Gathering in the opulent Xander Bar & Lounge of the Four Seasons Hotel in central Saint Petersburg, 12 contestants from six countries battled it out to be named Beluga Signature Global Champion. After seven hours of competition, Witek Wojaczek of the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar took home the title.
Now in its second year, Beluga Signature is a bartender engagement programme taking place in 12 countries. The ultimate prize? The coveted role of Beluga Vodka global brand ambassador and a chance to represent Beluga at Tales of the Cocktail 2018 in New Orleans.
A mere 24 hours after the competition brief was revealed – pair a unique Beluga vodka cocktail with a specially curated canapé – the contestants were put to work.
Canapés were created by Four Seasons executive chef Matteo Guida, and included Russian oyster with grapefruit and Beluga vodka gel, garnished with seaweed; marinated herring tartare with pickled cucumber, raspberry chips and cured compressed caviar; and finally, venison bresaola with chestnut puree, chips and marinated mushrooms.
After familiarising themselves with the intricate flavours of the canapés, the 12 bartenders were let loose on a vast pantry of ingredients.
In front of an illustrious judging panel including Guida himself, Tales of the Cocktail educator Philip Duff, German Mixologist of the Year Lukas Motejzik and cocktail historian Fernando Castellon, Enrico Gonzato of London’s Dandelyan bar was first behind the stick.
Gonzato mixed Beluga Transatlantic with sage and elderflower cordial, honey and ginger Ambrato and elderflower saline solution for his second rendition of #ViviBeluga. This was paired with Guida’s oyster dish.
Second up was Beaufort Bar’s Wojaczek, impressing the judges with his winning Golden Lock of Beluga, a combination of Beluga Transatlantic, a blend of sherries (including Manzanilla and PX), Beluga Hunting Berry, raspberry syrup and saline solution. He garnished his stirred-down cocktail with lemon zest and a golden lock from the sherry bottle itself.
After a day of fierce competition, Wojaczek was revealed as the ultimate victor and global brand ambassador for 2018. Raymond Peters of the Ritz Carlton in Berlin took home second prize with Joao Carlos Vicente of Berlin’s Alto Bar in third.
‘It was a really great experience, I’m speechless, there were a lot of great participants and a great show behind the bar today’, said Wojaczek on his win. ‘Above all I’m really looking forward to a lot of travelling, meeting new people. It’s really exciting for me.’
‘The concept of the competition was really interesting, with a really tempting prize, to go to Tales of the Cocktail,’ he added on the reasons for entering Beluga Signature.
Prior to the global final, the 12 finalists spent three days in Saint Petersburg, immersing themselves in Russian culture and drinking Beluga vodka in some of the city’s best bars.
Wojaczek will begin his journey as Beluga global brand ambassador in 2018…