Cocktail, Competitions

Is one of these cocktails worth $100,000?


The World Class summer round  came to its conclusion  with 12 bartenders from around Australia as is fast becoming tradition, on a motherfuckin’ boat.

The overall quality of the drinks, the presentations and the event itself had stepped up from the previous year, and the addition of the American Cocktail with Bulleit Bourbon was simply the tastiest damn thing ever.

I wrote a couple of months back that Diageo have put up a hundred grand for the Australian winner this time around and you could see that the call has been answered by the bartending community with some well thought out drinks that certainly bring the brands to life in the mouths and minds of drinkers.

There were plenty of standout drinks, but this is a post about winners, and the folk who’ve done enough to be in the running for the big prize.

First up, let’s talk favourites, and mine was the Modern Love cocktail from Luke Ashton, of the Roosevelt.

The use of a unique acid (extinct Phosphoric), the ability to customise the drink in the masculine or feminine, the allusions to the perfume industry and the techniques in common with the botanical production of modern Gins like Tanqueray 10, the glassware and technique on a rocking boat were all great. I’m not sure it had the boozy hit or history that the rat pack category was meant to elicit but rolling the hint of Parfait Amour around my mouth I’m not sure it mattered.

Luke Ashton_Modern Love

Luke Ashton_Modern Love_2Next in line, Jessica Arnott from Portneo with her rockabilly twist of a drink, 1956.

A bottled cocktail and very much on trend, with a real connection to the essence of the venue she now manages, the drink comes either as a tasty Old Fashioned or optioned up with a series of upgrades. The ginger beer and dulche de leche float was a cute idea that would have shifted drinks in venue, if being a little long for my own slightly more boozy tastes. Jess has stepped it up from last year and I can’t wait to see her shine in the finals next year.

Jessica Arnott_1956 an American 2 Jessica Arnott_1956 an American

The Ron Zacapa After Dinner Drink was taken out by Christian Blair from Eau de Vie in Sydney. A gorgeous looking serve that managed to still taste of dreamy boozy goodness despite the load up with creamy additions. Christian had a good confidence behind the bar booth boatside, and it’ll be good to see him shine in the extended format at the finals.

Christian Blair_Finca La Perla Zacapacino Christian Blair_Finca La Perla Zacapacino 2

Which brings me to Krystal Hart from Canvas in Brisbane. The story behind the Beholden Martini was tight, connected to the brand but not just a retelling of the Nolet story, I’m also a sucker for a meat garnish and the pickled herring was unexpected but totally refreshing after 10 or so drinks on a less than mirror glass flat Sydney Harbour. She’s gained a lot of confidence since last year, and she’s got a creative flair that will make her a real contender come finals time.

DWC Brisbane Oct 2012DWC Brisbane Oct 2012

While the quality across the board was better than last year, I’m not sure there was a Tim Philips amongst them. That said, none of these guys have had the benefit of being exposed to the Global Finals and the knowledge of just how good the other bartenders who will be travelling (potentially to San Fran?) from their home countries for a shot at the title and the benefits it confers.

There aren’t any bad drinks at that global level, just great, really great and insanely great ones. It might have been the cash prize on offer but it seemed like the nerves were heightened at a few stations round the room. In Rio, all the competitors could stand behind an unfamiliar bar, with a  TV camera in their face and an absolute fucking bartending legend sitting in front of them, and make it feel like it was their bar, performing a comfortable, confident shtick while banging out a tasty beverage.

I’d also love to be surprised a bit more. The training program that Diageo has in place is insanely and award-winningly great, but I wonder how much the tasting notes and trainings are pulling people into a very samey set of flavour profiles in terms of end drinks, all the while using some complex and beautifully crafted spirits.


That said, the only qualifications I’ve got to make the criticism above is that I’m obsessed by great drinks and love to share stories about them. If I learn anything from being a judge at World Class, it’s how far away I am from being able to conceive and present drinks of this standard. It’s not going to stop me from trying, or accepting kind invitations to be involved either.

Also, big props to Diageo and Behind Bars for continuing to raise the bar with this competition, for opening it up to the public to be involved, for backing off the spammy social media that irked a few last year and most of all for believing enough in the creativity, passion and talent of Australian bartenders to put up 100k for one of them.

The Gourmantics have got some great photos of the consumer part of the event here.



Cocktail, Competitions

Cocktails and Properly Fucking Amazing Food at Rockpool

There’s a lot of talk going on round the world about matching cocktails with food.

Often this ends up playing out in a pretty mediocre way, but next week on Tuesday night, well things are going to be World Class.

Diageo’s flagship contest will play out on the floor of Rockpool, with a five course degustation matched with cocktails from the top 10 bartenders in the Lucky Country. Oh, and I’m a judge.

Tix are $185 each with 5 cocktails.

Tickets can be found at either of these places:

from the Rockpool blog:

or the World Class facebook page:

Book now, lest ye be disappointed.

