Diageo Reserve World Class 2018 UK Finalists Announced

Ten bartenders progress through semi-final to compete in Edinburgh UK final

On Tuesday 15th May, 2018, 35 bartenders from around Great Britain gathered at Diageo’s customer collaboration centre in London to take part in a semi-final that would reduce the competition’s field from 35 down to 10. 

Each of the 35 hopefuls progressed to this semi-final stage by submitting a ‘closed loop’ cocktail and being judged in-bar by one of the Diageo Reserve team. As you would expect, this rigorous and time-intensive selection process produced a highly capable field representative of the very best of the UK’s industry.

The finalists, minus Daniel Warren.
The finalists, minus Daniel Warren.

The semi-final unfolded to be one of the most intense days of competition this judge has been a part of. The field was split into three groups, each of which rotating through three separate challenges designed to test every facet of a bartender’s skillset. 

The first challenge, ‘Flavour on the Fly’, focussed on Johnnie Walker, and was designed to test competitors’ ability to understand flavour and balance a drink. Bartenders were given a guided workshop and then asked to take what they had learned and create a drink, which was judged.

The second challenge (and the one BarLifeUK was judging) took the form of a speed comp. Called ‘119.5 Seconds To Go’, bartenders had to serve two randomly selected classic cocktails and a pint of Guinness within the time span science tells us is optimal for a pint of the black stuff to sit. Given that the field was 35 strong, it would be impractical to write a drink-by-drink account of proceedings, so to summarise the round it would be fair to say the pressure applied by a stopwatch forced quite a lot of errors. Many competitors nailed one drink but fluffed the other, or got both cocktails right but fluffed the Guinness pour. Others got all the drinks right but went well over time. However, several bartenders aced all elements of the challenge, and would have put some clear distance between themselves and the rest of the field based solely on this part of the competition. 

The final element, ‘Breakfast Martini’, tested competitors’ creativity and flexibility by asking them to use ingredients and kit found in a home kitchen. The bartenders were asked to present in front of cameras as if a guest on a morning TV show, which sounds like BarLifeUK’s idea of hell and we are glad we didn’t have to do it. 

At the end of a long and intense day of competition, 35 bartenders were given half an hour to decompress and shovel down some rather spicy noodles, before being driven by coach to Nine Lives bar for an afterparty, during which the result would be announced. 

Having spent the day judging just one of the challenges it is difficult to comment on the resulting field of ten bartenders who progress to the UK final, other than to say that it seems reflective what went on at the speed comp. As tough as the semi-final was, the UK final in Edinburgh will be very difficult to win because the ten bartenders taking to the stage are without doubt ten of the best currently slinging drinks in Great Britain. 

Congratulations to everyone who made it to the semi-final, and good luck to the ten heading to Edinburgh. Whoever is crowned UK champion will be a worthy representative at the global finals. 

The Diageo World Class UK Finalists

Kieran Grieves, Bonbar, Newcastle
David Hall, Terroir Tapas, Bournemouth
Manacháin Monaghan, Below Stairs, Leeds
Luke Robinson, Cub, London
Daniel Warren, Last Chance, Nottingham
Cameron Attfield, Dandelyan, London
Georgia Billing, Sexy Fish, London
Daniel Bovey, Hyde & Co, Bristol
James Bowker, The Wilderness, Birmingham
Adam Day, Peggy’s Bar, Manchester