CAPE TOWN, SEPTEMBER 1 – The first round of
challenges in the WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year Global Finals kicked off
yesterday in Cape Town, as 54 contestants from over 50 countries arrived in the
city to compete to be crowned the world’s best bartender.
Competitors, master distillers and celebrities
from the world of luxury drinking arrived in South Africa over the weekend
before converging at the V&A Waterfront on Monday evening for the opening
batch of challenges, which will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Divided into five groups – buffalos, lions,
elephants, leopards and rhinos (South Africa’s famous “big five”) – the “big
54” got stuck in to the competition.
South Africa’s own Domenico de Lorenzo proved
a popular contestant among local and international visitors, who crowded around
to witness Dom prepare two cocktails inspired by the blurred lines between sun
up and sun down in the life of a bartender in the “Night and Day” challenge.
His first cocktail was inspired by the
traditional morning cup of coffee and had Talisker as its signature ingredient.
His second cocktail was inspired by fruit salad, combining grapefruit with
Tanqueray No.10 Gin.
“It’s both nerve-wracking and humbling to
represent South Africa,” said Dom de Lorenzo after the night’s challenges had
concluded. “It’s an honour, but also a little scary to know the eyes of the
country and the whole world are on this competition.”
“The future is now!” declared Hong Kong
competitor Antonio Lai, who was first up in the time-travelling “Retro, Disco,
Future” challenge, which required the bartenders to infuse the spirit of three
distinct eras into three one-of-a-kind cocktails – the old-school chic of the
19th century up to Prohibition; the dance-floor kitsch of the 70s and 80s; and
the cutting-edge trends of the future.
“Sustainability” was a popular trend among the
contestants as they looked to the future. Tess Posthumus of the Netherlands
produced small cups made from potatoes in which to serve her concoction, while
Refaat Ghostine of Lebanon incorporated recyclable wooden materials into his
At least one of the drinks in the challenge
had to include Bulleit Rye or Bulleit Bourbon, and Bulleit founder Tom Bulleit
of Kentucky was on hand to witness the contestants in action.
“I love this challenge thematically,” said Tom
Bulleit. “Especially the future section. Everybody loves to look to the future
for inspiration. And the competitors have really pushed themselves to meet and
exceed expectations, which is really the whole point of WORLD CLASS.”
Other challenges included “Against the Clock”,
which was a high-pressure speed round where competitors prepared a minimum of
five cocktails in just 10 minutes; “Around the World”, in which bartenders had
to create two unique cocktail rituals – one honouring their home country and
one honouring South Africa; and The “Street Food Jam”, which put the colour and
diversity of Cape Town’s tastes and aromas at the bartenders’ disposal as they
were tested on their ability to incorporate unusual ingredients into their
cocktails, paired with two dishes made by a local chef.
The groups will do their rounds through each
of the challenges in turn over the next few days. The six global finalists will
be announced on Wednesday evening, while the 2015 WORLD CLASS Bartender of the
Year will be declared in a ceremony at Cape Town City Hall on Friday, September