We are now closer to knowing who’ll be this years’ British World Class champion after ten finalists emerged from a 35 strong field of the nation’s best bartenders.
The first stages, of what is one of the most challenging and respected competitions a bartender can enter, saw bartenders attend seminars on resourceful bartending and also on flavours and culinary influences. Inspired by these, they then submitted a cocktail recipe using products from Diageo’s Reserve portfolio (below/right) which were evaluated by judges visiting their bars. From these, the judges then chose Britain’s top 35 bartenders to participate in the semi-finals.
The semi-finals were held at Diageo’s Customer Collaboration Centre on Tuesday 15th May 2018. What looks like an ordinary warehouse hidden at the back of a hard to find unassuming industrial estate in West London houses a modern facility with very realistic mock-up bars and even supermarket shelves. For the purposes of these challenges, the rooms housed three very different scenes – one for each of the challenges:
What looked like a TV studio, complete with huge cameras, crew and even a director’s chair was the venue for the Breakfast Martini challenge as the bartenders were tasked with creating a brunch cocktail using everyday ingredients and equipment found in a typical home. They then had to present this in front of the cameras as a live broadcast on a breakfast television talk show. The set tested their presenting skills and their nerves .
A mock-up pub, The Yews Beth Arms, appropriately named to remind competitors that to win a speed round they needed to “use both arms” [get it? – went over most of our heads too]. Named the 119.5 To Go! Challenge, this was a speed round with a difference as the bartenders had to serve a pint of Guinness, which takes 119.5 seconds for the perfect serve, while mixing two classic cocktails during the resting period mid-way through serving the Guinness. There were judged not only on time but their hosting, knowledge, quality of cocktail and even how well they poured the Guinness – down to if they managed to finish with a shamrock in the white head. I [Simon Difford] was lucky enough to be one of the judges in what is one of the best bartending challenges I’ve encountered.
A third, starkly white lab-like room hosted the third challenge, Flavour on the fly, a liquid-led challenge designed to test bartenders’ ability to play with flavour and balance a drink. Competitors were given a guided workshop before being asked to apply those skills to create a drink.
The following ten finalists emerged victorious from the above challenges and will go on to battle it out in Edinburgh from the 18th – 20th June for the chance to be crowned the World Class GB Bartender of the Year, and be invited to compete at the global final in Berlin.
Adam Day, Peggy’s Bar, Manchester
Cameron Attfield, Dandelyan, London
Daniel Bovey, Hyde & Co., Bristol
Daniel Warren, Last Chance
David Hall, Terroir Tapas, Bournemouth
Georgia Billing, Sexy Fish, London
James Bowker, The Wilderness, Birmingham
Kieran Grieves, Bonbar, Newcastle
Luke Robinson, Cub, London
Manachain Monaghan, Below Stairs, Leeds
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