any tips going into the comp? 

I was lucky enough to have catch ups with both Dan Gregory and Mike Tomasic. Their advice was invaluable and greatly contributed to my success in the competition! 

Rohan & Khayla at J’ouvert, which marks the start of Carinval celebrations in Trinidad.

Any tips you can share for global comps? 

Prep, prep, prep… take everything you can with you! 

Leave as little to chance as possible and be ready for the rush. When you get there, it’s like a whirlwind and if you’re not prepared already, there’s no chance to catch up.

A trip to the Caribbean is a rum lover’s dream. Has it changed your perspective of rum as a whole? 

Nope, I still think it’s the most diverse and delicious spirit in the world!

What were the highlights of the trip?

Creating friendships with likeminded competitors and industry members from around the world.

J’ouvert and Carnival; these experiences were filled with so much colour and music; they truly celebrate life at its best. 

Getting to see how the legends behind the scenes at the House of Angostura work their magic and in particular getting the chance to spend time with Master Distiller, John Georges and Master Blender, Carol Homer. 

What should people know about Angostura Rum?

The love and passion and history that goes into the House of Angostura products is unbeatable. With nearly 200 years of tradition, Angostura is deeply imbedded in our booze history but is also constantly innovating with expressions like the No.1 Cask Collection. It’s truly inspiring being around and working with people that love their products so much.

Rum is one of the last spirit categories to premiumise, why do you think that is? What can we do as an industry to help educate punters on this glorious spirit? 

Premiumisation, I think, in many categories has been driven by a terroir focus that highlights a sense of an authentic story. This has highlighted particular base ingredients and production styles and with this in mind I think one of the most beautiful parts of rum is actually part of its problem. This relates to its diversity. Rum branding can often prove confusing for consumers, with some brands using dosage, colouring agents and different ageing measures not to mention the array of countries (and their molasses) and still types that produce this amazing spirit. As part of the rum industry, I think it’s important to focus on transparency and information accessibility. This information will allow bartenders and consumers the knowledge and confidence to take a punt on buying a more premium product. In short, it’s all about education on specifics not some story about a pirate that lived 400 years ago.

What global trends do you think Aussie bartenders need to be aware of? 

Talking to bartenders around the world, I think Australians are right up there with global trends if not at the forefront, although I may be a little biased. I think the year ahead will remain all about fermentation, native and locally farmed ingredients both fresh and spirituous. Perhaps even some more savoury ingredients as well; I loved the use of cauliflower for texture by Marv Cunningham in the Angostura Globals!