So, the fun has started. World Class UK fun we mean. This week the quest to find the best bartender in the country got underway with extremely stylish, fun and informative Speakeasy Forums held in Edinburgh, Manchester and London.

And the signs are the prestigious competition is going to be bigger and even better than before. Which is no mean feat when you think that some 600 hotshots pitched up at the Forums in the UK last year (a stonking 10,000 worldwide), each with the aim of concocting an entirely orginal cocktail using one of the tippity-top products in Diageo Reserve Brands portfolio.

Just like reputable chefs pride themselves on working with quality ingredients, so too does any self-respecting barman. That’s where these particular spirits come in. In the rum corner we have Ron Zacapa; scoring maximum points in the tequila department there’s Don Julio, while knock-out vodka comes in the cool, clean shape of Ketel One.

As for gin, the heavyweight champ is Tanqueray No. TEN; for whisky connoisseurs there are two contenders: Talisker for single malt fans, and the prize-winning rare blends brought together in Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Last, but by absolutely no means least is Grand Marnier, punching well above the weight of your average liqueur with its stunning blend of fine cognacs and wild, aromatic Caribbean oranges.

That’s the base ingredients taken care of. As for the comp itself, anyone who wishes to enter must attend at least one of the Speakeasy Forums. Not that it’s a hardship by any stretch of the imagination… As well as exquisite presentation – everything from an authentic sweet shop front on arrival, through to gold-clad flapper girls serving booze inside – the whole experience has been devised to inform, enlighten and without being patronising, educate. All this whilst bringing the bartending community together to share ideas.

That said, the main reason the finest ‘tenders in the south of England were gathered in the Speakeasied-up Georgian Restaurant at Harrods was to learn more about the themes for the competition… This year it’s all about Asian Fusion, Classics with a Twist, Gentlemen’s Drinks and Inspired by Ladies.

Last week’s Forums focused on the latter two categories, with insights into the competition and the drinks themselves from Jim Meehan, founder of PDT in New York; Jamie MacDonald, World Class UK 2011 winner, and Lorena Vasquez, Master Distiller at Ron Zacapa.

It was a well-attended, extremely well executed event which gets World Class in the UK off to the perfect start. If the calibre of bartenders in attendance on Wednesday was anything to go by, it’s going to be a tough old competition and the world is in for a treat.

We. Can’t. Wait.



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