Mark McClintock revealed as the 2021 World Class GB during a live Facebook broadcast last night
I’ve said this before in articles, but it bears repeating – I have great admiration for bartenders who enter cocktail competitions. To my mind it is exactly the same as a musician or painter creating a piece of art and releasing it out into the world, knowing it, and they, will be judged by their peers. Seeing a competition through to its end, especially when it comes to World Class which has multiple stages over many months, requires a great deal of commitment and energy, and although this story is about the 2021 winner, it is also serves as a salute to each of the 450 individuals who entered the comp back in 2020.
In a process that took the best part of 18 months, elements of the competition being slowed down for obvious pandemic-related reason, that initial field of over 450 entrants was gradually whittled down via a series of challenges, until arriving at a top 8 group of finalists, who would compete for the GB title.
The Final Challenges
The world Class GB final was held on Monday and Tuesday this week. The judging panel, all sporting negative Covid-19 test results and doing their work in separate, Covid-secure booths, gathered at Nine Lives bar in London to watch the competitors present via Zoom, while tasting drinks recreated by World Class ambassador Jo Last and the Sweet & Chilli team. The setup and logistics were brilliantly executed, making the experience as close as possible as it could be to a pre-pandemic final for the competitors. Day one, which BarLifeUK judged, consisted of the Tanqueray ‘Alive with Freshness’ challenge – a test of creativity and craft, based solely on flavour and balance. Competitors were tasked to create two perfectly balanced cocktails of contrasting styles, using one magical modifier that celebrates the whole fruit freshness of Tanqueray No. TEN.
Day two saw the ‘The Scotch Box’ challenge in which the competitors presented their dream whisky bar, encompassing every element from the drinks and menu style, to atmosphere and hosting skills. Competitors had to create a memorable guest experience for the judges, welcoming them into their ideal bar, sharing with them a carbonated welcome drink using Johnnie Walker Black Label, and a second cocktail to draw the evening to a close, using Talisker 10 – taking inspiration from the natural environment of where their dream bar would be located. The cocktails were presented to judges alongside a box including a menu and playlist, plus another item of choice.
After two days of wonderful drinks and highly creative presentations, the judging panel – World Class GB winner, Cameron Attfield, Diageo GB Brand Ambassadors including Pippa Guy and Jason Clark; and Sandrae Lawrence (The Cocktail Lovers); Andy Ives (BarLife UK); and Dan Dove (Global Bartending) – scores were tallied, with Mark McClintock emerging as the new World Class GB Bartender of the Year.
For his efforts, as well as representing GB in the World Class Global competition, McClintock, will also win a12-month contract with Global Bartending, WSET Level 3 Spirits Course & Qualification, a personalised Cocktail Kingdom kit, and a professional signature serve & profile photo shoot.
World Class Ambassador, Jo Last, describes the final and result: “All of our competitors showcased their creativity, adaptability and passion throughout this year’s competition. We were blown away by the standard they brought in this new virtual format. Mark McClintock showcased impeccable skills and hospitality throughout both challenges, presenting delicious drinks every step of the way and we are thrilled to have him crowned as our winner”.
Pippa Guys, added: “There have been so many extra challenges on all the bartenders this year, and the level of work that our top eight put into the challenges is simply breathtaking. Mark has demonstrated a consistently high quality of drinks, knowledge and personality ever since he stepped into the World Class programme. I can’t wait to see him continue to develop as he steps up to representing Great Britain on the global stage.”
The competition results were announced during a live broadcast on the World Class Facebook page. Literally minutes after learning he had won the competition, we spent a few minutes speaking to Mark about his victory.
BLUK: Now that you’ve had approximately 6 minutes to digest the news that you have won the World Class GB title, what does this mean to you and how do you feel?
MM: Honestly, it means everything. It feels like such a huge achievement, but at the same time I have massive imposter syndrome… I feel like why should I be here instead of any of the others? It could have been any of the top 8 to me, so I feel so happy. Absolutely delighted.
BLUK: Was there a challenge in the final that you found particularly difficult?
MM: Both challenges were exceedingly difficult, which was excellent because it really forced me to push my boundaries and try things I hadn’t done before. For example fermenting stuff, that’s the first time I’ve done that, for the Tanqueray challenge, and bottling my first fizzy cocktail, also the first time I’ve done that. But I guess, if I was worried about one of them… the second challenge (Johnnie Walker + Talisker) was much scarier. Having to conceptualize a whole bar… I kept thinking ‘are people going to hate this?’ and ‘can I pull this off?’. But I thought to myself I might never get the chance to do this again. I’ve been given this opportunity so let’s do it and talk about something I really care about.
BLUK: Of the four drinks you made for the final challenges, which is your favourite?
MM: It would probably be Shampagne Johnnie, which was the simplest of all of them but when Colin Dunn said he thought it would be Johnnie Walker’s drink of choice, that’s quite some feedback.
BLUK: Now that you have been crowned GB champ, what are you looking forward to most in the coming months?
MM: Well to go to the Global Final and win is the main aim. I imagine every single person in the global final has gone through the same trials I have to get there, and I’m sure everyone will be hungry for victory. So I don’t want to let down the judges or the guys at Diageo, and spoil their choice. I want to prove I should be there.
BLUK: When you have finished this interview and all your PR duties, who are you going to phone first?
MM: Probably my mum! I’ve already got four missed calls from her… My mum is called Ruby and I named one of my drinks (Ruby Fizz) after her. She doesn’t drink at all, oddly, but she still enjoys the fact I named a cocktail after her. And after that, my mother in law of course!
BLUK: Is there anything you would like to say that wasn’t covered in the questions I’ve asked you?
MM: Just a massive thank you to absolutely everyone who has helped me so far… the guys at Little Mercies, Max Venning, Deano and Emma, my fiancé, to Jo and Pippa and the rest of the Diageo team and to Sweet and Chilli for organising this and making it such a special experience.
Mark McClintock’s Winning Drinks
Alive with Freshness – Tanqueray No. TEN Challenge
50ml Tanqueray 10
30ml Magical Modifier
15ml Fino sherry
Rosemary tip garnish
Scotch Box – Johnnie Walker Black Label & Talisker10 Challenge
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Watermelon, Olive, Mint
Pour 125ml from pre-batched bottle into a wine glass
Garnish with an olive leaf, and olives on the side
Dulsee de Leche
Fig Leaf, Apple, Dulse
Pour 100ml pre-batched bottle over ice in a rocks glass
Stir for 10 seconds
Top up ice
Spray atomiser around but not in the drink
Serve with salted truffles on the side