Jerome Kaftandjian has been bartending for four years and can be found working at the soon-to-be-opened Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. He goes through to the World Class UK Finals with his Asian Fusion recipe, the Asian Diamond Negroni.
What does the World Class competition mean to you?
For me it’s one of the best contests in the world. We have the opportunity to work with very good spirits and it is also a chance to see the different styles of cocktails produced in various countries.
What is your earliest cocktail memory?
My first cocktail memory is when I was very young and I had just started my apprenticeship in a restaurant. I watched the bartender make a Mojito with passion!
Did you choose the profession or did it choose you?
I really think I had a passion for bartending in me but I can also say the profession chose me because at the beginning I never thought I’d be a bartender. And now after four years I think this profession is one of the most important things in my life.
How do you think bartending is regarded as a career?
I think for a lot of people bartending isn’t regarded as a ‘real’ job. But you can have a successful career as a bar manager of a luxury hotel or even open your own bar – there is plenty of opportunity.
If drink hadn’t entered the equation, what would you like to think you’d be doing now?
I think I would have stayed in this profession, but maybe as a waiter or chef in a restaurant, I don’t know.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I think the best thing about my job is to please the customers by introducing them to new products, spirits, liquors and cocktails.
And the hardest?
The hardest is to change the mentality of the customers for the cocktails…
Who’s the most memorable person you’ve ever created a cocktail for? Who was it, what was it and why does it stand out for you?
I think the most memorable person I’ve ever created a cocktail for is when I worked in Paris in my previous job, my manager asked me to create a cocktail for a contest that would also be on the cocktail list. It was really hard because this person is like a role model to me and I hope to one day become like him.
Who’s your favourite cocktail drinker and why? (living, dead or fictional)
My favourite cocktail drinker is Ernest Hemingway because he is the inspiration for many cocktails (the Papa Doble and the Floridita to name two) – they’ve become part of the history of the bar.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you picked up at the World Class Forum?
The most valuable piece of advice I picked up at the World Class Forum is to keep simple and serious in my work.
What’s your favourite cocktail:
My favourite cocktail to mix is a classic Sour, like a Tanqueray No. TEN Sour, or Ketel One Sour – they are very simple drinks and very, very good.
My favourite cocktail to drink is a Négroni, it’s a classic Italian cocktail and I like the bitter-tasting Italian style.
On your menu?
My favourite cocktail on my menu is a twist on the classic Old-Fashioned, ” Veccio miele” with rum, honey liqueur, bitters and a nice garnish.
List three ingredients you’d put in a cocktail to sum up the facets of your personality.
1. Tanqueray No. TEN, my favourite gin. I’m a big fan of gin and specifically Tanqueray No. Ten, I like the citrussy, grapefruit flavour – it’s fresh and a little bit strong – perfect in a cocktail.
2. Apérol aperitivo. I really like the bitter taste – it’s very refreshing, sweet and fruity…
3. Herbs, like coriander, lavender, rosemary, they remind me of the south of France where I am from. I like the idea of representing my origin in a cocktail.
You’ve created a World Class cocktail to secure your place in the finals, can you give us a simple failsafe recipe for cocktail lovers to create at home?
Creating a cocktail is not very difficult. For example, a twist on a daiquiri is very easy:
50 ml white rum
10 ml chocolate liqueur
25 ml fresh orange juice
2 spoons caster sugar
3 drops absinthe
Pour all ingredients in a small shaker tin. Add the ice cubes and shake for about ten seconds. Next, double strain into a cocktai glass and garnish with orange peel. Finish the drink with a spray of absinthe on top!
Now the drink is ready to be served, easy to make at home!
The recipe that got him through:
Asian Diamond Negroni
45ml Tanqueray No. TEN gin
10ml Lillet Blanc
10ml Aperol Aperitivio
20ml fresh pink grapefruit juice
Dash of Fee Brothers orange bitters
3ml star anise
1 barspoon of jasmine tea
Muddle two star anise in a mixing tin. Add all the other ingredients. Gently stir without ice. Roll the cocktail six times. Smoke a small bottle with jasmine tea by using a smoking gun. Pour your mixture into the bottle. Serve in an old-fashioned glass and garnish with one large lemon peel, one slice of grapefruit and one star anise.