The second round of Diageo’s World Class competition in the UK took place last week, 4 heats, 4 finalists and some fantastic presentations.
There are certain competitions, which bring an elevated level of performance from those competing. Each year when we judge Diageo’s flagship competition World Class we know we are going to be in for a treat.
This ‘Burst’ of heats saw Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester and London on hosting duties and BarLifeUK and Imbibe joining Diageo representatives on judging duties.
World Class has a very high reputation to uphold and as such it is no surprise that just getting through to the UK finals involves each bartender being pushed to their very limits.
Each heat saw 6 bartenders competing across three rounds – recreating the signature drink that got them to this stage, the horror of a Mystery Box round (the horror is felt equally by competitors and judges) and a World Class style Speed Round.
The Speed Round is not exactly in line with Rematch or Speed Rack, the drinks are a whole lot more complicated and let’s be honest a lot more enjoyable to drink. With cleanliness also a big part of the judging process, the chances of wearing more rum than you drink is also drastically reduced.
Finalists – Tom Higham, Kosmonaut; Matt Coates, Jakes Bar; Tim La Ferla, Mr Coopers; Massimo Zitti, Cain and Grain; Brad Price, Great Gatsby; Joe Wild, Jenny’s Liverpool
First port of call on our 3 day judging extravaganza saw us up North (thankfully this was a few days before Man City beat Liverpool to the title so the smug levels were slightly reduced). Our home for the day was Epernay and as the bartenders gathered the atmosphere was certainly tense.
Massimo Zitti from Manchester got us underway with his Don Julio and Grand Marnier punch twist (one of 3 category options competitors could have chosen – the others being a Tanqueray 10 Martini twist or a whisk(e)y ‘Flavour is King’ drink). His Punch No 5 was a strong starting drink and set the tone for the rest of a very enjoyable first round.
The Mystery Box round certainly had people on their toes with each box containing one each of a herb, fruit, lengthener. dairy, sweetener and curve ball (think Sweet Chilli Sauce, Branston Pickle, Horseradish Cream etc). Combined with a couple of staple ingredients and one of the Reserve Brands portfolio and we were off.
Liverpool’s Joe Wild really showed his creative talents not only using the horseradish cream in his drink but washing out the jar it came in and serving up in it.
The speed round saw each bartender making 6 drinks in 8 minutes. Sounds easy right? Remember this is World Class, each drink had to be different, the level of complexity on some was exceptionally high for a speed round and they were expected to talk us through each drink as they went.
The time flew by from a judges point of view so I can only imagine what it must have been like behind the bar, however they all produced superb drinks. In fact it was hard to part company with a few of them to the thirsty crowd behind us.
The winner on the day was the person who performed solidly through every round and thoroughly deserved his spot in the UK final later this month – Massimo Zitti will be the Northern representative.
Massimo’s winning Signature Serve
PUNCH No5 (for 1 serve)
- 40 ml Don Julio
- 20 ml Grand Marnier
- 25 ml White Thai Juice
- 25 ml Spiced Manuka Honey
- 35 ml Diprotic Rooibois Tea
Stirred over ice in a punch bowl before being served straight up in a coupette which has been sprayed with atomised Persian Salt infused Mexican cinnamon.
Finalists – Richard Tring, Light Bar; Marco Li Donni, Central Bar; Cj Lohez, 1812 Daniel Warren, Mekaba; Josh Windsor, Goldbrick House; Salvatore Damiano, Club Lounge at the Captains Club.
Due to bank holiday interference the Bristol and Manchester heats were held on the same day so Imbibe did the honours down south. As a result we can’t give you a full blow by blow account but we can tell you that it was a very tight battle.
In fact so tight was it, the judges couldn’t split the top two and ordered a ‘Sour Off’ to determine the victor. That person was Richard Tring and whilst we didn’t see his performance we have seen plenty of him in comps in the past and can assure you he will be in with a good chance.
Richard’s winning Signature Serve
Primavera Punch (serves 5)
- 200ml Don Julio Blanco
- 200ml Grand Marnier
- 400ml Homemade rhubarb tea
- 125ml Homemade ‘spice water’
- 100ml Freshly-pressed Spanish lemon juice
Stir all ingredients in punch bowl, add large block of ice and garnish with orange wheels. Ladle into goblets over cubed ice, garnish with stick of rhubarb, sprig of mint and a cherry and serve.
