Competitions, Event

Holy fucking shit.

Apparently, you can go home again.

Cocktail World Cup is coming up once again.Talk to anyone who’s been, to compete or otherwise and they’ll tell you about a rollocking good time, bookended by equal parts of gut wrenching fear and Fergburgers.

The global cocktail contest is oft copied these days, but everyone agrees that the CWC, with bungy jumping, helicopters and jetboats is an all round good time.

Each annual edition has teams from round the world, rounded up to compete as nations in teams. This year however, there will be a Startender team, open only to those who have attended before.

Think of it, a chance to right old wrongs, relive past glories and maybe even find that last shred of dignity you left, hanging upside down in the rafters of Bar Up.


This may not end well

They say it is a fine line between genius and insanity.

It appears that the team at 42 Below have dressed as jesters and are whirling like dervishes over both sides of that line as they gear up for Cocktail World Cup next week.

The latest announcement to roll out of this eagerly awaited contest is the attendance of not one but two Playboy Playmates at the event. They’ll be covering things for the Playboy website, and filing daily video reports. They’ll also be fighting off the attention and advances of contestants, locals and the male populations of Southland and Otago.

Ashley Hobbs and Jordan Monroe sound eager to arrive all the same:

“I’m very excited to represent Playboy at the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup. I’ve never been to New Zealand, so not only am I looking forward to watching the best bartenders in the world compete, and can’t wait to take in the sights of this beautiful country. Oh, and go Team USA!” Ashley Hobbs, Miss December 2010

“Bungee jumping, speed boats, winery and food paring challenges? I don’t know of a more unique cocktail competition, which is why I’m really excited to be heading to New Zealand to help capture this amazing experience for Playboy.” Jordan Monroe, Miss October 2006

For all of those being whipped into a frenzy by this news, I’d suggest the second stop, after a Google image search with SafeSearch turned off, should be for a ticket to the final event under the big top, and your only realistic chance of getting within ten feet of these lovely ladies. All proceeds from the event are going the the Christchurch Earthquake Relief Fund.

The contest kicks off next week.


Legends of Bartending

An era ends, but there are certainly some new beginnings too.

Professor Jacob Briars has spread the 42Below brand right across the globe.  His trainings, his sharp tongue and fantastic barside manner have won him the enduring love of a generation of bartenders around the world.

Yesterday marked the end of an era for both Briars and the brand, with his announcement of his final day inside the fold. The New Zealand offices for the brand have passed back to founder, Geoff Ross and his new Ecoya venture, the brands direction resting now with the Princes of Darkness in Bacardi Global Brands in London. The Professor’s departure seems like the final piece of kiwi madness has gone from the now global product.

Jacob is rumored to be offering some advice and support to Stolen Rum, adding some effervescence to the Tonic offerings with Quina-Fina and given his love for Wellington and kiwi products, there’s sure to be more from this erudite young man soon. He’ll also be basing himself in San Fransisco for the medium term. My fingers are crossed that he’ll solve Australia’s, or at least my, mezcal shortage.

He’ll also be back with 42Below for a swansong performance at Carnival of the Cocktail next year.

Those of you lucky enough to be in Auckland this Friday will get the chance to experience the first of the now ex-Professor’s ventures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he is opening a bar. Called the Golden Dawn, Jacob has paired up with Sam Chapman, of Matterhorn fame to bring a craft beer and tasty cocktail venue to life.  You’ll find me there, chugging down Lageritas. 134 Ponsonby Rd, the old Open Late Cafe premises.

For any of you who don’t know Jacob, he has spent the last decade travelling the world, spreading vodka love and collecting an extremely grand spirits collection.  I’m told the back bar at the Golden Dawn has been supplemented by this trove.

Industry News

Kicking Ass in the Kingdom of NO.

Justine Troy and Geoff Ross have written a book. That’s them standing either side of me in the understated frame above. The marital coupling behind New Zealand’s wonder brand, 42 Below, decided that putting pen to paper was a way to both provide the team that was a part of the brands success a nostalgic nod and a way to flick the big finger to a few of the people who didn’t jump on board as part of the team.

I was lucky enough to be in Shanghai at the same time 42 was looking at coming in, my company, ConfuciusSays, got to be a part of the fantastic journey. We went crazy with it, building and intriguing a family of Chinese and Expats that followed the brand and wracking our brains trying to translate the advertising copy into Chinese characters, without ending up in Chinese prison.

