Tim Philips writes about his experiences at the World Class Global Finals in Delhi
Day one; Done.
And……..We’re off. The Bartender Olympics are in full flight. Day one, and two challenges are under my belt, and I must admit it’s a relief to get under way without a major hitch. Major is breaking a glass, completely fluffing a drink, or not getting five drinks out for my speed round.
Yesterday started with the Spice Market challenge for myself and gentlemen from 4 other countries. The drinks that came out, after having only 30 minutes to pick, play, and experiment (sans booze), were of a very high calibre. My drinks were a Ciroc Martini with a homemade, impromptu Vermouth comprised of local spices, and freshly pressed grape juice.
The second I had a bit more fun with. I love fun in drinking, and when I saw Tamarind on the spice table I immediately thought of the delicious Tamarind Cola from Mexico, made by the Jarillo Soft Drink company.
I took the Tamarind, steeped it in hot water with a hint of Lemongrass. Strained the flavoured water off, and added sugar to it for a syrup. I shook a good dose of that Tamarind/Lemongrass Syrup with fresh ginger, Lemon Juice, and Don Juilo Blanco. Charged it with soda and made a collins I called, “Agua de Tamalino” (Tamarind Water). As a homage to the Jarillo company I drew inspiration from, I served it in an empty soft drink bottle, complete with a homemade label.
Salvatore, my judge on this challenge, said only nice things. Phew..
Lastly for the day, my speed round with Dale de Groff went off without any serious problems. 5 drinks, 4 cocktails, in 6 minutes. Sounds easy right!? Hmm, not necesarily. The King of Cocktails was breathing down my neck and doing his best to distract me. I managed to hold my nerve and after completing my four cocktails (Martinez, Tequila Daisy, Vodka Rickey, Zacapa Old Fashioned), I slid my Johnnie Walker Blue label across the bar, just as 6 minutes were up. Dale, was coy about any feedback he gave me. I did however, manage to get a “You did good, kid’ out of him after a few Tanqueray & Tonics at the ‘Tonight we Tanqueray’ party, last night.
All up, i’m 90% satisfied with yesterday. That’s good for me. I’m a really hard judge on myself, and usually find negatives in my performances. This motivates me though.
India is such a beautiful country, and i’ve met some, not only incredible bartenders, but amazing friends. (You should see my facebook account, i’ve got a metric-shit load of new friends).
I’ve got my fingers crossed for my good man Ryan Noreiks, a Brisbane cat, representing China. Good luck to him, and all my other competitors.
So here we are. Light dawns on Day 2 and i’m staring down the barrel of a only one challenge this morning. My Gentlemen’s drink, and Facy drink combo, i’m hoping, will be enough to ‘WOW’ Gary Regan. It’s going to be tough, i’ve seen a lot of great stuff already. A Johnnie Walker Blue Party tonight means the day is only looking better.
Day 2; lets GO!
Here we are. Three challenges down, three to go. Yesterday proved to be another stressful day. Only one challenge in the morning for the competitors. Ms Norway, Mr UK (Scottish really..), Mr Costa Rica, and Mr Dubai, and myself all had the glorious fortune of spending the morning with Gary Regan. I say fortune, and not task, as doing a challenge with Mr Regan is like chilling out at your grandfather’s house. Except your grandfather is actually quite cool, interested in booze, has the best stories, and makes you make him cocktails.
The challenge was to make two drinks with your chosen spirit. For me, it was the Johnnie Walker Gold expression. Make one gentleman’s drink. (Something a gentleman would drink in the 18th-19th Century), and a fancy tipple (something a little fancier). Then do a 20 question exam on that spirit, and blind tasting against its competitors.
The drinks, and performances from all of the competitors were fantastic. Jamie Mac from the UK is some bartender and 15 years of Edinburgh experience was on show for all to see. Therese from Norway does not stop smiling. Her infectious laugh, and personality shines through in her drinks and she really impressed me yesterday.
My cocktails were well received by Mr Regan. After tasting my Gentlemen’s Whisky Sangaree (A simple concoction of Whisky, Port, Lemon peel, Sugar, and Nutmeg), he gave me a wink and told me “It’s f—-n’ awesome”. Good. The fancier tipple of butter heated on a stove with a nutmeg, clove, lemon peel, whisky, port, and caramel, served in a cedar smoked glass. Garnished with my signature Ron Zacapa Eau de Parfum, was similarly well received.
So far it’s impossible to know how I’m going. There is no leaderboard anywhere so your guess is as good as mine. I do know from what I’ve heard around that unlike other years, this is not a 4 or 5 horse race. The competition is strong, and without seeing any of the performances of most of the other competitors, I’m being told be weary of everyone.
Everyone here deserves their spot at the World Class Finals. Each have made it through a tough round of competition in their respective countries and most are seasoned, bartenders. All are, fortunately, great people and company also.
