A little fun fact: The word “solera” translates to “on the ground” in Spanish, and we’ve hit the ground running for this year’s Lustau Solera Standout Competition.
For three consecutive years, we’ve been amazed at the caliber of cocktails submitted by top bartenders, and we’re sure this year will continue to inspire the hottest talent out there.
Mixing with sherry might be a bit unfamiliar to some bartenders, but today it’s a knack that most top mixologists would agree is a marketable and advanced skill to hone in on, especially if you’re seeking a professional career behind the stick. In keeping with this notion, not only has Lustau created a Certified Sherry Wine Specialist Course for industry professionals, it also established the annual Solera Standout Competition to inspire bartenders to mix with this versatile and complex spirit.
“The House of Lustau has long been distinguished as a benchmark for sherry education,” says Myrna Santos Mayor, Director of North America Grupo Caballero. “We understand the challenge of obtaining an in-depth knowledge of sherry, and we are thrilled to offer formal programs structured around the educational efforts we have undertaken in the market.”
Professional development aside, the Solera Standout Competition really sparks a feeling of togetherness for those who enter and move up the ranks of the competition. The House of Lustau goes all out to host the finalists with fun-filled days and nights, endless food, and private educational tastings. The final competition is held in Jerez de la Frontera, the land of sherry. And the sherry flows freely at Bodegas Lustau, which is well-known for its premium sherries, brandies, and vermouths.
Check out these past winning cocktails, and get inspired to enter this year’s Solera Standout competition.
2018 Winner: Devin Kennedy, with The Rule of Three Cocktail
The Rule of Three
- 1 oz. Mahón Gin
- 1 oz. Lustau Palo Cortado Peninsula Sherry
- 1 oz. Lustau Blanco Vermut
- 3 drops Pink Peppercorn Tincture*
- Grapefruit Twist (for Garnish)
Preparation: Express a grapefruit twist into a mixing glass and place into the glass. Combine all ingredients and stir until proper dilution for an up drink; strain into a coupe glass.
*Pink peppercorn Tincture
Steep 10 grams of pink peppercorns in a 16 oz. high-proof neutral spirit (such as Everclear) for a day. Strain out peppercorns into a dropper bottle.
2017 Winner: Alex Jump, with La Sobremesa
- 1/2 oz. Lustau Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva
- 1 oz. Lustau Manzanilla Pasada de Sanlúcar
- 1/4 oz. Leopold Bros. New York Sour Apple Liqueur
- 1/4 oz. Lemon Juice
- 1/4 oz. Milk Syrup*
- 6–8 dashes Marcona almond and goat cheese tincture**
- Manzanilla olive (for Garnish)
Preparation: Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and top with ice. Shake well and fine strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with a manzanilla olive and an additional spray of the Marcona almond and goat cheese tincture.
Combine 15g of citric acid powder and 85ml of water to create a 20% citric acid solution. Combine 200g of superfine sugar and 200ml of organic whole milk in a sealable container; shake vigorously until well-combined. Add 1/2 oz. of citric acid solution to 500ml of milk syrup. Stir to combine. Store in fridge.
**Marcona Almond and Goat Cheese Tincture
Combine 4 oz. of blanched Marcona almonds and 1 oz. of Monte Enebro goat cheese in a Mason jar. Pour enough vodka into the jar to cover, but no more than 5 oz. Refrigerate for 12 to 48 hours; strain and jar. (Note: Tincture may be cloudy.) Keep refrigerated.
2016 Winner: Anthony Parks, with The Stowaway
- 2 oz. Brandy de Jerez Solera Reserva
- 3/4 oz. Fresh Carrot Juice
- 1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz. Lustau Amontillado Sherry
- 1/2 oz. Egg Whites
- 1/2 oz. Coriander Syrup
- 1/4 tsp. Cynar
- Manicured Lemon Spiral (for Garnish)
Preparation: Build all ingredients into a shaker tin; dry shake vigorously to emulsify the egg whites. Add ice and shake a second time for 15–20 seconds. Fine strain into a cocktail coupe, express lemon oils on top of the cocktails, and garnish with a manicured lemon spiral, suspended on the rim of the glass.
A Whole New World
The 2016 Solera Standout Competition was held in Castillo de San Marcos in El Puerto de Santa María, an ancient Moorish fortress constructed hundreds of years before medieval times, in a mosque where Christopher Columbus had lived for two months before sailing for the New World. Contestant Chad Phillips created a cocktail called The Retired Explorer, which used ingredients that correlated with geographic points on the world map.
During the very first year in the castle, the lights went out. But the bartenders were so excited about the competition and immersed in the moment that they carried on, using their phones to see what they were mixing.
It’s a Family Affair
Solera Standout’s 2016 winner, Anthony Parks, is married to Helen, a finalist in last year’s competition.
All in Good Fun
For all three years of the competition, Bodegas Lustau hired an expert bartender to dress as a court jester for the master of ceremonies.
All in the Family
Each year, a member of the Caballero family has attended as a competition judge.
The Solera Standout Competition draws a large number of finalists from all over the United States every year, proving bartenders are interested in mixing with sherry and that Lustau has wide distribution across the nation.
The first year, only men made it through to the final round, but over the next two years, the ladies rocked it. Of the three competitions, one woman and two men have won.
The winning female bartender was Alex Jump, who wanted it so badly that she drove from Denver to Miami to compete in the semifinals, won, and then went on to Spain to compete in—and win—the global finals.