(L-R) Dom Whisson, Aidan Bowie, Gordon Purnell, Lorenzo Antinori, Jerome Allaguillemette, James Bowker
This years 2nd burst opened with a challenge reflecting current trends & the changing landscape of cocktail culture. Bartenders were asked to create a drink using either plants or fruit - with a light, spring/summer flavour profile. Other stipulations such as not using as few professional bar tools as possible, just what you had to hand in your kitchen.
Yesterday we saw 50 finalists come together at Diageo’s CCC (Customer Collaboration Centre) to face off in three unique challenges and one unmarked studio challenge. They tested on knowledge, understanding of flavour profiles and bar performance.
The task of cutting down 50 bartenders to 5 is a very difficult task indeed, so much so that this year instead of 5, 6 bartenders are being sent to the GB final to make up the final 11.
Aidan Bowie, Dandelyan
Dominic Whisson, The American Bar at Savoy
Lorenzo Antinori, Dandelyan
James Bowker, The Edgbaston
Jerome Allaguillemette, Sexy Fish
Gordon Purnell, Panda & Sons
The day began with a breakfast reception & welcome from the Reserve team at Diageo’s 7HQ, before being spirited away to the CCC.
Drink Outside the Box
The first of the days challenges was about the heart & soul of being a great bartender, showing not only that you can make a great drink, but also the ability to perform under pressure, think on your feet, be a great host and display knowledge of your chosen product. Bartenders first took a spin of the wheel to decide what spirit they would use - Ketel One, Tanqueray No. Ten, Don Julio, Ciroc or Jinzu. They had 5 minutes to to make one drink.
But that was too easy. Each competitor was given the choice of three different mystery boxes - easy, medium and hard. The hardest random ingredients would garner the highest points for a great drink, but a medium drink could score higher if hard ingredients made a bad drink. There was also limit for 3 mystery ingredients. Some ingredients from the hard box included Cynar & Marmite. There was also access to a basic pantry of fruits, herbs & mixers etc.
Judging this round was
World Class GB 2015 winner Ali Reynolds, GB
Bulleit brand ambassador, Andrea Montague
Northern Bulleit brand ambassador Joseph Tivey
Scotch Whisky brand ambassador Ervin Trykowski
Deconstruct/Reconstruct with Don Julio
Over the past couple of years, this has been one of the defining challenges of World Class GB - the ability to understand flavour and what goes into a drink. Previously its included determining compounds that made up Don Julio from aroma and the understanding the perfect balance of sweet & sour in a Zacapa Daiquiri.
This session was presented by brand ambassador Stephen Martin and technicians from Diageo’s Woodside, their RnD facility.
For this Deconstruct/Reconstruct it was all about sensory perception and this time looking into balance, sweetness, acidity & salinity with a focus on the Don Julio Margarita. The first part of the challenge required bartenders to blind taste and identify the four Don Julio expressions, then taste four different sour compounds which included lime, yuzu, mandarin & lemon. Then they had to identify four different sweets - two different sugar syrups - 1:1 & 2:1, honey and agave nectar.
The final part of the challenge asked finalists to taste 5 different Margaritas consisting of Don Julio Blanco, Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, lime & sugar. Each had subtle differences of salt, sour and sweet. They were asked to put them in order of these characteristics sour to sweet with the perfect in the middle, as below.
While it may seem simple it’s incredible difficult - particularly the blind Don Julio tasting as they had all been dyed and and when we taste, what we see plays a big part on our perception.
-2 -1 0 +1 +2
The Hot Seat
The Hot Seat round is designed to test your knowledge, a key part of any bartender’s skills, on both category and brand. The challenge was split into to parts, starting with a written exam with 5 interactive questions such as:
What are the 5 botanicals in the jars?
Where do 3 of these botanicals come from?
Identifying different gins through tasting - including: Tanqueray Export Strength, Tanqueray 10, Tanqueray Rangpur & even Hendricks
The second part took place in the ‘Hot Seat’ itself, where bartenders were given two minutes to answer as many questions on the subject of gin as possible, including brands, botanicals, history & production. Questions included: ‘name the type of still that gives gin its soft, subtle notes’ and ‘which musician had not sung about Tanqueray in their music’ from a list of options.
While it may seem easy remembering a variety of facts, when you’re put on the spot - that’s when many struggle. Some even forgot that gin shaken with vodka was a Vesper.
The Studio Session with Ketel One
The Studio Session was a chance for bartenders to take a break during the long day or for some to unwind after completing all the challenges. The session was hosted by Ketel One Brand Ambassador David Beatty, covering tips and tricks on drinks styling to make their drinks look even better. He also showed a variety of alcohol advertising examples to show what works and what doesn’t.
This styling session was then followed by renowned drinks photographer Addie Chin explaining the intricacies of cocktail specific photography & how best to shoot your drinks. It also covered multiple disciplines & modern techniques - showing that you can do amazing things with even your phone camera.
After completing all challenges we were whisked away for the afterparty and finalists announcements at Oriole, alongside cocktails curated by the team there.
Needless to say it was an amazing day, whether you got through or not it’s a great experience that can help you grow as a bartender and it’s absolutely worth re-entering next year for 2017.
In June the final 6 will be taken to a secret location in London compete against burst one’s finalists in a selection of challenges, to determine who will represent the the UK in the global final in Miami later this year.
The previous 5 finalists they’ll be up against are: Kyle Wilkinson (Beaufort Bar, Savoy), Liam Broom (Callooh Callay), Tim Laferla (City Social), Scott Gavin (Rosewood Hotel) & Sean Fennelly (Milk & Honey).
The ultimate winner of the GB final will receive a £10,000 marketing fund to create their own World Class ritual serve and travel the globe to help identify & educate new talent. They’ll also judge World Class GB in 2017.
Good luck to all and watch this space for news from the GB final next month!