Raffles Makati transformed the Mistral Rooftop Bar into a boxing ring for an epic gin bout in an exclusive "Thrilla in Manila" bar takeover.
In the cards was a heavyweight match between the bartender from Bangkok and the mixologist from Manila.
On one corner was SO Sofitel Bangkok's Kishan Rampersad, a veteran beverage trainer who has traveled to Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Maldives, and part of the world to share his knowledge with various international hotel chains. He is backed by Iron Balls Gin, an artisan gin distilled in Bangkok and made with Thai botanicals.
Representing Raffles Makati and Mistral, on the other hand, was Auie Benisano, who was hailed champion in the recent Opihr Gin Global Cocktail Competition and the 2018 Pisco Bauza Competition. Backing him up are the Sirena Blue Pea Gin and the Sirena Dry Gin from Panay-based Destileria Barako.
Here's a blow by blow account of the bar brawl:
Rampersad had an initial salvo of ingredients inspired by northern Thailand's Isaan cuisine. His Laab was inspired by the Kra Pow Moo, a Thai dish with minced pork and a lot of spice.
This one had a slice of bacon for the salty savory note, as well as heat from the homemade Laab spice syrup and the Nam Prik (Chili Salt) rimmed glass.
Benisano countered with a drink that left his opponent in a Purple Haze. It was a refreshing gin pomelo drink made with fizzy ginger beer.
Rampersad took a jab at Benisano, saying that he wasn't too concerned with putting much color in his drinks as he is concentrating on flavor.
His G & Thai Tea, with the exotic flavors of cardamom, star anise, and black tea, had hints of orange and citrus.
Unfazed by the Thai's attack, Benisano rallied with his own G & Sea, which is inspired by the beachsides of Boracay.
Made with an uncommon combination of gin, lemongrass, ginger, nori, and dalandan. It was a nice mix of sweet, sour, and umami, going well with the rambutan notes of Sirena's Dry Gin.
It seemed that Rampersad had the Filipino on the ropes with his Mango Sticky Rice Martini, or Iron Balls Gin mixed with Mango Sticky Rice liqueur, vermouth, and bitters, with the martini glass rimmed with toasted rice.
Rampersad went for the knockout, seeing the guests' reaction to the crunch of the toasted crispy rice mixed in with the drink.
The Filipino escaped with a 1-2 combination of his own – the Aurum 53, named after Gold and the atomic number of Iodine.
Seemingly simple, a sip revealed fermented pineapple notes from a homemade golden tepache, and salted kiat kiat tincture. The drink did look like there was gold in it when it was swirled around.
In the end, the hometown advantage, colorful drinks, and inventive flavors of Benisano narrowly edged out Rampersad by a 60%-40% decision from an Instagram Stories poll from the crowd at Mistral that afternoon.
This bar takeover was one for the books. Benisano and Rampersad's unique Southeast Asian gin-based cocktails are available this October 11 and 12.
The Mistral Rooftop Bar can be found at the 9th floor of Raffles Makati. Happy Hour is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with the exclusive southeast Asian-inspired cocktails available until 10 p.m.