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As everyone knows, Tío Pepe is the flagship brand of Bodegas González Byass, probably the biggest of the Jerez sherry houses. The annual Tío Pepe Challenge is a competition for bartenders to mix and present sherry based cocktails, and this year’s Grand Final, featuring eight bartenders from the Americas and Europe, was held on May 17th at GB’s bodega in Jerez.

The setting, in one of the cathedral-like bodegas that has been converted for events and functions, was suitably magnificent, and many of the great and the good from the world of sherry were in attendance as the eight competitors (who all seemed remarkably young) were put through their paces in front of the esteemed panel of judges. The competition started with a blind tasting test of 4 sherries, followed by a test/demonstration of their skills with the venencia, before the main event – the mixing of the sherry cocktails.

Each contestant in turn had seven minutes to mix two cocktails – an Adonis (a mix of fino, vermouth and orange bitters invented in the 1880s in honour of the first Broadway musical to pass 500 performances), and a signature cocktail of their own, during which they demonstrated that cocktail mixing is, among other things, a form of theatre. This meant lots of tasting for the judges (with some samples of various other cocktails for the audience too), but they finally arrived at their verdict.

And the winner… Joao Vicente of the Alto Bar in Berlin for his Jerez Sin Fronteras (black tea infused Tío Pepe, Nectar PX, Nomad Whisky).