There’s no better place to hunt down cocktail trends than at competitions, where bartenders pull out all the stops to showcase their best ingredients and their most cutting-edge techniques.
This is particularly true for massive comps such as Diageo World Class. This year’s World Class global final, held last month in Glasgow, brought together 53 bartenders from around the world for a series of challenges revolving around Diageo Reserve brands including Singleton Whisky, Ketel One Vodka and Tanqueray No. Ten Gin.
From the competitors’ serves, it was clear that certain ideas and flavours are currently taking the cocktail world by storm. We observed the rounds and talked to some of the World Class judges – industry experts in their own right – to suss out the top trends of World Class 2019. Here are the ingredients, techniques and styles we saw cropping up time and time again…
Kaitlyn Stewart, World Class global champion of 2017, noticed pared-back drinks taking centre stage. ‘There's been some minimal serves, and they're harder to execute. There's nowhere to hide,’ she said.
As an example, she pointed to a drink from Singapore’s representative, Bannie Kang, who ended up winning the competition. ‘[Kang] made a Bloody Mary variation, and her execution was so simple, with only four ingredients.
‘She used a species of cherry tomato native to Singapore that she pickled. She used four pickled cherry tomatoes, an ounce of the pickling liquid, a crack of salt and vodka, topped with ginger beer. It was so delicious.’
Kang’s Bloody Mary serve also fit right in with another trend of the comp – drinks with savoury elements. ‘Yesterday I had multiple drinks with sesame in them,’ commented Julie Reiner, bartender and owner of multiple renowned New York City bars.
GB representative Cameron Attfield showed his savoury side in a different way, adding salinity to his serve The Explorer in the Singleton Whisky challenge with oysters. He balanced out the brininess by adding strawberries and honey to the mix.
Multiple judges highlighted the prevalence of fermentation in this year’s rounds. ‘You can taste it when someone has used it very well, but it's a fine line,’ said judge Orlando Marzo, 2018 World Class champion.
Carbonation and highball serves
Carbonated drinks had a huge presence at this year’s World Class. Yes, part of this was because one of the tasks in the Johnnie Walker challenge was to design a canned, carbonated highball serve, which meant that every contestant already had bubbles on the brain. But they came up multiple times in other challenges too – just look at Kang lengthening her Bloody Mary-esque drink with ginger beer.
The final technique on the World Class judges’ radar this year is one that already has a firm grip on the UK’s cocktail scene.
‘Clarification has been a hot trend,’ revealed Erik Lorincz, former World Class champion and owner of London bar Kwant.
‘The competitor [Sembo Amirpour] from Germany impressed me with a clarification of goat milk – that was a good one.’