OPIHR Gin is a London Dry Gin infused with exotic hand-picked botanicals, spices and herbs from along the ancient Spice Route. The annual OPIHR Global Cocktail Competition invited mixologists from around the world to partake, with five bartenders from around South Africa making it to the finals.

Day one of the finals, Monday August 19, began with a trip out to the winelands, to explore the magic of Babylonstoren. Whilst traversing the gardens on a guided walk, the contestants, judges and media learnt about the botanicals that have gone into OPIHR Gin, most of which are found within the garden.

Some of the magic experienced at Babylonstoren

Our guided walk ended at the newly opened Spice Room, just off the Healing Garden. We were treated to mouthwatering food, paired with OPIHR gin and spices. Surrounded by lush, tropical herbs, with a table decorated with banana tree leaves and dotted with ginger and turmeric roots – there was no setting more appropriate for our Journey of Discovery into the world of OPIHR Gin.

OPIHR Gin have launched perfectly pre-mixed gin and tonics, that come packaged in beautiful glass bottles with three flavour infusions: ginger, orange and a classic G&T.

The three pre-mixed gin and tonics. The perfect, hassle-free drink

The 5 South African finalists were each given a moment to explain the cocktail they were going to be creating the next evening at the final event. Their brief was to take a classic cocktail and give it a modern twist, using no more than five ingredients, one of which needed to be a local ingredient, and of course OPIHR Gin.

The contestant was given a chance to briefly explain his cocktail to the group and the ingenuity of each sounded extraordinary.

OPIHR Gin bottles

Some of the finalists choice for a local ingredient included rooibos, prickly pear and red wine. When the day ended, our bellies full and our hearts content, we departed from Babylonstoren.

The next evening was the finale of the South African leg of the OPIHR Gin Global Cocktail Competition. Held at the Gorgeous George Hotel, the atmosphere was electric and the set up was jaw-dropping.

One of the finalists, Aaron Datnow’s cocktail name and ingredients

The 5 finalists showcased their talents by preparing and serving their OPIHR Gin cocktail creation to the 3 judges, Aaron Pollack – from Chicago- Winner of the OPIHR Global Cocktail Competition 2017,  Julian Short- South African winner of the OPIHR Global Cocktail Competition 2018 and Rael Lasarow – MD of Thirst Bar Services in Jozi.

The five finalists from left to right: Oscar, Dennis, Zack, Aaron and Dalu.

Once the demonstrations were over and the cocktails sampled, the three judges chose their overall winner: Aaron Datnow from Marbel Restaurant in Johannesburg.

While I was secretly rooting for one of the two Cape Town based contestants to win, Datnow’s cocktail, infused with rooibos, deserved the win. Datnow will be heading off to Venice in September to compete in the OPIHR Gin Global Cocktail Competition.

Images: Tegan Smith Photography/Supplied

Article written by

Imogen Searra