Dylan sang of the times that are changing. Thank goodness they have. 20 or 30 years ago if a high school student in South Africa said his calling was a career based on mixing drinks, the result would be a visit to the principal’s office. There, the principal would try and persuade the silly youngster that he should pursue a proper career. If words didn’t help, the cane would follow. But that was then.
Bartenders and mixologists are the rockstars of the modern world. They travel round the world, mixing drinks, creating cocktail menus, teaching and training. The rise in the high-end cocktail culture means that the experts are in demand. A similar thing happened with DJs a decade or two ago. They have their followers. Hotels and bars compete to hire winners, for they bring with them skill, followers and credibility to the establishment.
Diageo Reserve hosts an annual event to find the world’s best bartender. Wednesday afternoon saw the Cape Town leg of the competition. The top ten from the regional finals compete in the national finals and the winner competes in the international event. This year Mexico City is hosting the finals. https://www.theworldclassclub.com/
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Think again. Imagine days, weeks, months of experimenting, practising, designing, creating. Imagine trying to recreate your drink of choice in front of a panel of judges with international experience. And 3 cameras. And a crowd. And bright lights. And where you can see yourself on a television screen. Local victory results in instant fame. Your face on billboards, your name up in lights and adulation from your peers. And then the training begins again. Because you are always looking to improve.
This past Wednesday the Cape Town regionals were held at a Mexican restaurant. The judging panel comprised Alex Farnell, Diageo’s National Manager for Reserve Brands; Dom Walsh, winner of the 2016 competition (and 17th in the world) and Tinashe Nyamudoka, sommelier at Africa’s best restaurant, The Test Kitchen. The presence of 2015 winner Dom De Lorenzo as the host and Diageo’s Steven Saunders and Bradley Jacobs, National and Western Cape Reserve Brand Ambassadors respectively, added to the pressure for the competitors and showed the seriousness of the competition.
To the competition: Each of the ten finalists had to complete two challenges. The first, a nod to the present and future, to craft an environmentally friendly cocktail, minimising waste, with Tanqueray gin as the lead spirit. The second, recognising the past, involved creating and serving a cocktail with whisky as the lead spirit and including wine as an ingredient. The past came in as the cocktail had to be prepared on and served from a tableside trolley. Think flambé – Crepes Suzette or Cherries Jubilee. It’s not often that you’ll see that in a restaurant, nowadays.
Skill levels were high all round. The drinks, generally, tasted great, of course, some were better than others, better balanced and more complex. Have a look at some of the photos and the video below to get a feel of the fun that was had. It’s the nature of a competition that there has to be a winner.
Here is a list of the competitors.
Brent Perremore of Crush Mobile Bars won and will soon be on the way to nationals. The top two from each region with the next 4 overall will compete at the National finals from the 24 – 26 April 2017 at the Diageo Headquarters in Gauteng.
Good luck to all.
Scoring criteria for the Tableside serve
Timing: Ten minutes to present one cocktail, using only the trolley to do so.
Brands: The brand that you are allowed to use will any Single Malt in the Diageo Portfolio, You may use still or sparkling wine variations, Sherry or Port. No Vermouths as your wine ingredient will be allowed.
Serves Required: You will need to make two identical drinks
Bartending Technique: 20 points
Bartender Personality & Presentation Skill: 20 points
Cocktail Creativity: 20 points
Hospitality and ability to use wine correctly: 20 points
Aroma, Taste & Flavor: 20 points
Expression of the Spirit: 10 points
TOTAL SCORING POINTS: 110 points
Ketel One vodka.
RON ZACAPA CENTENARIO 23
TANQUERAY NO.TEN GIN
JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL
Don Julio Tequila