CLASS is one of the official media partners of Diageo Reserve's annual search for the world's best bartender, World Class, and we're in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to report live from the global final. This year, the global final counts finalists from nearly 50 countries. They'll be battling it out all week so keep checking this page for updates throughout the week.
And don't forget our Twitter feed - follow us @diffordsguide for the absolute latest news - who's up, who's down, who's pushed Salvatore in the pool, that sort of thing. Plus a whole bunch of cocktail recipes. And the first notification of the ACTUAL WINNER.
Posts are listed in most recent order
FRI 2am Just back to the hotel following glittering awards ceremony at an island castle - lack of wifi/3G meant we couldn't get the results out quicker. Here they are in full:
Global winner/overall champion: Tim Philips, Australia
Signature Serves challenge: Kae Yin, Taiwan
Speed challenge: Shigeki Yoshida, Japan
Street Market: Dennis Zoppi, Italy
Food matching: Andy Mil, UK
Cocktail Mastery: Olivier Jacobs, Belgium
Tropical Journey: Jimmy Barrat, Dubai
Hollywood, Bollywood etc: Giuseppe Santamaria, Spain
Retro Chic: Varia Dellalian, Lebanon
Regional winner, Western Europe: Fjalar Goud, Netherlands
Regional winner, Asia Pacific: Kae Yin, Taiwan
Regional winner, Latin America: Stephon Scott, Trinidad
Regional winner, Rest of the World: Jimmy Barrat, Dubai
7:30pm Today was all about personality. In the morning's challenge, ostensibly a speed round, where the final ten bartenders had to make up to six cocktails in eight minutes, they also had to impress all nine judges at a time with their banter and repartee, keep 'em entertained like. A bit closer to a normal bar environment as you're gonna get in a competition like this.
That was taken up a gear during the afternoon's session, Signature Serves. Here, all ten bartenders worked concurrently, with the judges and a chosen few chosen for their televisual beauty, or something, walking around each of the contestants' bars and sampling their signature creations. Again, banter and a general entertainment factor were being measured as well as the quality and originality of the drinks.
Now, everyone's getting ready for the evening's festivities. Last year's announcement was trumpeted with the help of Indian elephants in Delhi. Not sure what's in store for us, but it's raining right now so hope it's under cover...! We're not biased here, but we are a British magazine, so go Andy Mil!
THURS 9am The last finalists just announced, and in a surprise twist the judges have decided that ten, rather than eight, will go through to compete in today's Speed and Signatures rounds. They are: Australia, Denmark, Dubai, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Taiwan, UK and USA. Congratulations to all.
WEDS 9am Semi finalists just announced. Those 16 going through to the semi finals are: UK, USA, Trinidad, Italy, China, Singapore, Australia, Dubai, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Lebanon, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium.
Commiserations to: Austria, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Princess Cruises, Dominican Republic, France, Greece, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and Vietnam.
3pm We're well into the second afternoon's challenges now. Countdown to the moment when all but 16 of the competitors are told they are not going through to the final two days' worth of challenges, which includes a speed test and gauges their creativity with a market challenge.
12.00pm We've just added a video of the UK's Andy Mil's performance in the Tropical Journey round via Twitter @diffordsguide He had to remake one of the drinks as it wasn't to his taste but that's a sign of a great bartender and shows he is really using his palate.
TUES 7am: Waking up in the morning, it's day two of World CLASS. It kicked off yesterday at one of Rio's plushest hotels, the Copacabana Palace, with a series of challenges in a set of enormous and grand function rooms. Yesterday it was busy, almost chaotic, as the competition not only includes 40 bartenders this year (39 on Monday as Denmark was sick), but a whole bunch of TV crews which are charging around.
There are four challenges during this five-day battle to be named the world's best bartender: Tropical Journey, Mastering the Classics, Hollywood, Bollywood and Hong Kong and Retro Chic, which is essentially the theme of this year's competition: A stylish re-interpretation of Fifties and Sixties fashion. The 'gurus' are here: Salvatore, gaz, Peter, Dale and the rest.
Around the edges are lots of seminars and talks, and in the evening everyone is taken to a glamorous party. Last night was the Ketel One party, held at a beautiful villa. Sunday night was a Tanqueray party. There's a Mahiki pop-up after-party every night too. Long days, and full itineraries.
The serious side to all this is that Diageo uses World Class to seriously expand its Reserve portfolio. It has just released these interesting stats, which point to the effect the competition and the choice of location for the global final have in the designated market. Last year, World Class resulted in a 60% increase in the number of outlets supporting Diageo Reserve brands globally and a 128% uplift in net sales of Diageo Reserve in Latin America in the run up to this week.
And after hosting the final last year in New Delhi, India Diageo saw a 253% increase in participation from accounts in the country and a 60% increase in the number of Indian outlets supporting Diageo Reserve brands.
Anyway, back to the agenda. Day two's challenges start shortly. More later...