Anyone familiar with the brand pre-Bacardi will give a wry smile at the design, the words and the guest appearances of many of the favourite sons and daughters of the brand. The words from Daryl and Jacob were highlights in my mind.

The book does a great job of capturing the very things that made 42 a global brand. It was not a savvy marketing plan or a favourable agreement on distribution hammered out around the table. It wasn’t a business plan or a cute viral video. Those things were all a part of it, they were all important but the thing that made a difference was a culture of passion. Finding people who believed in the brand and having them take it further than anyone believed possible.

It’s also a story of the owners having belief. Believing that it could be done, finding cash and partners to do it. This is where that big finger is waved at the banks and investment community in New Zealand. I agree, we don’t fund creativity nearly enough in NZ, the investment crowd favours soundly mediocre over possibly amazing. I am part of the choir and I have been converted. I do wonder if the unconverted congregation of New Zealand and the investment fraternity will give a flying fuck what our multi-millionaire preacher has to say. It’s probably why he started his own investment group.

The best of the legends are in there, The container sent to Azerbaijan, James Dale in New York. It was the legends and the chance to be a part of one that made it such a great place to work. I love the brand, I love the man, I love the family of people who were (and in some cases, still are) involved. I can’t wait to get a copy of this book, I’m going to treasure it.

You can click on the cover above to be whipped via the internets to Wheeler Books, to pre-order you very own copy.

Cocktail, Competitions, New Zealand

42 Below Cocktail World Cup Grand Final Redux

My massive week with 42  Below finished up last Saturday with the finals of Cocktail World Cup. The competition was the brainchild of founder, Geoff Ross. Now in its 6th year, the World Cup sees bartenders from around the world challenged to develop and produce a cocktail to rival the classics, extra marks are awarded for delivering the drink with humour and style that reflects the brands values as well.

Heaps of brands now fly bartenders to the country of production to provide them an “authentic” brand experience. 42 lets the animal out of the cage, good and proper. The whole deal was promoted as a Love, Drinks and Rock’n’Roll, which is how a lawyer references the excesses of Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll.

The final itself is the culmination of many months, semifinals around the world determine who gets to go down to New Zealand, experience the brand in its home. I thought I’d share a little piece of the finals with you, the teams, their drinks and the event itself. It’s not quite the same as being there, but as there were only 600 tickets, chances are you weren’t.

Get amongst, after the jump.

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Event, New Zealand

The Luck of the Irish

The 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup is all about making extraordinary cocktails in  extraordinary environments. Many of the challenges are judged on the originality and creativity of the drinks, but when it comes to measuring the skills of a true bartender, one drink sets the benchmark- the classic Martini. “Modern Martini’ was the fourth challenge in the 2010 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup, the eight teams all preparing their version of the timeless drink.

The panel of four international judges recommended contestants keep things simple for this round, and that was exactly what the winners did. The competition’s loveable, if slightly loud, rogues- Team Ireland, taking it by the slightest of margins. Their appropriately titled ‘Kia Kaha’ (meaning ‘stand strong’ in Maori) was made of 42BELOW Pure, Lillet Blanc and sprayed with a Feijoa mist. In typical Irish style, the team came up with their winning entry on the bus on the way to the event! “I’m truly blown away to have won tonight, we’ve been gutted every time we have lost a challenge, we really wanted to do this for each other” says Team Ireland big man Andy Wall. US Bartender of the Year and our esteemed judge Jim Meehan said the Irish entry stood out for its simplicity and elegance, “it’s a drink I would be proud to serve in my bar,” said Meehan.

The Modern Martini challenge was the first event to be held in Wellington in the lead up to the grand final on Saturday March 27th, where the teams will prepare their signature drink for a live audience.

The convoy of bartenders, international judges and media had the ultimate ending to the Queenstown leg of the cup, being taken by helicopter from the Skyliner Gondola to the airport for their own rock ‘n’ roll charter flight. It was an inflight experience like never before, passengers provided with rock star wigs and glasses while sipping on a 42BELOW ‘Aviation’ cocktail and listening to AC/DC on takeoff. The plane was met by a scrum of local ‘papparazzi’ as they transferred to their stretch limos for a brief tour of the capital. “It’s the closest we’ll ever get to being real rock stars. I’ve never been treated so well before,  it was stupidly good,” says Australian team member and the country’s bartender of the year Chris Hysted.

