London Calling: some of the finest bartenders in the capital

We didn’t give you the full lowdown on last week’s World Class action did we? How shocking! Particularly as it involved so much talent from all corners of Western Europe…

The three day extravaganza kicked off on Monday with 19 of the finest bartending talents in Blighty (there should have been twenty but hey, these things happen). In the Scottish corner we had James Drummond, Andy Galloway, Murray Drysdale, Adrian Gomes, Mike McGinty and the only lady in the competition, Megs DeMeulenaere. Representing good old Lahndon town was Julian de Feral, Andy Mil, Ciprian Lazar, Jerome Kaftandjian, Mate Csatlos, Aaron Jones and brothers Alistair and Joshua Reynolds (not as a double act we might add). While spreading the cocktail love from the rest of GB was Sam Kershaw, Matt Fairhurst, Rob Wood, Tom Pople and Rich Tring.

The judges briefing

You could smell the tension in the air at the start of the day. And given the prestige of the competition, it was easy to understand why. This is the big one; the bomb; the guv’nor of cocktail-offs – the one that puts all facets of bartending to the test. It’s where creativity, presentation, knowledge of the spirit, balance and taste must come out to play in each of the set tasks. No mean feat but they were all ready to do battle, each looking sharp and dressed like a champ. Over the day friendships were formed, shakers were shared, details were discussed – yes they were competing against each other but the genuine feeling of comraderie with our n-n-n-nineteen was palpable.

Watching fellow contestants performing the ‘Lucky Dip’ challenge

There were three challenges in all: ‘Lucky Dip’ judged by World Class UK 2011 winner Jamie MacDonald and Ketel One UK Brand Ambassador Deano Moncrieffe; ‘Drink & Food Pairing’, overseen by World Class Global 2011 winner Manabu Ohtake and Johnnie Walker Blue Label Brand Ambassador Kabir Suharan, and ‘Trend Cocktails’ given the once over by industry great Peter Dorelli and Tanqueray UK Brand Ambassador Jill Saunders. Competitors were split into three groups to perform each round in tandem.

We didn’t get to see everyone compete in each challenge but highlights for us included Aaron Jones of Salvatore at Playboy London pairing the peppery notes in his Ketel One vodka cocktail with mackeral. The presentation was beautiful – served on a driftwood board, garnished with seaweed and rope accompanied by a soundtrack of seagulls and crashing waves to evoke the mood. This was further reinforced with a spritz of caper brine (aka Channel No Fife) sprayed into the air. Smashing stuff.

Matt Fairhurst prepares for his challenge

Sam Kershaw made a deliciously boozy tea with Lapsang Souchong providing the perfect accompaniment to the smoky Talisker whisky. Combined with the orangey notes of Grand Marnier and a dash of chocolate bitters, it worked exceedingly well with the rich fruit cake served on the side. We also liked Alistair Reynolds’ after dinner cocktail of Talisker, apricot brandy and Grand Marnier paired with a tangy blue cheese.

 

Food and drinks aside, Julian de Feral earned a nod of approval from the judges as he opened his ‘Trend Cocktails’ presentation by pouring them a glass of water from an antique Tanqueray jug (Peter Dorelli joked that it was bribery but he loved it nonetheless). Julian went on to make a Cosmopolitan and a Clover Club from the list of ten cocktails lurking in sealed envelopes and drawn randomly by each contestant as they stepped up to the front of the room.

Matt Fairhurst obviously knew what to say hit the right notes with Peter Dorelli. Firstly, he opened his presentation by telling a story of a customer who mixed his Zacapa rum with Coca Cola. Which might seem sacrilegious to fans of this premium and extremely pricey rum but Fairhurst continued his tale: “The customer said ‘I love rum and coke, therefore I want the best possible rum and coke there is’.” You could almost hear Dorelli ratching up the points as he’s a huge fan of bartenders catering to the customer’s needs and not their own egos. Fairhurst also highlighted the fact he chose not to taste his drink as he prepared it: “I don’t need to taste it, I know what I’m doing.”  A big fat tick in the Dorelli school of bartending – he absolutely abhors cocktails being tasted by their creators.

Andy Mil gave good patter throughout his performances

Andy Mil gave good patter throughout his challenges, managing to turn out consistently good drinks whilst telling consistently bad jokes. Surely worth a prize for that skill alone.

The judges thought so too as Mil made it through to the final six. Joining him was Julian de Feral, James Drummond, Aaron Jones, Mike McGinty and Matt Fairhurst, who had a one night’s sleep before competing in the first-ever World Class Western Europe Final. For details of the two-day extravaganza, click here…

 

 

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