Words by Chivas Regal
The Netherlands Chivas Masters cocktail competition drew to a close last week with an epic final at the W Lounge in Amsterdam. After presentations from seven of the country’s top bartenders, Sebastian Cichowlas was crowned the winner and will compete at the global finals in the UK in August.
The third time running in The Netherlands, this year saw a record number of entries, competitive rounds and a packed out final event full of industry and bar professionals. The official afterparty to the Perfect Serve Barshow, the event served delicious Chivas Regal cocktails and bites with music from DJ Sjeazy Pearl accompanying the presentations.
Sebastian held off tough competition from his fellow competitors James Chaib (The Tailor), Jan Dirk Huijser van Reenen (Mr Sammi), Lucas Sedlmaier (Rosalia's Menagerie), Martin Eisma (Bluespoon Bar), Salena Koch (Pulitzer’s Bar) and Vitaly Alekseyev (Cut Throat).
The seven bartenders took part in two final challenges on Tuesday 21st May – the Highball challenge and the Signature cocktail challenge. Taking place prior to the final event at the Perfect Serve Barshow, the highball challenge saw them create their own whisky in a special blending session with Global Brand Ambassador and jury member Rhys Wilson.
The task was to use this whisky to create a unique highball adding only one pre-homemade ingredient along with soda water and then present this to the jury. For the jury line-up this year, Rhys was accompanied Danil Nevsky (partner at Cocktails for You), Freek van Nootwijk (Masterchef Nederland jury member) and Rick Marson (Chivas Masters NL winner 2018), who joined especially all the way from Australia.
The Signature challenge saw them present their original Chivas cocktail in line with the ‘Your Blend’ theme to the jury and a live audience at the W Lounge. Competitors were asked to create a cocktail inspired by what makes them a blend; A blend of ingredients that tells a story of who they are, what drives them, and something they are ultimately proud of. As well as the taste, aroma, balance and presentation of the drink itself, each bartender was also judged on the alignment of their story with the theme, their delivery and their bartending technique.
Sebastian’s Hay-ball was a unanimous jury pleaser in the highball challenge as he combined his blended whisky with a hay-infused syrup. His winning drink Pirouette also scored top marks with the judges, a tiki-inspired cocktail with both gold and grannysmith apple juices complimenting the fruity notes of Chivas Regal 12 accompanied with cinnamon spiced tea and triple sec. His presentation paid homage to his time as a ballroom dancer, the days spent drinking tea with his mother and to the Chivas Brothers themselves, who pioneered the art of blending whisky in the mid-1800s.
In August, Sebastian will compete in the global finals in the UK from around the world. He will travel to Strathisla distillery in Scotland to experience the home of Chivas Regal before heading to London, one of the world’s cocktail capitals, for the grand finale.
CHIVAS 12 60ML
GOLD APPLE JUICE 20ML
GRANNY SMITH JUICE 20ML
CINNAMON SPICED TEA 10ML
PIERRE FERRAND TRIPLE SEC 10ML
1 DASH OLD FASHION BITTERS
The Competition Timeline
There were two kick-off events held on 26th & 27th February in both Amsterdam and The Hague.
Applications were submitted online via chivas.com throughout March. Applications were higher than ever before and once reviewed the Top 20 most promising applicants were invited to a special lunch on 8th April at Restaurant Breda, one of the restaurants of jury member Freek van Nootwijk.
Throughout April, each member of the Top 20 were visited in their own bar and asked to present their cocktail to a judging panel headed by Owen Martin (Chivas Brand Activation Manager). As well as the taste, aroma, balance and presentation of the drink itself, each bartender was also judged on the alignment of their story with the theme, their delivery and their bartending technique.
The Final 7 were selected at the beginning of May and each took part in the Chivas Masters Week – a week long promotion where the bartenders sold their own cocktails in their bars – before presenting at the Final event itself on 21st May.