Kia Kaha

50ml 42BELOW Pure
20ml Lillet Blanc
42Below Feijoa Vodka mist

Event, New Zealand

The Kiwis bash one out

The New Zealand team notched up a challenge win in Sunshine Bay on Lake Wakatipu yesterday, with their special it’s 42bro, served up in a sawn off 420 water bottle.

The challenge took all of 8 minutes for each team, with a random box of ingredients being provided and teams getting bonus points for using more ingredients but still producing a balanced drink.

It’s 42 bro

42BELOW Vodka
Jose Cuervo tradicional
Fresh apricot
‘Rocket’ sauce
Vanilla sugar
Chestnut syrup
English Breakfast tea syrup
Peychaud’s Bitters

Muddle Rocket sauce and apricots,  add all ingredients, shake and strain. Garnish with chopped,  fresh papaya sprinkled with vanilla sugar and grapefruit zest.

Event, New Zealand

Smack in the Face?

No, not really. This is a post about Punch, the community liquor that really is quicker.

Last night at the house of one of the men credited with the lyrics for Eye of the Tiger, 42Below rocked out, with the second Cocktail World Cup Challenge, the 21st Century Punch contest. The Americans came away with a win, serving up their punch in hollowed out mangosteens, topped with a passionfruit vodka ‘cloud’

I’ve got a recipe coming, but you’ll have to come back for that.


42BELOW Honey
42BELOW Passionfruit
Sazerac Rye
white rum
NZ Sauvignon Blanc
passionfruit juice
Sencha green tea
fresh passionfruit
luxardo cherries
Lemon Juice
Champagne to taste
Serve with Passionfruit balls.

Other highlights of the night were getting a drink made for by both Chris Hysted, Australian Bartender of the Year & Jim Meehan, American Bartender of the Year.

Cocktail, MixMarch, New Zealand

MixMarch #24: Whoop It Up

Simon Difford had pulled together one of the most comprehensive websites in the world, Difford’s Guide. He also publishes Class Magazine. To top it all off he loves a Daiquiri. He talked yesterday at Cocktail World Cup and made a few drinks. This was one of them, You might have to wait just a moment to make it, as Simon’s Bitters are not yet in General availability, but hold tight, they’re on their way…

The Whoop It Up

30mls Bacardi, 30mls 42Below Manuka Honey Vodka, 15mls Benedictine, 7.5mls Canton Ginger Liqueur, 15mls Lemon Juice, 3 dashes Diffords Daiquiri Bitters. Shake, strain and serve up.

Whoop, Whoop!

MixMarch, New Zealand

MixMarch #22: The Vodka Cocktail

I’m sitting in the Koru Lounge waiting with anticipation for my flight to Queenstown and 42Below’s Cocktail World Cup. This once evry odd yearly event represents a pinnacle in bar tending & cocktail events worldwide. Where most events are held inside the darkened halls of the bar world, or in stuffy private clubs, Cocktail World Cup showcases the home of 42Below and challenges bartenders to compete, learn and experience the wonderful place that is New Zealand.

The Vodka Cocktail

Take 42 bartenders from right around the world, muddle gently until they’re all in Queenstown. Add one part amazing scenery, two parts adventure sports and a dash of the Rockstar lifestyle. Mix vigorously from Queenstown to Wellington and serve up with a massive fanfare on a production stage. This drink should be served with at least one Fergburger on the side.

I’ll be at Cocktail World Cup all week, seeing what these bartenders will bring to the glass is an exciting proposition and the team at 42 never fails to deliver an amazingly hospitable time. Look forward to a week of great content.

Oh, and I musn’t forget the cocktail you can drink…

True 42

Fill a Rocks glass with ice, and squeeze in 3 wedges of lime. Add one part of 42BELOW vodka, and stir well.  Fill with ice again, and squeeze in more lime, and add remaining 42BELOW vodka.  Stir well again, and serve.

Event, New Zealand

7 left to go…

Seven Sleeps ‘Til Lift-Off In The 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup 2010

Right now, in all corners of the globe, 24 of the world’s best bartenders are polishing their shakers, dusting off their muddlers, packing their skinniest pair of jeans and a few favourite, top secret ingredients. Yup, it’s only a week to go ‘til the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup 2010 kicks off -it’s all about ‘Love, Drinks and Rock n Roll, Baby!’.

