When the nights fell quiet and bars across the world closed, bartenders were (like so many of us) left with nothing to do. In Australia, Patrón saw this as an opportunity to put all that pent up creativity to the test, in a very tactile fashion.
Rather than just create a drink for the annual Patrón Perfectionist competition, the tequila brand sought to busy ideal hands in a way that would be evoking the handmade character of their spirit. Petrón challenged bartenders to demonstrate their skill, expertise, unwavering commitment to perfection through the creation of a hand-crafted cocktail vessel.
As Australian Patrón Brand Ambassador Joseph Chisholm explained “We saw this as an opportunity for bartenders to get out of their comfort zone. While they were stuck at home, they could use their own craftsmanship and creativity to create a vessel that was not only special to the drink, but also had meaning to them as well.”
To guide them through the process the brand enlisted the help of Melbourne ceramicist Tantri Mustika, who has a reputation for making light-hearted and colourful hand-built ceramic pieces. “The way she uses different details and components within her work, really showcases that handcraft element that we’re looking for,” continued Chisholm.
Each bartender that entered the competition was sent a ceramic starter kit, along with a series of short videos outlining the different techniques used in ceramics. “At first, I thought it was going to be quite a tricky task,” said Mustika
“I was actually really pleasantly surprised when we did the judging. It seems to me that all the entrants have really embraced the challenge and just really rolled their sleeves up. To be honest, I was delighted because it’s not easy to ask somebody to do something like this when they haven’t worked with clay before.”
As well as the clay, the bartenders also received a set of basic ceramic tools to assist with the challenge. Hand-picked by Mustika, the tools are some of her favourite items that she uses every day in her work and included a cutting wire, a pottery knife, a sponge, and a rubber kidney tool, to help to move out and form the clay.
The additional short videos provided tutorials that could give the bartenders a good grounding on the basic knowledge about working with clay. “The videos were very much an introduction and guide that went through some basics of hand-building with clay,” said Mustika.
“It didn’t talk about what sort of shape we wanted the vessels to be, as much as cover the basic tips and techniques on how to do the pinch pot method. There were also techniques on how to do attachments, such as handles and decorative pieces.”
Chisholm agrees, saying that the brand really wanted each bartender to have creative control over the shape they chose for their drinking vessel. “When the entries came in for judging, we saw vessels that had a highball shape, we saw vessels that were designed around the idea of a group serve, we also had carafe-style vessels that came in.
“While most people may think of tequila as being predominantly used in Margaritas, it is a versatile spirit We want people to know that you can actually put tequila in any sort of drink, so any cocktail vessel is appropriate.”
Of course one of the difficulties with working with clay during a lockdown is the ability to get the finished vessels fired in a kiln but Mustika explains that this wasn’t actually required for the judging.
“We were aware of the fact that there may have been some people that just weren’t going to be able to access a kiln fire service, so we were happy for entries to show the vessel but have the recipe on the side.
“I was a little shocked but actually quite impressed that some of the entries had actually put the cocktails into the vessels to take the photo. I love that even though the vessel probably cracked, they just said “Let’s do it anyway. Let’s get the photo, get that money shot”.
Of the 130 bartenders registered, the judges narrowed the field down to 10 but as Chisholm points for the final, the brand is looking for the same degree of creativity, functionality and brand awareness as they were looking for in the first round. “With the feedback that Tantri has given, we want them to elevate and finesse and fine-tune their end-product,” he said.
Although Patron and Mustika herself had hoped that the classes for the finalists would be able to happen in person, that won’t be the case. Instead, she will be helping the bartenders refine their original submission over zoom.
“I really want the finalists to think about the user experience,” said Mustika. “Is the drink intended to be drunk with a straw? If not, then how the rim interacts with the user’s mouth is really important. We ‘re looking to take the submissions to the next step and give the finalists enough information that they can present a more considered and finished piece.
If you want to try your hand at building your own vessel at home, Mustika offers Stay At Home kits as well as video tutorials on her website, although she points out there is so much information online, you could easily go down a ceramic rabbit hole.
The one thing she would advise is that you definitely have a bottle of Patron on hand for when you finish.