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FOOD Shaken and stirred in Cuba

Kevin Kennedy of Hotel Westport is representing Ireland in an international cocktail competition taking place in Cuba next week.
Kevin Kennedy of Hotel Westport is representing Ireland in an international cocktail competition taking place in Cuba next week.

Shaken and stirred in Cuba

Áine Ryan

INDIAN Orchard, Pearfect Martini, Citrus Glow or what about Un Cantineros Pasión? Just muddle up some fresh ginger, Havana Club three-year-old, lime juice, Monin passion fruit syrup, dry sherry and pineapple juice. Mmm! Well, it is meant to be summer, so why not dust off that cocktail shaker and bring some sparkling sunshine back to Mayo.
In fact, Kevin Kennedy stirs and shakes up his spirited and fruity concoctions all-year-round down at Hotel Westport – although early next month he will be jetting off to Cuba having won the Irish Distillers’ Pernod Ricard Havana Club National Grand Prix Cocktail Competition.
He recently competed against eleven other finalists for the prize, which will see him represent Ireland at the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix from June 3 to 7.
Speaking to The Mayo News last week, Kevin said he is already planning and sourcing the ingredients for the cocktail recipes he will use for his Cuban odyssey.
“I have to plan my recipes for the final because Customs is very strict and I may not be able to find some of the ingredients. I was told that at the last competition, two years ago, some of the finalists were racing around the country trying to find ingredients,” Kevin said. But he will not be caught out: “I will be carrying a bottle of Irish Mist with me.”

Not just pulling pints
A Westport native and former Rice College student, Kevin has worked at Hotel Westport for the past decade. “I worked in a number of other bars beforehand, and I have always done my best in any job I have had. I am a bar supervisor here now, with a great team in both the bar and the hotel. Bar work is no longer just about pulling pints. Irish people, in general, are now more educated and sophisticated about their wines and food,” Kevin explains.
Hotel Westport always had some cocktails on the drinks menu, he said, but he has helped to develop that aspect of the bar. He also runs cocktail classes for both guests and locals.
While Kevin was reluctant to divulge any of his cocktail secrets for Cuba, he did treat The Mayo News to one of his ‘Signature Serves’, a Maple Old Fashioned. Luckily, The Mayo News was travelling by foot and could thoroughly savour the blend of Woodford Reserve bourbon, maple syrup and chocolate bitters with a hint of an orange twist.  
Established in 1996, the Havana Club International Cocktail Gran Prix takes places every two years in Cuba, and attracts around 40 entrants from over 30 countries.