Interview with World Class UK Champion 2017, Jamie Jones

BarLifeUK talk to Jamie Jones about preparing a World Class entry, and how the competition has changed his career

Jamie Jones, aka the Cocktail Hobbit.
Jamie Jones, aka the Cocktail Hobbit.

The deadline to enter Diageo Reserve World Class 2018 is fast approaching (Friday, March 30th. Entry details here). The competition invites bartenders from far and wide to showcase their skills in a series of challenges.

This year, ‘The Resourceful Bartender’ and ‘Heat of the Moment’ are the two key themes at the heart of ‘The Closed Loop Cocktails’ entry challenge. The Resourceful Bartender focuses on the significance of sustainability and resourcefulness, enabling bartenders to create a better bar, serve and working environment; while Heat of the Moment hones in on flavour and experimentation, delving into culinary influences.

So, now seems a fitting time to speak to the bartender who represented the UK at last year’s global final, and who went on to make it into the top 10 and finish 6th in the world.  Jamie Jones is director of drinks for consultancy Scotch + Limon, and the soon-to-be-deposed UK World Class Champion. He spends his time travelling the world, developing drinks offerings for venues in sexy locations, and having an annoyingly good time in the process. We asked him some World Class-related questions:

BLUK: Where did you start with your WC entry? Was it a case of drink first, or story first? Or neither?
JJ: So I kind of started in a number of areas. I have a good idea of what a competition drink needs to be, which is to have a good narrative that ties the whole thing together, but also it just needs to be a tasty drink. That’s all the judges really want, but pair it with a good presentation (story) it puts you in the higher tier of the scoring. Bad drinks will never win.

BLUK: How did you prepare for the various World Class challenge stages?
JJ: I’m pretty crap at preparing for comps, as I tend to overthink and then pull apart something that may have been pretty good at the start. I’ll study the rules meticulously, and then tend to go over the presentation in my head almost constantly, I tend not to get much sleep before a comp. I’ll make recipes and test them, but don’t over labour this. In the finals, two of the four challenges had almost no prep, as they were on the spot challenges – I thrive on those parts of a competition.

BLUK: How did entering World Class and winning the UK final affect your life and career?
JJ: Obviously winning is an amazing thing, it gives you a huge sense of achievement and a massive confidence boost. I have had the chance to visit places like Siberia and Moscow to judge and present, as well as meet so many more bartenders than I had previously, both in the UK and overseas. It’s also great on a CV, or when pitching to a client for a big project – it’s a real asset to have.

BLUK: What advice would you give to a bartender who is in the process of creating their entry?
JJ: Read the rules. Keep it simple, but well thought out. If you’ve got 42 different ingredients and can only taste 2, one of which is rubbish, ask why you have put all those other things in there.

BLUK: Did you see any of the other competitors do or serve something that you have adopted into your way of working?
JJ: You generally don’t get much chance to watch each other as you’re preparing yourself for each challenge, but I was with Aidan Bowie in Miami and the techniques and flavour combos he used definitely inspired me. I also learnt how not to do a speed round (love you buddy).

BLUK: Looking back at the Global final, what, if anything would you do differently, and what did you learn from the experience?
JJ: I wouldn’t have changed much if anything really. I am incredibly proud of finishing 6th in the world. I mean it’s not quite top 5, but I’ll definitely take it. I’ve made a lot of really great friends from that trip, and I really appreciate that as part of the whole experience.

BLUK: Why should a bartender enter World Class?
JJ: World Class is the global platform that judges bartenders across a selection of spirit bases, as well as skill sets. It definitely finds the world’s best all-rounder. If you don’t believe it does, then enter and stop whingeing.

BLUK: What is a cocktail hobbit?
JJ: A hirsute, loveable rogue often found talking nonsense about booze and the drinks industry.

You can follow Jamie Jones on twitter here: @cocktailhobbit 
World Class Facebook page: 
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