Huge congratulations on your win. This isn’t the first time you’ve entered World Class, what’s the appeal?
I’ve entered every other year since 2010. Why? Because it’s the biggest competition in the world. It makes you think about every element of being a bartender: you have to think on the spot, think about the products you’re using and think about everything around you. More importantly, on a global level it’s about building families and relationships – everyone knows what it is; it’s the World Cup of cocktail competitions.
We’ve seen you each time you entered and we had good feelings about this year, what do you think you did differently?
I’ve learned a lot since 2010. The first time I entered I was working at Hausbar in Bristol and still falling in love with cocktails and learning a lot generally – not just about drinks. Basically, I was still young. Moving to London was a very good move, not only for learning everything going on cocktail-wise but being a bar manager and being in charge of a team, you get to step back and look at things in a different way. I’m much more confident in the way I present, which helps. Also, I’ve learnt a lot more and met so many people who look at things in such a different way – it’s always refreshing to share your ideas and experiences with other people and get their input.
Which was your favourite challenge?
I didn’t really have a favourite but I guess the Signature Serve stands out. That’s where you get to express your drinks, show how you view cocktails and tell the judges why your drinks are how they are.
The Anty-Figmatic with ant-tenner garnish
And the toughest?
Definitely the blending. You start on zero and there are no parameters to it – there’s nothing you can convey. It’s not about you, it’s about what’s in the bottle. It was really tough.
What was your favourite part of the trip?
Getting off the coach, and taking in the surroundings – seeing the castle in the background and the guys waiting there with trays of cocktails and canapés – it was a really great moment with everyone bonding on the lawn. It was like, ‘we’re here now’ and from that moment, it all sunk in. I enjoyed the up and down nature of it all – relax, do competition, relax, do competition – it’s nice to be kept on your toes.
Tell us about the Fernet Branca thing?
I used it once [he actually used it in both the Ground to Glass Challenge and his Signature Serve which we tell him]. There’s definitely a place for it in drinks, it’s got lots of character and flavour to it like most bitters do. I think it can enhance drinks beautifully.
Hitting Lock Bottom
When did the inspiration for your Signature Serve strike?
When I first saw the glasses in our bar. I like the idea of having a really light, elegant drink served in a concrete-based glass, it makes the person really think about what they’re drinking. When I saw those glasses I thought, that’s my whole story.
Find Ali and his team at Hawksmoor Spitalfields, 157a Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ. thehawksmoor.com