Meet Ngametua Fatongiatau, the winner of the 2022 Sydney Cider Cocktail Competition who impressed the judges with his cocktail, 1990 Agua Fresca soon to be pre-batched and canned.
The final of the Sydney Cider Cocktail Competition for 2022 was held on 22 August 2022 with Ngametua Fatongiatau (Tua) winning first prize. I had the pleasure of judging the competition with previous winners Jono Carr and Daniel Hilton at The Cidery where Ngametua won by a unanimous vote. His cocktail was inspired by the popular street drink Agua Fresca and pays homage to his Polynesian roots.
In this interview, the Chief Steward at Hilton Sydney speaks to us about the inspiration behind his winning cocktail, the challenges of this year’s canned cocktail competition, the role of cider as a cocktail ingredient and his advice for bartenders considering entering the competition next year.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, how long have you’ve been bartending and how you started in your career?
I’ve been in the hospitality industry for a lifetime it seems. Currently, I am the Chief Steward at the Hilton Sydney where on occasion you’ll find me on the tools in Marble Bar or Zeta Bar. Most recently I have been working with the team at Corretto Dee Why and Banco Manly doing pop ups and activations. I haven’t been bartending for long, less than two years, my brother Tu’amelie inspired me to pick up the art.
You’re the winner of the 2022 Sydney Cider Cocktail Competition. Briefly describe your cocktail, the flavour profile and the inspiration behind “1990 Agua Fresca”.
My brother Tu’amelie (Venue Manager & Licensee at Corretto Dee Why) is the inspiration for the 1990 Agua Fresca. At the risk of sounding like a dating profile, I won’t list the reasons behind it.
The drink is fresh, vibrant and floral with herbaceous notes. It has nuances of strawberry, Jamaica (hibiscus), toasted coconut, agave and ginger.
This year, the competition challenged bartenders to create an innovative cocktail that can be pre-batched and canned using Sydney Cider, Agave Ginger Cider or Cherry Perry. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in creating a cocktail to be pre-batched and canned?
Agave Ginger Cider with some fresh lime is already an amazing tipple. Finding a combination of ingredients that would compliment each other was tough but my background in food helped me navigate through it. The R&D was really fun though!
Did you find anything that didn’t originally work, and if so, how did you overcome it?
The Berry Coco was a challenging element. I realised that the ripeness of the strawberries was affecting the flavour of the final product. So I made sure that I chose strawberries that had a dark ruby hue and ensured that any unripe bits were removed. It resulted in a sweeter and less grassy product.
What influenced your choice of Agave Ginger Cider and what role does it play in the cocktail?
The great thing about the Agave Ginger Cider is that it is based off the Original Sydney Cider with the addition of organic agave syrup and pure ginger juice. It is crisp and vibrant with a savoury element to it. The cider provides balance to the cocktail, allowing the flavour profiles in the Berry Coco and Jamaica Lemon Thyme to shine through.
Your cocktail ingredients include Berry Coco and Jamaica Lemon Thyme. How did you go about make them and why did you choose these particular flavours?
The Berry Coco is made with fresh strawberries blended with pineapple and coconut juice. Then it’s clarified with a product called Pectinex Ultra SPL which breaks down the pectin, leaving a bright clear liquid.
The Jamaica Lemon Thyme was inspired by the Cherry Lemon Thyme Shrub Corinne Mossati made (cocktailsandbars.com). It is a syrup not a shrub. It’s made by creating a 2:1 sugar syrup using coconut water, castor sugar, and then toasted coconut, Jamaica (hibiscus flowers) and fresh Lemon Thyme are all steeped in the solution with a touch of hibiscus flower syrup for colour.
The use of coconut in each element helps the flavours work harmoniously together with each profile coming through in taste, texture and scent.
You mentioned that the base spirit can be blanco tequila, white rum or vodka. Why did you choose to present with blanco tequila?
Besides the agave aspect, the blanco tequila has citrus and peppery notes to it, which helps add definition to the Berry Coco and Jamaica Lemon Thyme. Richard Feyn (Sydney Brewery) said he really liked a tequila cocktail from the previous year, so that is what cemented the choice for the night really.
Where do you see cider positioned as a cocktail ingredient and particularly in canned cocktails?
I think that the Sydney Cider Cocktail Competition highlights the versatility of cider and its use as an ingredient/mixer. Over time more and more bartenders will start to use cider as part of their low ABV cocktail programs as an alternative to sparkling for a spritz or soda for a highball.
What advice would you give someone considering entering the competition next year?
Every competition is different, make sure you are hitting the brief from the concept stage through to the final product. So you are not missing out on any points come judging. If you are not sure, reach out and get the answers.
A few tips I picked up from Kurtis Bosley and Jono Carr. Anything you can prepare beforehand on competition day, do it. This could be preparing garnishes, glassware or pre-measuring your specs. The less impact you have on your rhythm on the night the better. Those guys are legends, so that is some sound advice.
Any closing comments?
Thank you to Richard Feyn and the Sydney Brewery team for providing this unique opportunity. I am excited to see 1990 Agua Fresca in venue and on shelves for people to enjoy.
1990 Agua Fresca
Cocktail recipe by Ngametua Fatongiatau
- 30ml base spirit (This can be blanco tequila, white rum, vodka) I used blanco tequila
- 50ml Berry Coco*
- 20ml Jamaica Lemon Thyme**
- 15ml St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
- 15ml lime juice
- Top with Agave Ginger Cider
Garnish: spiced rock salt, lava salt and dehydrated lime wheel
Shake all ingredients except cider with ice. Stain into highball over ice and top with Agave Ginger Cider.
* Berry Coco: 500g fresh strawberries blended with 1L Golden Circle Pine Coconut Juice, add Pectinex Ultra SPL to clarify, fine strain, bottle and store.
**Jamaica Lemon Thyme: dry roast shredded coconut until toasty and brown and set aside. Make a 2:1 coconut syrup using bottled coconut water as the base. Add toasted coconut and allow to steep whilst mixture is still hot. Once mixture has cooled slightly, add the Jamaica (hibiscus flower) and lemon thyme and let mixture cool, fine strain and bottle. NB: there will be a layer of fat which can be skimmed off or left – it adds texture to the drink.
“1990 Agua Fresca” by Ngametua Fatongiatau will be available exclusively to Hilton Sydney for the first month after production and will then be further available at Corretto Dee Why and Sydney Brewery venues (Sydney Brewery Surry Hills, The Cidery Bar & Kitchen, Sydney Brewery Hunter Valley) and via the Sydney Brewery website.
In partnership with Sydney Brewery