Finalists – Walter Pintus, The Ritz; Nathan Merriman, Big Easy; Stuart Binks, Made in the Shade; Gianluca Magri, Connaught Bar; Luca Corradini, American Bar; Lorenzo Antinori, Beaufort Bar.
A look down the list of bars being represented in the London heat told us it was going to be a tough competition before we had even got started and a quick look around at the props that filled Satan’s Whiskers did nothing to dampen those thoughts.
The signature round saw some outrageously lavish presentations with Ginaluca Magri bringing the Martini Trolley from The Connaught and presenting from there with the three judges seated on a sofa. Not to be outdone Lorenzo Antinori had brought with him a drinks globe which had been adapted to serve his punch from (he also served an amazing edible flower paper garnish).
The Mystery Box round seem to prove a bit more of a challenge with a couple of people having a pre-prepared story and drink style in mind which we would suggest defeats the idea of a mystery box somewhat. However it was Stuart Binks who stood out.
After accidently insulting his girlfriend who was in the crowd he knocked up a drink using Bulleit Rye. Fearing his insult may have gone down badly and she may not have been best impressed he named the drink ‘No Woman, No Rye’.
The speed round saw some exceptional drinks being served and high skill levels all round. It was Lorenzo however who caught the judges eye with a first in any speed round we have judged – food matching.
Yep, along with his drinks came a variety of matched snacks. Made even more impressive by the fact we discovered he had cut his fingers during the round (luckily fellow judge Andrea ‘Motherly’ Montague was on hand to sort him out).
The winner on this occasion however was someone who not only made great drinks but kept the judges thoroughly entertained with brilliant stories and a very relaxed style. Made even more impressive by the fact he has only recently become a bartender at the American Bar – London has Luca Corradini.
Luca’s winning Signature Serve
The Northern Light
- 60ml Tanqueray 10
- 10ml red pepper and cantaloupe melon infused Cocchi Americano
- 1ml artemisia genepi bitter
Stirred over ice and served straight up.
Finalists – Michael Braun, Panda & Sons; Russell Downie, Tonic; Iain McPherson, Panda & Sons; Rosie Paterson, Voodoo Rooms; Allan McGhie; Matthew Wakeford, Missoni.
We seem to have spent a fair bit of time up in Edinburgh judging comps this year and we have come to expect not only great drinks but fun presentations. Boy oh boy did Edinburgh deliver.
A particular mention needs to go to Russell Downie who appeared to have spent as much time thinking about his outfits as he had about his drinks. The doctor outfit for his signature presentation was very fitting and worked brilliantly with his story.
The jogging outfit for his speed round showed a little too much flesh for our liking, however he did manage to make a blazer in a speed round which was mighty impressive.
Matt Wakeford impressed with homemade fruit jellies which very cleverly enhanced different aspects of Tanqueray 10 with each sip. Rosie Paterson also kept the judges thoroughly enthralled with her presentation style throughout the day.
Despite all the positives the Mystery Box Round was probably the most painful hour of my life. They certainly embraced the curve ball ingredients on offer but just the thought of some of the results is making me feel queasy.
With only one spot up for grabs someone was going to have to do something pretty impressive to rise above the pack and that someone was a finalist from last year – Iain McPherson.
His signature serve presentation, in which he was dressed in full Star Trek uniform as a future version of himself from the USS Martini, was quiet simply the best cocktail competition presentation I have seen in a very long time if not ever. I only wished I’d filmed it so you could all enjoy it.
He also brought the house down with his Speed Round, which was again close to flawless. I’ll ignore his Nutela drink for now!
Iain’s winning Signature Serve
Test Of Time
- 70ml Tanqueray 10
- 10ml T10 Oil (Grapeseed oil infused with Pink grapefruit, Lemon, Mandarin and Chamomile natural oils, with the addition of Saccharin oil based sweetener).
Stirred over ice and served straight up with T10 Oil on the side for adding by the guest.
The final is taking place on the 26th May in London and these 4 will be joining the 4 finalists from the first burst of heats. It is going to be a very tough battle indeed. We wish everyone good luck and will of course be bringing you all the results and news as soon as it is done.