The Gurus and the Challenges

Words by: Ian Cameron
Pictures by: Dan Malpass, Alys Tomlinson and Rob Lawson

10:14 GMT // 29 Jul 2011

Six judges - or 'gurus' as they are called - with a collective 180 years worth of bartending experience were on hand to preside over the six World Class challenges.

Salvatore Calabrese - Spice Market: Salvatore has seen his own life spiced up recently following the opening of his bar at London's new Playboy Club. Here in Delhi, he examined competitors' ability to produce two drinks that complemented the flavours of an array of spices. With many of the exotic flavours being tasted for the first time, the bartenders had to think on their feet and conjure up cocktails that would appeal to this discerning Maestro's finely tuned palate, providing a feast for the senses.

Peter Dorelli - Theatre and the Stars: This veteran bartender, most famous for his 30 years at the American Bar at The Savoy (and known for his way with the ladies) was looking for a cocktail created in honour of a famous female, and a bottle serve that would knock his socks off. This challenge was a real opportunity for bartenders to harness their creative juices and show off their theatrical side as well as come up with some genuinely complementary flavour pairings for Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky and Zacapa 23 rum.

Gaz Regan - Gentlemen's Drinks and Fancy Tipples: Gaz found it somewhat ironic that he'd been asked to judge this section - saying he was neither a gentleman nor at all that fancy. However, it was actually the perfect challenge as his wealth of experience as a cocktail writer and bartender was brought to bear on the two cocktails each competitor created - one classic, serious recipe just right for a hardened drinker and one signature cocktail that articulated their showmanship and understanding of innovations in flavour delivery.

Dale DeGroff - Against the Clock: How many decent drinks can you make in five minutes? Dale DeGroff, renowned New York mixologist and known as King Cocktail, made quite a few for demanding customers when he was ensconced at the top of the Rockefeller Centre at the Rainbow Room. Here, he was looking not just for speed, but for accuracy and comportment behind the bar, and drinks that tasted like they were a labour of love, not knocked up in a few seconds. Bartenders were allowed to choose what they wanted to make, and it was up to them how many they thought they could make without compromising Dale's values.

Hidetsugu Ueno - Classic, Vintage and Twist: Ueno San, famous for his tiny bar in Ginza, Tokyo, his expert understanding of the two- and three-point hard shake and his hand-carved ice diamonds, was just the right person to preside over this challenge. It addressed bartenders' understanding of the evolution of mixed drinks and the fundamental flavour matches that they are based on. He was looking for each bartender to put their mark on the classics without compromising the original drinks' intergrity, and to demonstrate their ability to come up with finely tuned twists of their own.

Daniel Estremadoyro - Asian Food Matching: New to the competition this year, Daniel hails from the Real McCoy bar in Cordoba, Argentina, though he's actually Peruvian. Matching food and drink is a crucial area for modern bartending - while wine and food matching is well-established, creating nuanced cocktails that emphasise or contrast with flavours and textures in food is an emerging trend. Daniel's own cocktail menu has a list of matching foods so he's well-used to blurring the line between traditional roles of chef and bartender.



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