After a day of intense challenges, the finalists of Diageo Reserve's World Class GB Bartender of the Year were announced last night.
Whittling 50 bartenders down to just 11, the judges marked the group on three challenges, testing taste, speed and efficiency, creativity and industry knowledge.
Split into three rotating groups, the 50 bartenders were put through their paces yesterday at Diageo's Park Royal Customer Collaboration Centre. First up was The Road to Jalisco, designed to immerse contestants in the culture of this year's final host, Mexico.
Given 12 pots of mystery ingredients, the blindfolded bartenders were tested on their sense of smell, including expressions from Don Julio's portfolio, cactus leaves and avocado. Blindfolds off, they then had to create a cocktail using more mystery ingredients.
Challenge two saw the bartenders make two serves – graded easy, medium and hard – in just five minutes. Serves included a New York Sour, Bloody Mary and Tom Collins and were made using brands from Diageo's World Class portfolio.
Last up was Battle of the Grainiacs, testing the contestants vodka knowledge on the key elements and production methods of the liquid, specifically those used in Ketel One.
With the day under wraps, the 11-strong judging panel, including World Class manager, Dan Dove; Diageo Reserve brand ambassador, Ali Reynolds; World of Zing founder, Pritesh Mody; World Class UK Winner 2016, Aidan Bowie; and the Diageo Reserve brand ambassadors, made their decision. The finalists are:
1. Aiden Page | 69 Colebrooke Row | London
2. Alf Del Portillo | The Natural Philosopher | London
3. Constança Cordeiro | Peg and Patriot | London
4. James Bowker | The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel & Cocktail Lounge | Birmingham
5. Jamie Jones | The Social Company | London
6. Jérôme Allaguillemette | Sexy Fish | London
7. Jon Hughes | Bramble | Edinburgh
8. Liam Broom | Callooh Callay | London
9. Martin Hudak | American Bar at The Savoy Hotel | London
10. Sean Fennelly | Hawksmoor Spitalfields | London
11. Thomas Matthews | The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel & Cocktail Lounge | Birmingham
'The skill, precision and incredible talent of our competitors increases every year,' said Dan Dove, head of World Class UK. 'The pushing of boundaries and knowledge these bartenders exhibit never fails to surprise me and the level this year is higher than ever.'
The prize for being Diageo Reserve World Class GB Bartender of the Year? Access to the European World Class boot camp following the GB final, business class flights to Mexico for the global final, a trip to Don Julio, a trip to Schiedam to the Ketel One Vodka distillery, a whisky trip to Scotland, £500 voucher for a personalised Cocktail Kingdom kit, Caracalla World Class bespoke bartender hand luggage – worth over £1,000 – and a professional signature serve and profile photoshoot with a top industry photographer... not too shabby, eh?