The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge Crowns a 2024 Global Bar Artist Champion - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Following regional competitions around the world, ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto has named Esmerelda Castrogivanni of Sips Drinkery in Barcelona, Spain, the global winner of the 2024 Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge.

The competition, now in its sixth edition, took place on May 12 at The Court in Rome, and challenged bartenders from across the globe to craft an original and unique aperitivo-style cocktail, inspired by any art form and using ITALICUS Rosolio di Bergamotto.

Castrogivanni’s winning cocktail, Alloway, inspired by the English pop art pioneer, Lawrence Reginald Alloway, captivated judges with its blend of ITALICUS, white bitter, and apple soda. The drink was uniquely garnished with an edible napkin made of apple jam and caramel. “With Alloway, I wanted to provocatively make people reflect on the concept of art and what it represents for each of us,” says Castrogivanni. “To do so, I was inspired by what pop art represented in the 1950s, an artistic movement that revolutionised the world of art, making it accessible to ordinary people and no longer just to a few.”

Second place was awarded to Jan Križaj of Kavarna Moderna in Ljubljana, Slovenia, with his cocktail Congelato, which combined ITALICUS, dry vermouth, pesto, and tomato cordial, garnished with Grana Padano and tomato powder. Križaj took inspiration from the power of the art of photography and its ability to capture moments, tell stories, and preserve feelings. To create his drink, Križaj was inspired by Harry Craddock, a famous English bartender of the early 20th century, and by the famous period photo that immortalizes him while he fits a shaker containing a White Lady (one of his most famous cocktails) into a wall of the Savoy’s hotel American bar in London.

Stephanie Wullschleger of Herz Bar in Basel, Switzerland took home third place, creating Lucha Libre, a cocktail made with ITALICUS, kiwi-jalapeno cordial, and soda, garnished with a Red Kiwi. Wullschleger was inspired by Mexico, naming her cocktail after the famous wrestling style that is based more on athletic gesture than physical strength: an entertainment show in which the protagonists express their creativity and imagination, which she likened to bartending.

“This year, we had the honor of witnessing a competition featuring young bartenders of the highest caliber in both technique and style.” —Giuseppe Gallo

The competitors presented their creations to a panel of esteemed judges, including Giuseppe Gallo, founder and CEO of ITALICUS; Paloma Difford, managing director of Difford’s Guide; and Julio Cabrera, maestro cantinero and owner of Cafe La Trova in Miami. “The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge is a program designed to discover and showcase emerging talents in our industry year after year,” says Gallo. “This competition serves as a creative platform, allowing bartenders to express their artistic sensitivity and imagination without any barriers or limits. This year, we had the honor of witnessing a competition featuring young bartenders of the highest caliber in both technique and style. We are thrilled to see so many talented individuals eager to participate in the contest, aiming to enhance their skills and grow professionally.”

Thirteen talented bartenders from around the world were selected for the Global finals, including: 

Ming Yiu Chan – Darkside Rosewood | Hong Kong | ‘Fusillicus’ Cocktail

Maria Hallhagen – Gondolen | Stockholm, Sweden | ‘Panorama’ Cocktail

Brandon Stead – 45 West Fin and Cocktail Bar | Leicester, United Kingdom | ‘Vincent and Gallo’ Cocktail

Jan Križaj – Kavarna Moderna, Ljubljana | Croatia/Slovenia | ‘Congelato’ Cocktail

Guchuan Yin – Double Chicken Please | Manhattan, New York | ‘Bergamot Nomad’ Cocktail

Esmeralda Castrogiovanni – Sips Drinkery | Barcerlona, Spain | ‘Alloway’ Cocktail

Eleni Karatzoglou – Fika, Drama | Greece | ‘Judith’s Rage’ Cocktail

Boldizsár Mihálffy – Neverland Bar | Budapest, Hungary | ‘Street Art’ Cocktail

Stephanie Wullschleger – Herz Bar | Basel, Switzerland | ‘Lucha Libre’ Cocktail

Maureen Cadet – Chateau de la Gaude | Aix-en-Provence, France | ‘Deceptive’ Cocktail

Alessandro Zampieri – Il Mercante | Venice, Italy | ‘Stessosole’ Cocktail

Valerio Sabatiiel – Pier 42 | Oslo, Norway | ‘Sanzio’ Cocktail

Annabell Hemetsberger – Ambra | Coppenhagen, Denmark | ‘Sprezzatura’ Cocktail

Castrogiovanni has won a trip to Miami for a once-in-a-lifetime bar mentorship program, guided by the expertise of Julio Cabrera of Café La Trova, which was named a finalist in the 2023 edition of 50 World’s Best Bars. 

For more information on The Art of ITALICUS Aperitivo Challenge, head to

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