The bartenders are about to have the experience of a lifetime, a one off chance to take part in the world’s most extreme cocktail making competition in the home of 42BELOW, New Zealand. Contestants from the New York, London, Dublin, Milan, Rome, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington and Auckland will assemble in Queenstown on Monday 22nd March for four days of cocktail making and adrenalin pumping challenges. Their every move (even the dodgy dance ones) will be scrutinised by four international judges, including the recently crowned American ‘bartender of the year’ Jim Meehan. “For the past few years, the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup has drawn rave reviews from judges and contestants alike.  After a week -long examination of each participants ability to work individually and as a team player with national bragging rights on the line, the competition pushes bartenders out of their comfort zone into real-time scenarios,” Meehan says, with a 42BELOW cocktail in his hand.

The competition will be set in some of the South Island’s most spectacular locations and includes ‘Modern Martini’, ‘Ready, Steady, Shake’ and the ‘Mocktail’ challenge. Contestants will also take part in a series of cocktail ‘summits’- educational workshops hosted by some of the most influential people in the industry. And, in true 42BELOW style, there’ll be a fair few surprises too. “This group of bartenders work at the best bars, clubs and parties around the world. We’re honoured they’re coming on tour with us in New Zealand and I know they’ll be blown away by what 42BELOW has in store for them next week,” says 42BELOW CEO Paul Dibbayawan.

From Queenstown this motley group of mixologists will head north to New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, home of the country’s hippest night spots. They’ll have time to take in some of the sights, namely an oddly shaped parliament building and a few hairy hobbits. They’ll also have time to perfect their signature drink ahead of a jaw dropping grand final event on March 27th at Wellington’s Old Museum Building. The teams will take to the stage alongside real life rockers, kiwi chart toppers Midnight Youth and the winners of the 42BELOW Cocktail World Cup will be crowned.

It’s a week-long party in the world’s ultimate playground, all thanks to a crazy little vodka brand from the bottom of the earth. Who would have thought?
For more information please contact Belinda Henley.

At home, Cocktail

Garden Party Punch

“One part sour, two parts sweet, three parts strong and four parts weak and a pinch of spice” muttered the Hatter, waiting ever impatiently for something, not quite remembering who.

While this snippet didn’t make it into Carroll’s epistle, it is a valuable lesson in the construction of punch. It was passed on to me by Jacob Briars, vodka professor, chairman of the drinking classes and curator of the world’s largest collection of Hawthorn strainer springs.

I had a challenge of making punch for a hundred people. This recipe tantalized and intrigued, while being strong (and odd) enough to not be readily consumed by all in attendance.

Garden Party Punch (fills a 10 litre punch bowl)

3 750ml bottles of 42 Below feijoa vodka, 750mls fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1.5 liters elderflower cordial, 1.5 liters of cloudy apple juice, 1.5 liters of ginger beer.

The sober among you will know that only makes 7.5 liters. I’d suggest filling up 2 liters of that available space with a giant ice cube, done in layers with fruit or a fresh (non poisonous) flower. The remaining space should accommodate at least a cucumbers worth of thin slices, the adventurous among you could cut stars or other event relevant shapes. A good handful of ripped mint leaves will finish things off wonderfully.

Stir frequently and sip wisely.

The elderflower turns the taste of the feijoa up to the max, as my American cousins are fond of saying. If you don’t know what a feijoa is, I suggest a trip to New Zealand, where they are prevalent, or Chile, where they are native.

Industry News

UPDATED: The end of something special.

jumpUnconfirmed report that all the most of the staff at 42BELOW got their marching orders today and that the brand will be rolled into Bacardi Global Brands. The brand team stays but its going to be tough to keep some heart in that big space with only four people.

It was always a danger when the brand was purchased by the Global giant, and after the corporate management failed to either continue the culture of the brand pre-buyout or to activate any new marketing on a global level, this has had a bit of an inevitability about it.

I hope the brand survives. I’m a passionate supporter after my 4 years working with 42 in China and North Asia.

My thoughts go out to the core of true believers that were still slogging it out in the NZ HQ, they’d been there from the start and had a belief most brands can only dream of.

Kia Kaha brothers, you are all fantastic people.

At home, Cocktail

Quick Friday Fix.

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If you’ve ever tried to explain the taste of a Feijoa to someone who hasn’t been blessed enough to have actually tried one, you’ll know it’s not an easy task.

