Last week, Georg Häussler, bartender at Werk8 in Basel, crossed the proverbial Röstigraben, the mythical border between German and French speaking Switzerland. For one night, he was behind the sticks at Geneva’s Little Barrel to showcase the cocktail that has him qualified for the Swiss finals of the Bacardi Legacy competition. El Fronterizo, is a delicate balance of Bacardi Carta Blanca, Martini Ambrato, Creme de cacao blanc, verjuice and yellow bell pepper juice.
Georg entered the competition at the suggestion of his bar manager, Martin Bornemann, winner of the Swiss title in 2017. The recipe took several months to develop. The cocktail story was 29 years in the making so to say. Indeed, Georg has dwelled into his personal story to develop the concept and story of El Fronterizo.
“El Fronterizo means the border crosser in Spanish. It can be different types of borders: geographical but also mental ones. It can be the limitations we put on ourselves by staying in our comfort zone.”
Using a Spanish name for a Bacardi Legacy cocktail is an obvious choice. Bacardi originates from Cuba after all. It has extra significance in Georg’s case. While German born, Georg spent part of his life in the Canarias before uprooting to Switzerland. “I am El Fronterizo“, he acquiesces.
With Martin’s help, Georg started looking for ingredients that are easy to find in Cuba and in any bar around the world. His main ingredient, the rum is a “fronterizo”. “Bacardi was the first producer to age its rum in barrel and then to filter it for clarity”, Georg explains. The only ingredient a little tricky to find is verjuice, a highly acidic juice extracted from unripe grapes. People can however buy it from specialist shops. “I wanted to bring something from the past into the present, another manner of crossing borders. Verjuice was used for acidity in the old days before being replaced by citrus. It’s a really interesting product. I now give masterclasses about it for bars to get reacquainted with it”, Georg adds.
In terms of preparation, verjuice offers an interesting versatility. “In bartending we usually say clear drinks should be stirred and others shaken. With verjuice, anything applies”, Georg demonstrates by Cuban rolling his cocktail. He serves it in a chilled Nick & Nora glass with a dash of paprika powder sprinkled on the side to represent mental and physical borders. In terms of flavours, the verjuice’s grape component complements that of the Martini while balancing its sweetness with acidity. The creme de cacao adds some roundness and the yellow pepper juice some earthiness. An excellent drink if I may say !
Georg is now touring other bars to promote El Fronterizo. Promotion counts for one third of the grade that will determine which candidate gets to go to Amsterdam for the world finals next May.
Beyond crossing the threshold of other bars doors, this experience had Georg stepping out of his usual role and becoming a guest bartender. “Last month I did my first ever guest shift in Lucerne. I was nervous at first as I didn’t know the guests and how they would react to my drink but it went great!”, he enthuses. Guest shifts are now his favourite aspect of cocktail competitions. “It’s exciting to discover new bars, new guests. I get to work behind other stations and see other ways of working”, he says, his eyes glued in awe to Nicolas Berger, one of his hosts at Little Barrel.
After stints in Basel, Zurich and Geneva, Georg’s Bacardi journey took him to Freiburg, in Germany, where he showcased El Fronterizo at One Trick Pony. To enjoy your own taste of El Fronterizo, follow Georg’s adventures on el.fronterizo.bacardi on Instagram and visit him at Werk8 or on his next guest bartending gig! The announcement for the winner of the Swiss leg of the Bacardi Legacy 2019 will happen in early March.