I first met bartender Lennon Aguilar of Discovery Primea when he was a student for the WSET1 class conducted by Enderun Extension. I remember him being brilliant and, like a complex scotch, full of character (yeah, yeah… I knew him once, hahaha).
I also remember him being sweet, kind, and wonderfully amiable… Which is why when he invited me to support him for his bid in the Glenfiddich World’s Most Experimental Bartender 2018, I was all for momentarily dropping my impartial pseudo-journalistic hat to support a phenomenally talented friend.
The Glenfiddich World’s Most Experimental Bartender competition is a global contest open to all mixologists from bars all over the world. The contest requires the participant to come up with a “forward thinking and experimental” cocktail using the Glenfiddich 12 Year Old. The national winner gets sent to Scotland to collaborate with a judge they select for the global final, and the winners get to go to international bar shows the following year.
When Lennon said he was joining, I knew that he would definitely be one of the rock stars in the contest. Here’s the 411 on the man behind the cocktail (because yes, I managed to score an interview despite our mutually busy schedules):
2shotsandapint: Tell us a little bit about your mixology career
Lennon Aguilar: I started in the beverage industry as a barista for a major coffee shop in 2001. After a few years, I developed an interest in mixing drinks and wanted to level up. The next logical step was, of course, making coffee cocktails, and that’s how I became a bartender.
I worked for various bars for more than a decade. I am the Assistant Vice President and Training Manager of NEBBA (National Elite Bar and Beverage Association), a bartending organisation that does beverage trainings and demonstrations in bars and schools.
I joined Discovery Primea last 2015 as Bar Supervisor. I am in charge of The Gilarmi Lounge, 1824, Edge, and Plunge.
(In terms of awards and recognitions), I created the very first tinapa cocktail “Rosario’s Pandawan” for Ginebra San Miguel Premium Gin, as finalist for World Gin Month 2017. I was one of the semi finalists for Bacardi Legacy Philippines 2018. I created the first Bulalo Old Fashioned cocktail “Bone Maize & Harmony” for Diageo Reserve Competition 2018, Semi Finalist.
My style of bartending ranges from classic, to modern, and playful. I believe that classic cocktails are the foundation of everything that we have right now in the beverage industry (and) these classics are where I get ideas to innovate and evolve. My modern approach in bartending involves using unusual ingredients like bagoong, peanuts, nori wrappers, fish sauce, etc. Using these ingredients, I became an artist on my own right. I see my cocktails as blank canvases that I can use to paint whatever I wanted. I also love to use local ingredients because I know that we have local products. They can be as good and promising as these imported ingredients. Sustainability is also one of my visions in making cocktails.
2shots: How and/or why did you join the Glenfiddich competition?
LA: This competition allowed us bartenders to work with people outside our industry. I believed that (working with) experts from a variety of industries would sure to lead to deeper insights, fresher perspectives and faster innovation. I understood that the collaboration was mutually beneficial for everyone because when we were working together, we saw how others worked, thought, negotiated and operated. This gave all the people involved a chance to pick up skills from their colleagues and build upon their strengths. These newly-learned skills could then be practiced in their own fields to look at things with a new perspective and be used to make improvements and enhancements.
2shots: What was your inspiration behind your cocktail?
LA: Space has always been a source of fascination and inspiration for mankind. Looking at the stars on a clear night sky, one can’t help but wonder and become philosophical about our place in the Universe.
(I believe that) contemplating the mysteries of the Universe is best done while drinking a glass of Glenfiddich. Every sip is like drinking a piece of history, a part of the past. Just like in astronomy, looking through a telescope is getting a glimpse of the past. The farther we look out into space, the farther we look back in time.
Just as an astrophysicist tries to understand the mysteries of the universe, a bartender tries to understand the complexities of flavour in a drink. Both try to make people appreciate the art and science of their respective crafts. Both want to bring the beauty of the Universe to the people. Both are artists and scientists at the same time.
The Origin of Life is a concept that will give a wonderful experience that, like looking through a telescope, a person could be allowed to visualise a piece of history.
2shots: What made you decide to collaborate with astrophysicist Dr. Rogel Mari See for your cocktail?
LA: Jumping into the world of astronomy and physics for a (cocktail) partnership can seem daunting, especially for a precocious bartender with a passion for the field like me… But it’s relatively easy to get interested in astronomy — after all, what’s cooler than monster black holes, stars and planets galore, swirling nebulas and galaxies?
Pursuing space science “is not just about going to Mars or going to the moon,” Dr. See said. “It’s making sure that we take care of the earth and ensure the survival of the human race as a whole.” The truth, however, is that space science plays a significant role in our everyday lives—perhaps even to a much greater extent than most of us realise. That said, as a human being (apart from being a bartender, that is), having partnered with an astrophysicist gave me the opportunity to do my part and save the Universe one drink at a time.
2shots: Tell us about your cocktail entries for the contest.
LA: The Origin of Life cocktail story begins with Glenfiddich 12 placed inside a porthole. The porthole is then placed in front of a telescope pointed at the star Tau Ceti in the constellation Cetus. Tau Ceti is 12 light years away and the light seen from the telescope is the same light that left the star when Glenfiddich 12 begun its ageing process 12 years ago. The story also features the bright stars Altair and Sigma Draconis that can be viewed 15 and 18 light years away.
3 Glenfiddich Highballs will be featured using the Glenfiddich 12, 15, and 18. Using the etymology of whisky (“water of life”), I’ve used it to symbolise the sun, the source of life. Properly selected liqueurs that compliment the whisky are added to represent the Earth, the “elixir of life”. Spherical ice with a meteorite inside cools the drink to symbolise the Moon. The meteorite is a piece of rock from outer space and orbiting the Sun since the beginning of the Solar System. The mixture is topped up with sparkling artesian water. Finally, freshly picked herbs and spices are added to create body to the drink and symbolise life on Earth.
Indeed, Lennon is a rock star in his own right for thinking so out of the box he went zooming out of the orbit with this concept. I personally had some during the event and I can guarantee that the cocktails are out of this world.
I’m attaching the recipe at the end of the article, courtesy of the generous Lennon himself… Maybe readers can, too, create an otherworldly cocktail. Cheers!
The Origin Of Life
60ml Glenfiddich 12 Years
15ml Green Chartreuse
60ml Glenfiddich 15 Years
60ml Glenfiddich 18 Years
15ml Grand Marnier
artesian sparkling water, to fill
artesian water ice balls with meteorite inside
Special thanks to Mr. Lennon Aguilar and Ms. Margaux Hontiveros of Discovery Primea