This seeded pear, a cousin of the guava and basically the only decent thing New Zealand ever stole from the South Americans is the signature taste behind 42BELOW feijoa vodka.

Some people say it tastes great, others say it has a liniment finish, reminiscent of deep heat, or menthol rub. Anyhoo, I’ve bent to tradition and have purchased this great little product, so I’m heading home to imbibe my Friday Fix.

Quick Fix.

Take 30mls (although the drink can take far more) 42BELOW Feijoa vodka, and pour it into a highball glass filled with ice. squeeze in some fresh lime juice, top the whole thing off with CLOUDY apple juice. (it’s just not the same drink without it.) Finish it all off with a stir, sink into the couch, sigh. Repeat until the hurting stops.

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Part Three in a Four Part Series called The Glorious Recipe.

The most important part of any cocktail is the delightful elixir that gives a libation spirit. 

Crude distillation has been practiced for around 4000 years, with the first cab off the rank being in Iraq, where the technology was later used by the incumbent dictator, Saddam Hussein, to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.225px-jabir_ibn_hayyan The ancient Greeks really pulled things together, as they discovered man love, mass debate and tipsiness really did go hand in hand. An Arab by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan was the man who really set the path toward the high grade ethanols we use to fuddle our brains today. Earning the mantle polymath, his techniques allow for the production of quality chemicals without ‘heads or tails’ so prominent in cheap liquor to this day.

Pretty much every culture that has managed to pull together a political system has also managed to master the technology of refining spirit. Because the refining part is secondary to fermentation, the breaking down of organic material and sugar in the presence of yeast to create alcohol, each country, region and tribe came up with recipes based on local taste and more often, local ingredients.

I’ll cover off the most common types of spirit in this article, to give you the sparest understanding of this wonderful, variety filled world.


The world’s most popular spirit. Originally from Poland, vodka is prolific in Eastern and Northern Europe and production has spread to countries as far away as New Zealand (42BELOW, 20000), The United States (Skyy) and Scotland (Smirnoff).

Primarly made from grain, vodka is also made with potato, grapes and milk whey. The spirit has become popular as Absolut has flooded the market with made up flavours supplied by the big assed building just off the Jersey turnpike. Other producers flavour their vodkas with perfumery techniques or the addition of Bison Grass.


The spirit of rum can only be made in a country that grows sugarcane. There are two basic types. The first is made from molasses, an extract produced in the refining or sugar for export. The second is Agricole or Cachaca, which is made from the juice of the sugarcane, unrefined. This approach can produce smoother rums, but aging evens the playing field.


Perhaps the spirit that has spread the furtherest around the world, probably on the backs of Irish migrants and Scottish sea captains. The name itself means water of life. Whisk(e)y is made from fermented grain mash; malted barley, barley, rye, wheat and maize are the most common types.

The Irish and the Americans use the (e) to spell the word, the Scots, Japanese & Canucks drop it.

Scotch Whisky is generally made from malted barley that has been treated with peat, giving it the taste it is famous for. Anything labelled Scotch must be distilled in Scotland. The age on the bottle must reflect the youngest whisky in the blend.

Irish Whiskey must be distilled in Ireland and aged in wooden casks for a period not less than three years. Generally made from unpeated malt barley.

American Whiskey must look, smell and taste like Whiskey. Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, Rye must be made from at least 51% rye, Corn whiskey must be at least 80% corn, Straight whiskeys are made with less than 51% of any single grain. Tennessee whiskey is made the same way as Bourbon, but is filtered through the charcoal of the Sugar Maple.


Mother’s Ruin is unmistakably English, the addition of quinine to tonic to ward off malaria made it the drink of an Empire.

Two basic types, Distilled Gin, which is made by re-distilling neutral grain spirit and cane sugar that have been flavored with the berries of the juniper bush. The other type, Compound Gin, is essentially a gin flavored vodka. 

Gin is my favorite spirit and will get it’s own article later, so I won’t trifle the history too much. The London style of Gin is the most popular around the world, which is identified by the addition of botanicals to the distillate. These botanicals have great names like orris root, cassia bark and angelica. Newer style gins also make use of rose, cucumber and other local botanicals.


Made from the agave cactus. much more to come on this later.


The spirit of China. a distillate of rice or sorghum mash. pineappley and petrol like.

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