As the official blog of the World Class UK Finals, we’re giving this prestigious competition the respect it deserves, starting by outlining all the technical bits…
How and when did it start?
The film industry has the Oscars, music has the Ivor Novellos, theatre has the Oliviers (or Tonys depending on which side of the pond you’re from) and bartenders have World Class. Diageo Reserve (the arm that takes in the luxury end of the portfolio including Tanqueray No. TEN, Ketel One, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Ron Zapaca rum and Ciroc vodka) launched its ‘World Class’ bartender programme four years ago, with the aim of pitting the best cocktail whizzes against each other to find the best makers and shakers around. And it’s worked.
The perception of the bartending profession has changed dramatically over the past few years and increasingly bartenders are becoming respected as skilled professionals,” says last year’s Global World Class winner Erik Lorincz. “Creating a cocktail is no longer a prescriptive task, with bartenders experimenting with an increasingly diverse array of incredible ingredients. World Class has been instrumental in accelerating this evolution, helping to raise the profile of bartenders, elevate their craft and nurture new talent.”
The 2011 nationwide search started in October last year with a flurry of forums, training and recipe submissions broken down into three categories: rum (Ron Zapaca), white spirits (Tanqueray and Ketel One) and tequila (Jose Cuervo). Then Simon Difford at Odd Firm Of Sin HQ stepped in to make, photograph and judge each recipe before selecting the best entries from Scotland, the North, the South, and London.
How many people make it through to the regional finals?
Of the hundreds of submissions, only six of the best make it through to each semi-final. There are 12 competitions in total – one for each drinks category in each of the four regions. In addition to the 12 overall winners, three ‘wild card’ entries also get a chance to show off their skills in the UK finals after receiving the most ‘likes’ in an online vote. Have your say on worldclassuk.com.
What’s most impressive about Diageo Reserve World Class is how every aspect of the craft of bartending is tested by the challenges and judges,” comments World Class judge and all-round cocktail guru Dale deGroff. “You need to be creative, thorough and skilled – it’s daunting. Each year I learn different skills from everyone I meet at World Class including the contestants. These 21st century bartenders are the pioneers of a new golden age of the craft.”
What does winning the World Class title mean?
We can only imagine but since winning last year Erik Lorincz has been cherry-picked for the top job at The American Bar at The Savoy, written a book with Simon Difford and has well and truly been living the dream.
Since winning World Class, I have been propelled into the limelight and constantly have clients wanting to be served by ‘the best bartender in the world.’ I have had the chance to travel the globe with Diageo Reserve, encouraging new bartending talent and discovering new flavours and trends for my own fine drinks portfolio.”
What’s the criteria for winning the World Class UK Final?
As well as bartending style and skill, judges will be looking for cocktail appearance, taste and balance together with suitability of the cocktail to the brand. The final takes place on June 14th and bartenders will have to compete for the UK title in three rounds: theatre, classic and shopping (full details on Final Day).
Amongst the judges are Erik Lorincz, Liz Finn, Simon Difford, Barrie Wilson, Andy Pearson and l’il ol’ us, The Cocktail Lovers.
The Last Word:
World Class gives bartenders a stage to showcase their skills and can dramatically accelerate the careers of those lucky enough to reach the final. The 2010 final in Athens was a once in a lifetime experience for me and not only because I was the winner – but because I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the greatest names in the business.” Erik Lorincz – World Class winner 2010