Seven days, 43 bars, two Greek cities, one helluvanadventure. As fun as it sounds, and believe us, fun it was, the end result was extremely serious.

Our task was to find six bartenders to put through to the World Class Greece finals. And as anyone who knows anything about cocktail comps will testify, the recognition this particular contest brings can be major career-changing stuff.

So why choose us as judges you might ask? We’re guessing because the Greek contingent of the World Class crew know how much we love the bar scene in Athens. Also they know we’ve followed and been part of the World Class action in one way or another for the past five years. Furthermore, as bona fide Cocktail Lovers we appreciate how much work, thought and attention goes into each of the presentations or if that lot wasn’t validation enough, we’re sure they realise we’re suckers for falling under the bartender’s spell.

All perfectly good reasons for judging the first of two ‘bursts’ looking for six of the twelve bartenders who will eventually go through to the World Class Greece finals. That’s where we’ll find out the one man or woman who will represent Greece in the World Class Global Finals in Cape Town in September 2015.

The Cocktail Lovers Do Greece tour started in Thessaloniki, home of Papadopoulos Aristotelis the winner of the first World Class Global Finals. That was in 2009. Since then there have been an army of tenders with long names ending in ‘os’ and ‘is’ wanting to follow his lead.

They had their work cut out with this, the Fundamentals of Flavour challenge. Choosing the spirit they wanted to work with was the easy part. Who could fail to be inspired by lush dark spirits in the portfolio including Cardhu 12, Talisker, Johnnie Walker in shades of Blue, Platinum and Gold for the whiskies; Bulleit Bourbon or Rye, and Zacapa 23 or XO rums? Working them into a show-stopping tray serve that engaged all of the senses was where real ingenuity came into play. We were looking for  technique, creativity, taste and balance, expression of the spirit, presentation, understanding of the challenge, and if that wasn’t enough, we wanted to taste a cracker of a drink – something we could truly call world class.

We’ll be honest, we thought the brief was asking a lot of a country that’s relatively new to the cocktail party. Yes, there are a glut of bars in both Athens and Thessaloniki but none do these kinds of elaborate verging on show-off serves. But what do we know? We were treated to an array of top quality cocktails which not only knocked us out on the taste front but woke up and shook up our senses as well.

There are too many highlights to mention and we’d like to thank all of the participating bartenders for solidifying our love of all that is great about Greece.

For the results of who will be going through to the finals, check back later today.

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