Take 14 outstanding bartenders selected from around the world, two historic locations and six years of a life-changing cocktail competition. Blend carefully. Welcome to the Chivas Masters Global Final 2019, the home of the ultimate bartending community.

“Being a part of the Chivas Masters community meant the world to all of us and still does to this day.” So says Rhys Wilson as he recalls being amongst the international bartenders competing in the Chivas Masters Global Final in 2017. “Today we continue to converse by group chat on a regular basis, people have planned trips together and we all try as much as possible to visit each other’s bars and continue to support the growth of our lives and careers. Some of the group have organised Chivas guest shifts off their own back to continue to share experiences with great Chivas cocktails. It’s a community based on life-long friendships and nothing makes me happier than when someone shares a photo of themselves with another member of the group having reconnected in some part of the world. This community will be present for the rest of our lives.” 

The Chivas Masters community obviously means a lot to Rhys. Hardly surprising then that having been a competitor he’s now at the heart of the competition as Global Brand Ambassador for Chivas and about to host this year’s gathering.

Rhys Wilson, Global Brand Ambassador for Chivas

It all kicks off on the 25th August 2019, when 14 bartenders will gather in Strathisla, Scotland, the home of Chivas. These are exceptional bartenders, having already won demanding heats in their various home countries. But then they have to be exceptional, because one of them, five days later, will be claiming the title of Chivas Master 2019. In doing so he or she will be joining an elite community of previous winners; Masa Urushido (from New York at the global final in New York 2014), Josh Reynolds (from London, at the global final in New York 2015), Alex Millan (from Mexico, at the global final in Shanghai, 2016), Atsushi Suzuki (from China, at the global final in Tokyo 2017) and Arron Grendon (from Thailand, at the global final in London, 2019).

But as Rhys says the community extends much further than the overall winners. Every year since it began Chivas Masters has been creating a growing community amongst all of the international bartenders that take part. And Rhys knows first-hand exactly what the bartenders can look forward to.

“It will be a week they’ll never forget. The challenges we have in store are going to be really tough, but with the guidance of the incredible judges, they’re going to come through it as better bartenders, better humans and they’ll help to grow the global bartending community for the better too.”

Blended is always best

Exquisite whisky expressions is all about the art of skilled blending as exemplified by Chivas Master Blender Sandy Hyslop. Similarly, thoughtful blending is key to the Chivas Masters as this year it once again brings together some very special people, including outstanding bartenders, exceptional judges and the elite alumni of the cocktail competition, together with some exceptional experiences and inspiring locations. It’s this blend that creates the unique Chivas Masters community.

“The notion of community has been at our heart since before we existed as a brand,” says Rhys. “It’s been passed down from our forefathers, James and John Chivas, since they pioneered the art of blending,” he continues. “They made sure that every member of their community was a part of their success and they supported the growth of everyone. That notion has stayed with us through the history of the brand and into every program we run. Bartenders around the world continue to support us by creating and interacting with Chivas whiskies, so it’s so important to us that we reciprocate by supporting their individual growth and the growth of their venues. That’s what the Chivas Masters is all about.”

First stop, Strathisla

It all starts when the bartenders gather in Strathisla. And what better place for them to begin to get to know each other than the historic location that has been the home of Chivas since 1786? Here the bartenders will learn the story of Chivas, a blend that’s not only survived but thrived over the years. Famous for its versatility, it’s been enjoyed in countless ways by generations of discerning drinkers – a very special community in its own right.

Rhys welcomes the bartenders to Strathisla in 2018

On to London

Having experienced being part of the community where the whisky is made, the second part of the week will take the bartenders to London – the home of where it’s mixed. Considered by many to be the cocktail capital of the world it’s here that the bartenders will find themselves immersed in another very special community – the London bartending fraternity. Renowned for its creativity it’s the perfect environment for the bartenders to explore the special role that Chivas has in contemporary cocktail culture and how today’s drinkers experience it. It’s also perfect for providing even more inspiration for the bartenders as they face their competition challenges.

Inspiring workshops and tough challenges

A key feature of the Chivas Masters will be unique workshops designed to open the mind, along with a series of carefully crafted and very difficult challenges. Amongst those will be an opportunity to showcase the signature cocktails which they each created in order to earn their place in the Global Final, including Undefined by Davide Sambo (Thailand), El Curandero by Lisander Lara Peña (Dominican Republic) and La Oportunidad by Franco Battezzati Boglione (México). As for the other challenges, well, that would be telling…

A selection of signature cocktails from this year’s Chivas Masters finalists; Undefined (top left), El Curandero (top right) and La Oportunidad (bottom)

Meet the judges

All of the set tasks will be under the watchful and demanding eyes of this years judges: Alastair Burgess, owner of Happiness Forgets, Original Sin and Petit Pois; Marcis Dzelzainis, director Fare Bar & Canteen and beverage director Sager & Wilde, and Monica Berg, founder of P(our) Drink Symposium, Muyu Liqueurs and Tayer + Elementary. Bringing their unique talents and varied experiences, Alastair, Marcis and Monica promise to be an essential part of the Chivas Masters 2019 blend. On hand not only as judges but as leaders in the international bartending community they’ll be sharing their wealth of experience. (We’ll be hearing more from them about the Chivas Masters and the London cocktail scene later this week.)

