Casa Dragones was founded in 2009 by Maestra Tequilera Bertha González Nieves and businessman Robert Pittman. They set up shop in San Miguel de Allende, the charming town in Central Mexico, and introduced the world to their first product, a joven tequila meant for sipping. Per regulations, the tequila is distilled in Jalisco, but San Miguel is the brand’s spiritual home. And that’s where Casa Dragones launched its Bartender Exchange Program in 2020.
The program celebrates the interchange of knowledge, experience, and expertise between bartenders from Mexico, the United States, and the rest of the world. The marquee event is a cocktail competition called Jamming Sessions, in which bartenders compete for the ultimate prize, which includes a trip to San Miguel and a residency at the Casa Dragones tasting room. Participants also gain access to masterclasses covering agave harvest, tequila production, and sustainability.
The 2022 edition, which wrapped up in June, coincided with the seventh annual edition of Barra México, Latin America’ s preeminent bar trade show.
Casa Dragones received more than 400 original cocktail video submissions from bartenders across Mexico, the U.S., and Europe, with entries inspired by the theme “For the Love of San Miguel.” Over the course of a couple months, entrants were whittled down to eight semi-finalists, who gathered in San Miguel for a two-round competition that resulted in three finalists.
Each bartender created drinks on the fly, following prompts and using the ingredients available to them—with Casa Dragones Blanco as the star—to impress a panel of three prominent judges. When the dust settled, London bartender Daniel Kaizen came out victorious, serving the refreshing Dragon Punch for his final drink.
Besides the trophy, the win included an invitation for Kaizen to participate in the Casa Dragones Bartender Residency in San Miguel, a set of the brand’s ultra-premium tequila expressions, and $1,000 grant to support his professional endeavors.
“This competition was probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done because it’s just so beautiful,” says Kaizen, adding that he felt swept into the culture of San Miguel.
In creating the Dragon Punch, Kaizen explains that he wanted to incorporate all the flavors of Casa Dragones while catering to all types of tequila drinkers, from novices to connoisseurs. To make it happen, he merged the blanco expression with DIY rosemary syrup, fresh pineapple and citrus juices, and a handful of garnishes.
Dragon Punch Recipe
2 ounces Casa Dragones blanco tequila
2/3 ounce rosemary syrup
2/3 ounce pineapple juice
2/3 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass, and garnish with diced kiwi, a lime wedge, pineapple wedge, and rosemary sprig.