Fifty semi-finalists were challenged yesterday in four unique and stimulating sessions. Under extreme pressure their skills, adaptability and spirit knowledge were put to the test. Each session paid homage to the ‘Mindful Drinking’ theme of the competition, with bartenders invited to incorporate one of the following Diageo Reserve brands in their cocktail creations; Talisker, Singleton, Cardhu, Ron Zacapa, Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve and Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Haig Club, Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye.
After an intense afternoon of competition, five bartenders in particular stood out, impressing the judges with their outstanding hosting skills, creative use of flavour and well-rounded understanding of the industry. Congratulations to Liam Broom (Callooh Callay), Tim Laferla (City Social), Sean Fennelly (Milk & Honey), Kyle Wilkinson (Blind pig), and Scott Gavin (Rosewood Hotel).
The five bartenders will compete in the UK final in May, where they will join an additional five UK finalists (to be announced in May, following phase two semi-final; ‘Fruit and Plants’), for the chance to be crowned Diageo Reserve World Class UK Bartender of the Year 2016.
The judging panel, consisting a host of industry experts, including the Head of World Class UK Dan Dove, Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassadors; Andrea Montague, Colin Dunn, the World Class Ambassador for Western Europe, Max La Rocca and the UK winner of World Class 2015, Ali Reynolds, were extremely impressed with the semi-finalists’ performance across all challenges.
Dan Dove, Head of World Class UK commented: “The calibre of bartenders competing this year is exceptionally high – each year seems to be progressive, but the broad thinking and unusual flavour pairings we’ve witnessed this year have taken the competition to a new level. All five finalists should be incredibly proud to have made it this far in the competition, and we very much look forward to seeing them again.”
Ali Reynolds, Diageo Reserve World Class UK Winner 2015 commented: “I’m very honoured to be a judge in this year’s World Class competition. After being part of the process last year I feel I’m in the perfect position to offer hands-on experience and knowledge to bartenders entering this year, especially as the competition brought out the best of my skillset and enabled me to reach a whole new level.”
The 2016 UK World Class champion will be awarded with the esteemed title and represent the nation at the global final, which will be held in Miami in September. They will also be invited to travel worldwide to educate and identify new talent, and become a mentor or judge in the following year’s competition. In addition, the owner of the bar in which the UK winner works will receive a one off £10,000 marketing fund to create their own World Class ritual serve.