On Tuesday the lobby of the London Syon Park A Waldorf Astoria Hotel was way, way busier than it had been the day before. In fact, it resembled an upmarket Piccadilly Circus. Bartenders from all over Europe were checking in to compete in the first ever World Class Western Europe Finals – that’s 41 competitors from twelve countries, plus television crews, magazines and newspapers eager to capture their every move…
Call it a warm-up to the big one, the Global Finals in July, call it a massive networking opportunity, the result is the same: this new initiative gives European bartenders the chance to get together, pick up tips (or steal ideas as Spike Marchant the Master of Ceromonies teased) and form friendships in the industry on a much wider scale.
If the GB Final was a 8.5 out of 10 on the stress-o-meter then Western Europe pumped the adrenalin up to eleven. Not that we’re saying Monday’s competition was any less pressured, far from it, it’s just that the following two days went up a notch in the drama department. That was down to the fact more people were present to clock the action – including the nervous competitiors busily checking out the talent each country had to offer.
They all know that getting through to the Globals gives them the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of previous winners Erik Lorincz and Manabu Ohtake; both have gone on to become bartending superstars. Oh, and did we mention there was the small matter of a plane ticket to the Global Finals in Rio for one winner from each of the represented countries?
If that little lot wasn’t enough to give our tenders the shakes then the fact the World Class crew had rounded up the top guns certainly did the trick. Alison Forrestal, General Manager Reserve Western Europe, Alice Lascelles co-founder of Imbibe magazine and Alberto Pizarro, World Class Spain winner 2011 were enlisted to judge the ‘Flying Down To Rio’ round; while in the ‘Gentlemen’s Drinks’ room World Class Global winner 2010 Erik Lorincz was joined by World Class UK 2012 winner Jamie MacDonald and GQ Commissioning Editor Charlie Burton.
Our own Mr G sat on the judging panel alongside Dennis Tamse, Ketel One vodka Distillery Ambassador and leading bartender Ago Perrone to assess the ‘On The Spot’ skills, which left Barrie Wilson, Global Trade Ambassador for Tanqueray, Manabu Ohtake World Class Global Winner 2011 and Justyn Smyth, Ketel One Global Brand Ambassador to score the ‘Box of Secrets’ segment of the competition.
There were 328 World Class cocktails made over the course of the Western Europe Final, all concocted with the seven star products in the Reserve brands portfolio. Given the quality of entrants and the quality of the spirits, it’s safe to say all of the drinks were good but some really stood out – either for presentation or taste and in a few exceptional cases – both.
The ‘Gentlemen’s Drinks’ round gave our tenders a chance to tell a story: Mike McGinty from Team GB made his two drinks for a classic and modern gent using dark Zacapa rum presented in an old school martini glass for the older man, and a vodka-based cocktail served in a coupette for the young blade about town.
Monica Berg from Norway served up a Zacapa twist on a Negroni for one of her ‘Gent’s Drinks’, cleverly infusing coffee with vermouth and adding sea buckthorn into the mix. Julian de Feral, another Team GBer built a profile of what a gentleman means to him, weaving in the history and background of Syon House, the location of the event. He even foraged in the herb gardens for celery leaves which he muddled into his Tanqueray No. TEN martini inspired by Syon House.
The ‘Flying Down To Rio’ part was the most fun. Here our bartenders could really let loose and bring their personalities to the fore. Olivier Jacobs from Belgium came up with the most surprising use of Don Julio tequila in the competition: as a base to infuse dried shrimp! The drink looked kinda scary – no-one likes to see a face staring back at them from their glass – but tasted very good.
Matt Fairhurst from Team GB served his Silk Scarf, Ketel One cocktail for judges to enjoy in the ‘departure lounge’ as they waited for their flight to Rio, then followed up with a deconstructed Pina Colada to recreate the warmth of the city. As well as playing Rio by Duran Duran, he handed the judges a silk and straw hat to wear to get them in the mood.
He was followed by fellow Brit James Drummond who cheekily got everyone in the room to have a go mixing his cocktail, creating a Brazilian Shake rather than a boring Mexican Wave. Andy Mil, the remaining GB finalist, meanwhile raised a few titters by summarising the ingredients used in his two cocktails by comparing them to the characteristics of a spirited South American woman and a typical man.
The highlight of the entire two days was Bert Jachmann’s presentation (see video above). Not only did he dress in a scarily tight unitard but he demonstrated the most ingenious, extremely effective shaking technique for his coffee cocktail – plunging the mixture up and down in a coffee jug. Genius!
We had to wait until after cocktails and dinner to learn who had done the job and secured the hot seat to Brazil. All of the contestants were called onto the stage by country and given an envelope. Only one had a golden ‘you’re going to Rio’ ticket. Evil? Just a little. Dramatic? You bet.
In the end the winners were:
Austria: Bert Jachmann
Belgium: Olivier Jacobs
Denmark: Kasper Riewe Henriksen
Germany: Harry Glockler
GB: Andy Mil
Greece: Vassilis Kyritsis
Italy: Dennis Zoppi
Netherlands: Fjalar Goud
Norway: Jesper Høst
Spain: Guiseppe Santamaria
Sweden: Rikard Enell
Switzerland: Armando Archundia
The World Class Global Finals run from 8-13 July. We’ll be there bringing you all of the action as it happens. Check in for updates.