In the run up to the World Class 2016 GB semi final, saw the Diageo Reserve Brands put on a very special two-night event in London - a guest shift with master bartender & former World Class bartender, Dennis Zoppi.
Zoppi has had an esteemed career, which started at the young age of 16 when he was inspired by the film Cocktail staring Tom Cruise. His career has flourished since; becoming World Class Italy’s winner in 2012 and being part of the top 8 in the global finals in Rio de Janeiro.
He can be found at Turin’s Smile Tree, a drinking haven where every drink pushes the creative edge & the bartenders care about every little detail; as well creating a little theatre with a multi-sensory drinks experience - including skilfully thought out food parings.
For his guest shift at the Rosewood Hotel’s Scarfes Bar, Dennis created a limited edition Diageo World Class cocktail menu, with three exceptional drinks. Each drink was unique, showcasing a different style and flavour profile. They were driven by his unique creative spark and encompassed his flare for theatre - including fire and playing cards.
For starters, the ‘Opium’ cocktail was an intriguing mix of Ron Zacapa Centenario Solera 23, Zucca rabarbaro & beetroot juice, garnished with opium essence (an aromatic, floral mist) and a fiery playing card. The drink conveyed a subtle sweetness alongside aromatics, balanced with vegetal intensity from the beetroot.
(Photo credit - David Beatty)
Next up was his ‘Mariachi’ - an exciting mix of Don Julio Blanco, black beans, lime juice, sweet chilli sauce and curry powder, garnished with a miso leaf & blackberry. It was aromatic, intense and fresh - giving the multi-sensory experience Smile Tree are renowned for. It was balanced through several flavour profiles including sweet, savoury and sour. We found ourselves reminded of the Tommy’s Margarita.
The final drink of the menu was the ‘Funkey Monkey’. Now we’re typically hesitant when it comes to Blue Label cocktails, as they usually see the whisky being overwhelmed by other flavours or dominating them - but this had balance on its side.
The drink was offered as a choice, more sweet or bitter (we chose the latter) - mixing Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Umeboshi Choya extra years (a type of vinegar), vintage jam, tobacco bitters and chickpea water, garnished with lemon thyme, gold leaf and a viola flower. It nicely followed on from the Mariachi, reflecting some of the similar flavour profiles.
It gave intense smokiness (Blue Label), followed by sour (umeboshi) & slowly hinting at sweetness from the jam. The drink opened out as it was drank, eventually arriving at a leathery bitterness.
It was an wonderful night and we can’t wait to check out Smile Tree in Turin soon. Many thanks to Dennis for looking after us and making sure we had such an amazing evening. And of course to Diageo’s Reserve Brands for putting these two wonderful nights on - we should have Dennis here more often.