When launching its Signature competition, super-premium Russian vodka, Beluga couldn’t launch just a cocktail competition. Instead it launched a full on-trade educational programme that combines road show and competition, taking place in six countries and 17 cities across the world.
The six Signature finalists from around the UK gathered in London’s luxurious Bassoon Bar at the Corinthia Hotel for an afternoon of competition. Tasked with presenting a Noble Chic concept and creating their cocktail from a mystery box, the finalists battled it out for a trip to St Petersburg in Beluga’s home of Russia, and the chance to be crowned Beluga brand ambassador 2018. The UK final also tested competitor’s brand presentation skills, judging how well they embodies a brand ambassador presenting a seminar.
The judging panel included UK brand ambassador Andrea Brulatti, Rocco Mascaro, bar supervisor at the Bassoon Bar and Gareth G Franklin, Global brand ambassador for Luxardo.
First behind the stick was Witek Wojaczek of The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar with his Beluga’s Key to Nobility. With a brief of using at least four ingredients from a mystery box, he creating a twist on a Tuxedo, combining dry vermouth infused with fresh raspberries, banana liqueur, Peychaud’s Bitters and Beluga Gold Line. Served on a glorifier with sprinkles of gold dust, he presented his Noble Chic seminar by recalling the many famous guests of The Savoy.
With the standard high, second up was Dandelyan’s Enrico Gonzato, with a savoury Martini combining honey, peated whisky, port, a touch of balsamic vinegar and Beluga Transatlantic. His Noble Chic concept included presenting a poem in the back of a mirror, which he turned to the crowd. He also created a hashtag, named after his cocktail, #ViviBeluga.
Third behind the stick, Daniel Stepien of The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz. His vodka Old Fashioned with Beluga Transatlantic, fresh sage, ginger and touch of Maraschino and lemon zest. His Noble Chic was dedicating his creation to the legendary pianist of the Ritz, Ian Gomes.
Representing Edinburgh Food Studio, Shea Campbell guided the judges through his Noble Chic seminar, focusing on the science of flavours and how we perceive them. Characterised by tropical and herbal notes, with Beluga Transatlantic, pineapple juice, Aperol, cinnamon, lemon juice and a touch of IPA, his drink was served in a wooden vessel with muddled tarragon.
Also hailing from Edinburgh, Martim Beata of The Voyage of Buck celebrated Noble Chic by remembering Coco Chanel. His timeless cocktail mixed Beluga Allure, Campari, grapefruit bitters and dry vermouth infused with pomegranate seeds. Reminiscent of Chanel perfume, he infused violette and fresh basil in an atomizer, spraying on top before topping with champagne.
Finally, Francesco Cama of City Social took to the stage, expressing Noble Chic through the dedication of his drink to the people of the food and drink industry. Crafting his serve wearing lab goggles, he created a stirred down cocktail with Beluga Noble, elderflower liqueur, Bitter Bianco infused with rosemary, aquavit and pomelo skin.
With standards set so high, the three judges had a tough time delivering the results, but after much deliberation, Wojaczek and Gonzato were crowned winner and runner up.
‘I'm really happy, for me is an important achievement,’ said Gonzato on his win. ‘Using the Beluga Transatlantic, my cocktail was inspired by an imaginary journey, with yachts from Great Britain sailing to the Mediterranean and then on to Russia.
‘I cannot wait to go to Russia to get to know all the other finalists and live this incredible experience. I am very happy with my performance; but the standards were so high, it was great to compete with some of the best bartenders around.’
‘The inspiration behind the cocktail came to me straight away when I opened the box,’ said Wojaczek on his winning serve. ‘Luckily the ingredients I got were a perfect fit for the story of how the famous guests of the Savoy represent with their traits the idea of Noble Chic, and how Beluga fits in it as well.’
‘Even though originally I am from Poland, and we are neighbours with Russia, I have never had opportunity to visit it,’ he continued. ‘It is a great adventure and opportunity to learn something new,’ added Wojaczek on his win. ‘I was quite surprised when my name got called out when they announced the winners but the joy took over very quickly!’
Flying to Russia in September, the pair will compete in the global final and be in with the chance of participating in Tales of the Cocktail 2018 and become Beluga's global brand ambassador.