We all love a drink, and were treated to the Global Launch of Johnnie Blue’s new bottle last night. It was a great party. From what I saw. I set myself a 10pm curfew which I kept and made it back to my room, and in bed early.
All up, another great day in Delhi. Two challenges today (Food Pairing in the morning, and Theatre and the Stars challenge in the afternoon). Not to mention a Don Julio Bar safari at night. Day three, bring it on…
Day 3 Wrap Up
Wow. Things are really heating up now. Day three was another action packed day, with all the competitors doing two challenges. I started off the morning with a food matching challenge, and chose to compliment and contrast cocktails with a quail spring roll canape, and a chocolate cake dessert.
My drinks were OK, I wasn’t completely happy with my performance, and made a few fundamental, rookie errors that let myself down. Note to self: Add hot water after lighting the drink that you are about to blaze on fire. School-boy errors, like I said.
The afternoon had myself, and fellow Aussie and friend Ryan Noreiks in the same group. Ryan moved to Shanghai some time ago and is representing China. His performance for Peter Dorelli, in my opinion, was phenomenal. Drinks, outstanding.
I followed shortly after and really tried to channel the Year 9 Theatre Studies skills I had once perfected. I did a typical, Australian service approach. Saw my customer, tried to connect with them, make them my friend, serve them a fantastic drink, and give them an experience in the bar.
One of my drinks, the “Darker Than Amber” is one im particularly proud of. The task of making a cocktail inspired by a screen legend was the challenge, and my choice to match a cocktail and it’s ingredients to the films of Pam Grier, I thought, went down a treat. (Recipe Below)
Mr Dorelli, however, did not like the performance as much. In the end he was critical of my service style, and said I rushed him through the experience. Kind of hard to balance when you also have a massive camera, boom mic, and person counting down the minutes in your face. Oh well. No excuses.
Unfortunately due to a bomb in Mumbai, our bar safari was kept to within the confines of the hotel. (Love and good wishes go out to anyone hurt) A Don Julio event after was good fun, with the Gaz Regan’s signature serve being a definite highlight (Blog post to come).
Sharing stories with Gaz Regan afterwards in the hotel bar was hilarious. A Caol Ila and pint of Stella nightcap was made even sweeter, by having it paid for by the great man himself.
If that doesn’t seem like I’ve been spoiled enough, I got back to my room to find a signed bottle of Ron Zacapa XO from the master distiller, Lorena Vasquez, herself.
SO, with only the classic challenge to go this morning, how do I think I have gone? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint anyone back home, or rooting for me by saying i haven’t won the comp. When I say the competition has been fierce I mean it. There have been people at this competition that have wanted this title more than me.
The German guy, after competing and getting a feel for what was required last year, brought with him three suitcases of equipment. The Japanese guy, has the precision of the finest Samurai sword. And the “Chinese” lad Ryan, is definitely up there.
All of these guys, as well as Jamie from Scotland, Boudy from Sweden, Javier from Ireland, and a handful of others have nailed every challenge.
You know what, i’m Ok with that. I have taken the advice given to me from all the gurus and am happy to say I have improved not only as a bartender, but as a person. I’m not really fussed who wins tonight. Every person, and bartender I have met has been a legend.
If anything, i’m rooting for another Aussie, Ryan.
Like I said at the start of the week. It’s not about winning in this comp. Im definitely a competitive person, but my life does not hang on winning awards. I have an incredible life that I am thankful for every day including a great job, beautiful girlfriend (really, really beautiful), awesome apartment, incredible grandmother, mother and sister, and awesome buddies.
Life’s too short to get hung up on trivial things like results of cocktail competitions.
I raise a glass in your general direction, and look forward to coming home and sharing a drink with YOU soon.
Darker than Amber
40ml Ron Zacapa
5ml Dark Creme de Cacao
Stir all ingredients, strain over three hand cut ice chunks. Float a Honeysuckle Flavoured Fog over drink.
Day 4 – Not me, sorry..
Japan won. No matter how I say it, It hurts. Yeah I know, I went on and on about it “not mattering”. Meh, evidently it does a ‘lil. I’m a pretty competitive guy. Ever since getting beatin’ up in high school, or not making the better team in under 16 cricket I’ve wanted to win at everything I do. I think it’s almost Australian nature. I’m frustrated. Frustrated I didn’t do my best.
Frustrated at not bloody winning. This post is me ‘Thinking out loud’. I’m not World Class Bartender of the Year.
Thank you for supporting me, thank you for reading. Keep reading.
A great man once said; “I’ll be back”. Actually he weren’t that great either. He was a sex-loving asshole. Oh well. None-the-less, a MAN once said “I’ll be back”, and I’m gunna do that.
This experience has humbled me, made me better, and most of all, spurred me on to kicking ass next year.
Thank you World Class for the experience. Thank you India. Thank you Micky McIlroy from M&H NY for the one word email titled, ‘Loser’. I love you all. See you back home for a drink. Anything but a cocktail thanks…