Cocktail, Sydney

Dr Phil blazes away

Dr Phil took out the first slot at the Diageo World Class Sangrita Rituals in Sydney last night. While I wait for the photos from the night themselves to write a full wrap up, you can enjoy the cocktail stylings of a man who really understands getting the most out of a spirit.


World Class Sangrita Finals coming to Sydney

They’ve already been held in Brisbane an Melbourne, and on the 18th they’ll be coming to Sydney. Diageo’s World Class comp to find the best Sangrita ritual is uncovering some great looking drinks.

Sangrita is a traditional accompaniment to tequila in Mexico. It’s flavour is meant to tease more of the taste profile from the spirit, and probably assuage the drunkenness that pounding tequila straight for hours on end must inevitably deliver.

I’ll write more about the tradition later this week, but Monday 18th October at the Lincoln in the Cross, from 7, come down and cheer. I’ll be judging and trying to look as though I know what I’m doing.


Competitions, Event

I went out the other night and it was World Class.

World Class has wrapped in Australia, as I mentioned in my last post, with Adam Brewer taking the ticket to fly to Greece and perform in the finals.

This competition takes the Diageo Reserve portfolio and tasks the contestants in making drinks that feature the products flavours and provenance. The cocktails produced are the things my dreams are made of, tasty expositions that extend the flavour profiles, challenge the palate and most definitely balanced but booze forward.

The portfolio itself features many stars; Tanqueray 10, Ron Zacapa, Pampero, Don Julio 1942, Cuervo’s new Reserva de Familia, Johnnie Walker Blue, Talisker, Lagavulin, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore.

The awards ceremony at a private house last night was magic. Food matches, fine drinks, and blazers on the terrace to finish.

Truly World Class.

Competitions, Event

World Class Results

Adam Brewer of Brisbane’s Sling Lounge is going to Greece, after pipping last year’s winner Adi Ruiz of The Black Pearl to take the honours at last night’s Diageo World Class finals.

Click on the link above, if you’ve got a spare twenty minutes, and read through the epic 67 page cocktail list, it contains 266 cocktails, plenty of mistakes and a host of contradictions. I’d heard Brisbane needs education on the cocktail scene, but this seems a little ridiculous.

I’ll write more on the event last night once I’ve got some images to go with it.

Cocktail, Competitions, Sydney

The Whale

Pierre Fajloun is old beyond his years. The 24 year old isn’t showing premature signs of aging, his boyish smile and complexion are very much a product of his youth.

Where his age becomes apparent is in the way he mixes drinks. I went and visited him to try the cocktail that won him the Australian leg of  the Ketel One section of Diageo’s World Class series.

While I was in New Zealand at Cocktail World Cup, Vernon Chalker of the Gin Palace gave a talk about the martini. His rules were Two ingredients, three at the most, with a garnish that adds to the drink. This, then, is very much a martini.

The Whale is named for the large windmill that sits atop the Ketel One Distillery in Holland, and Pierre’s choice of glassware echoes its size perfectly. I didn’t ask Pierre for the measures, but hopefully my memory serves me well enough and you can have a crack at this at home.

The Whale.

50mls Ketel One, 10mls Lillet Blanc, 1 dash Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters. Stir over ice and pour into a licorice rimmed glass.

The licorice rim is made by combining fresh ground Fennel and Star Anise with Demerara Sugar. Pierre used lime juice to increase the adhesion on the rim.

Pierre has matched the aniseed note in the drink to make an intoxicating vodka martini. The two ingredients with the aromatising bitters are teased further by the garnish and the crunch of sweet demerara sugar as you lick your numbed lips clean is truly delightful. If all vodka martinis tasted like this one, I’d see the point in drinking them.

Definitely a drink worth tracking down…

The full press release is after the jump.

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Bar, Sydney

Cocktail Heaven

I appreciate the irony in my writing this post. The man who in my head is pretty much the antithesis of the small bar concept, Justin Hemmes, has created a marvelous small bar that I love.

Hidden inside the multi level Ivy, this exquisite room is an exceptional place to sit at the bar for a drink, entertained by the talents and wit of their man behind the stick. The three shelves behind him hold the cream of the alcoholic output from around the world. The cupboards hide shelved refrigeration containing a myriad of specialty glassware and at least three types of ice. The jacuzzi, the sunken lounge, the outside cigar deck, the croupier, the furs.

If a room can be a sexual beast this one is. It’s like Frank Sinatra, James Dean and Hugh Hefner asked E. Stewart Williams to design them a pleasure palace in George St.

The staff are supremely friendly and talented. The drinks are mixed lovingly with the best spirits. Admission is by membership or invitation only. This is a very different world.

Words don’t adequately describe the experience I had here last night. I can’t wait to go back.

Where is it? If you have to ask, you’re probably not invited.