The Chivas Master 2019 judges, l-r, Alastair Burgess, Marcis Dzelzainis and Monica Berg

The A Team

Another important example of the Chivas Masters community is the role of the elite alumni of previous Chivas Masters Global winners. Returning this year will be Alex Millan, Atsushi Suzuki and Arron Grendon, last year’s champion. Between them they bring invaluable experience at the very top of the bartending profession. Moreover, they know exactly what it takes to be a Chivas Master. In short, for this year’s finalists, they are the ultimate mentors.

For one night only

Having completed the four challenges the 14 bartenders will be whittled down to just three. And this is where the whole idea of the Chivas Masters community really comes to life because these final three will then each be invited to form a team from the remaining bartenders. A blend, if you like, of unique skills. These teams will be tasked with creating a brand new pop-up bar – its concept, a menu of original Chivas cocktails and an actual working bar space. All in just 24 hours.

The Cocktail Clash

Then at 7pm on the evening of 29th August, the doors of London’s Oval Space will open to a discerning community of whisky and cocktail lovers for The Cocktail Clash. This very special event will be where the three bartender teams get to showcase their brand new pop-up bars for one night only.

During the evening guests will get a chance to experience a little of Strathisla for themselves with some specially curated cocktails, along with food by Mac & Wild and Club Mexicana, with all proceeds from ticket sales going to Change Please – winner of the Chivas Venture 2018, a start-up that empowers the homeless.

Importantly the event is not only a chance for the guests to enjoy the new bars but to also play a vital part in choosing the new Chivas Master 2019 as they vote for their favourite bar of the evening.

Crowning the Chivas Master 2019

Come 9.30pm the winning bar team will be announced, and in turn the winning bartender. It will be a once in a lifetime moment for the winner as he or she is crowned as the Chivas Master 2019.

Although there can be only one winner the whole week promises to be life-changing for all the community of bartenders as Rhys recalls from his competing year:

“I walked away having had the most incredible week of my life, making myself and my bar proud, but also just immensely proud of the rest of the group for doing the same and wearing our hearts on our sleeves.”

Judging by what some of this year’s finalists are already saying they sense they are about to join a very special Chivas Masters community. As Vince Smart (United Kingdom) says, “it’s about meeting more people in the industry and learning more about my favourite spirit.” Barbora Švihlová (Czech Republic) is looking forward to “new experiences, friendships and the best memories.” As for Leydel Oliva Muro (Cuba), “it’s about being part of a spectacular bartender group and the chance to connect with the Chivas family for life.”

It’s the coming together of the bartenders that is perhaps the most important part of the competition. They’ll arrive as strangers, then having bonded and blended they’ll leave as friends, always part of the Chivas Masters – the ultimate bartending community.

The Chivas Masters Cocktail Competition takes place from Sunday 25th to Thursday 29th August. Follow us as we follow the community of bartenders on their journey bringing you all the highlights.

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The Cocktail Clash, 7pm to midnight (Chivas Masters winner announced 9.30pm), 29th August 2019, at Oval Space, 29–32 The Oval, London, E2 9DT. Strictly over 18s only. Full details and tickets available here.

The Chivas Masters Global Cocktail Competition Bartending Community 2019

Barbora Švihlová, L’fleur bar, Czech Republic
Davide Sambo, Havana Social, Thailand
Franco Battezzati Boglione, Nü Tulum, México
Guilherme Martins Ferrari, Seen at Hotel Tivoli Mofarrej, Brazil
Jiyoon Baek, Madame Fan, JW Marriott Hotel South Beach, Singapore
Kyoka Ogawa, Amber, Japan
Leydel Oliva Muro, Costa Vino, Cuba
Lisander Lara Peña, TRS Turquesa Grand Palladium Hotels, Dominican Republic
Mehdi Sahine, Tucano Hilton Al Houara, Morocco
Paolo Silvestri, Hendricks Bar, United Arab Emirates
Sebastian Cichowlas, The Jitterbug Saloon, The Netherlands
Sonia Garbowska, El Koktel, Polska
Timothee Becqueriaux, Arriviamo, Starbucks Reserve Roastery, China
Vince Smart, Hawksmoor Seven Dials, United Kingdom

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