Designed to find the world’s best bartender, at least the best with enough confidence to enter, World Class is the toughest of all the bartending competitions. And, as with all competitions, this gladiatorial display of bartending excellence comes down to a process of elimination. Watching the 10 finalists battle it out in the recent Great Britain Final was an emotional and uplifting experience.
Two days of competition challenges were held in suitably luxurious settings – the penthouse apartment of The Edinburgh Grand Hotel and then the sumptuous sporting lodge that is the Gleneagles Hotel. World Class is a Diageo Reserve competition after all – think Johnnie Walker Blue Label and all the trappings that go with it.
Bearing in mind that “first impressions are key in hospitality” the bartenders were challenged “to really think about the concept of the ‘Perfect Welcome Cocktail’ and what makes a great welcome drink?" They were given five minutes to prepare and present their drink to the judges.
Set in the Shooting Lodge at The Gleneagles Hotel, with judge Ali Reynolds assuming the persona of the Duke of Diageo (very apt), and fellow judges Colin Dunn and Stevie Martin playing his shooting party, each bartender was in turn invited to join the trio. And, as the brief said, “no country jaunt is complete without a wee dram along the way, from a trusty hip flask.” Hence, they were challenged “to create a ‘smoked cocktail’ to fill your hip flask - an exquisite elixir befitting of the occasion, to be shared at the right moment, whilst you share the tale of its creation.”
I tasted all 10 cocktails and all were excellent, as were the snacks and engaging stories that accompanied them. I was also struck the diversity of ingredients which included:
- juniper cured venison salami
- spruce tincture
- cold smoked venison bone marrow infused Johnnie Walker Back
- duck, apple and parsnip fat-washed Johnnie Walker Back
- maple smoked parsnip syrup
- Cotswold smoked rapeseed oil
- alder wood smoked raspberries
- moss filtered Johnnie Walker Back
The fireside tale telling element of this competition produced great back stories which explained the relevance of the various ingredients and added interest to each cocktail being presented.
The final challenge was held in the Auchterarder 70 Club House overlooking the iconic St Andrew’s Golf Course where the bartenders were told to imagine they had “nailed a dream job” and had been appointed the new bar manager. The challenge brief went on, “With great new job comes great responsibility and it's your responsibility to create the new Club House signature drink, something inspired by the rich legacy and joie de vivre of the famous golfing institution that is St Andrew's. We’re not looking for something stuffy that harks back to a by-gone era, but a modern day representation of all that is good and great of the spirit of sport. Now, the curve ball… we ask you to present your creation mid shift!”
So, in a bar packed with spectators, the bartenders presented their cocktails while also catering for random requests for three other classic cocktails shouted out by impatient stooges in the crowd. Although not quite Rollerball or Hunger Games, the atmosphere was intense with judges and onlookers willing each competitor on. The crowd didn’t break into chants of “ten go in and one comes out,” but at times it felt like you were in the stands at a football match with gasps, cries and applause.
Each shift lasted just ten minutes but this was probably the toughest ten minutes behind the bar that any of the competitors have ever experienced. That’s what sets World Class apart as a real test of bartending skills rather than just recipe creation.
The ten finalists are listed below. As one of the judges lucky enough to experience this brilliant bartending spectacle, I’d like to pass on my personal thanks to all ten of you for your professionalism and hospitality. However, Daniel Warren emerged as the clear champion bartender, particularly as he made the last and toughest challenge appear effortless, producing his very tasty Terroir Cocktail along with two Daiquiris, one Dutch Highball and three Whisky Highballs, all perfectly presented, and all within the allotted ten minutes.
Daniel will go on to represent Great Britain in the Global Final in Berlin 3rd - 6th October 2018. He has won himself a prize package valued at over £15,000 to include a 12 month contract worth a minimum of £5,000 to tour with the World Class team hosting workshops and bartending at high profile events throughout the UK.
Kieran Grieves, Bonbar, Newcastle
Luke Robinson, Cub, London
Adam Day, Peggy’s Bar, Manchester
Cameron Attfield, Dandelyan, London
Daniel Bovey, Hyde & Co., Bristol
David Hall, Terroir Tapas, Bournemouth
James Bowker, The Wilderness, Birmingham
Georgia Billing, Sexy Fish, London
Manachain “Manny” Monaghan, Below Stairs, Leeds
Daniel Warren, Last Chance
Alexander Taylor, Pennyroyal, Cardiff
Arnaud Volte, The Distillery, London
Charles Roche, Scout, London
Christian Silenzi, American Bar at The Savoy, London
Claudio Iucolino, Dry Martini, London
Cosmin Tigroso, Nine Lives, London
Giovanni Tavano, Sexy Fish, London
Ilija Kniazev, Annabel’s, London
Jack Wakelin, Public, Sheffield
Jonatan Munoz Iniesta, Hawksmoor Spitalfields, London
Kieran Downie, Tigerlily, Edinburgh
Kuba Korzynski, Royal Institution, Liverpool
Luke Condell, The Cocktail Trading Co., London
Michele Reina, Palm Court Bar, London
Mike McGinty, Voyage of Buck, Edinburgh
Stevie Kane, Revolution
Miran Chauhan, Buck & Birch, Edinburgh
Robert Simpson, The Clove Club, London
Robyn Wilkie, The Edition, London
Simone di Serio, Brasserie Max, London
Thomas Matthews, The Edgbaston, Birmingham
Thomas Ryan, Doctor Ink’s Curiosities, Exeter
Thomas Solberg, Black Rock, London
Timothy Bachelor, The PIG Hotel, Brockenhurst
Yeshua Garcia, Rotunda Bar at Ten Trinity Square