Diageo World Class Burst One Winners Announced

Yesterday 50 bartenders battled through a series a challenges to become the first 5 to make it through to the UK World Class Final.

When we found out that the first semi-final for this years World Class Competition was taking place at the Diageo Consumer Collaboration Centre at a business park in West London we feared a series of boring office rooms would be hosting some of the countries best bartenders. Oh how wrong we were.WC-challenges

The square boxed outside of the building belied the superb set-up awaiting us. A central room complete with giant twitter wall showing the well-wishes from the bartenders supporters and friends was surrounded by a series of rooms each with it’s own challenge and designed with more care and attention than most Christmas pop-ups.

The Challenges

Behind door one was the ‘A Man Walks Into A Bar’ Challenge. Tim ‘Gameshow’ Homeward was on hosting duties with last years UK World Class Winner Ali Reynolds and World Class Ambassador Max La Rocca on judging duties.

Each bartender would spin a wheel picking their famous guest (Bill Murray, Kanye West, Marilyn Monroe or Andy Warhol) and whether it was AM or PM. From there they had 5 minutes to role-play with the guest (being portrayed with often nightmare inducing accuracy by the judges) and make them a tasty drink. It was a tough challenge which not only tested their drink making ability but also their ability to interact with people at their bar.

Whilst one group was being tortured in that room another were getting the Mastermind treatment by Colin ‘Giggity’ Dunn in The Hotseat. By far the most intense room the black chair was not only highlighted by a spot light but raised on a platform. Add to that a group of your peers watching as Colin threw out the questions and you have a knee trembling couple of minutes for each competitor.

Thankfully room three was a lot less stressful with Andrea Montague presiding over the Studio Sessions. This room was not about scoring points (the only one of the four not counting towards the total score) but about learning a little something about photographing drinks which is becoming increasingly more important to those working in our industry.

Andrea kicked off the session with a look at garnishes (including a picture she found of herself when googling ‘worst cocktail garnishes ever’) before handing over to drinks photographer extraordinaire Addie Chinn. It was a truly fascinating presentation with tips galore before they were let loose with plenty of props and Manhattans whilst Addie took portraits of each semi-finalists.

The final room was the re-incarnation of last years most feared challenge, Deconstruct Reconstruct. Dan Dove was playing puppet-master with a close look at the Daiquiri and challenging bartender pre-conceptions.

The idea was simple, everyone has their specs for the perfect Daiquiri but do we change it seasonally according to the changes in lime juice? What about the gomme we use, what if it is made slightly differently? The reality was a lot more complicated with an in-depth look at sweeteners and souring agents.

Part of the challenge saw them having to identify a series of sweet ingredients and a group of sour liquids using the power of smell and taste. BarLifeUK had a go and it was pretty tough, in actual fact we roped in a couple of helpers and from the look on Dan’s face we’re pretty sure we didn’t get very close to 100%.

It had been a hell of an intense and long day for all the semi-finalists and for surviving it (and from what we saw performing exceptionally well) all 50 should be applauded for their efforts as should the Diageo team. It was only fair that a few drinks were had and an afterparty at 68 & Boston provided the liquid relief.WC-Winners

It was also here that the first 5 heading into the UK final were announced:

  • Kyle Wilkinson – The Blind Pig, London
  • Tim Laferia – City Social, London
  • Liam Broom – Callooh Callay, London
  • Scott Gavin – Scarfes Bar, London
  • Sean Fennelly – Milk & Honey, London

A look at the quality of the bartenders that didn’t make the top five shows just how well these guys did. Fear not however dear readers this is only the start of World Class 2015/16, early next year Burst Two kicks off and provides a chance to join these 5 at the UK Final. Details will of course be right here on BarLifeUK, so keep those peepers peeled.