World Class 2016 @ Miami – Day 1
Day 1 / Travel and Arrival in Miami
By Patrick Graser (Investigative Bartender Reporter... also Bar Manager at MASH)
After a long journey from Copenhagen over Frankfurt to Miami, we arrived in the late afternoon in our hotel, the 1 Hotel South Beach.
What a setting this is for the world’s biggest and most prestigious bartender competition!
All the bartenders where busy the whole day, with briefings and preparations for the upcoming days!
I met Jonas a little later that day and could feel right away that he is calm and ready to go! His preparation, focus and professional attitude are one of a kind!
It really is a pleasure seeing someone doing what he loves to do and being this determined, considering the difficulty level of the upcoming challenges.
To give you a quick breakdown of World Class:
As already mentioned, World Class is the biggest and most prestigious bartender competition that there is.
I have seen quite a few competitions until now, and I can genuinely say, there is nothing out there that comes close to the scale of this competition.
It is held by one of the world’s biggest spirit companies, Diageo.
More than 25,000 bartenders from all over the world are competing, and have the chance to qualify for the world finals.
At the 2016 Edition, 56 bartenders are representing their countries!
Winning this competition is one of the biggest honours in the business and is a big career boost!
Former winners are considered the elite bartenders in the world. After winning this competition most of them go further to open their own bars and are travelling the world to educate and train fellow bartenders, but also to represent Diageo in the Bar World.
So far, Japan is the only country to win the global final twice!
Check out this link for this year’s finalists:
After a small cocktail party at the fantastic „Tom on Collins“ hotel bar, Jonas and all the other competitors, professionals as they are, went to their rooms early in anticipation of the days to come.
Day 2 / The first 2 challenges for Jonas
After preparing his drinks and presentation the whole night until in the morning, Jonas was up at noon for the „The Shape of Cocktails To Come“ Challenge.
In this challenge Jonas had to make 3 cocktails that show in different ways how he thinks the future trends of cocktails are going to unfold. He also had to talk about his motives and where his inspirations come from.
The judges for that competition were:
- Aristoteles Papadopoulos, industry legend and the first winner of World Class from 2009
- Alex Kratena, former bar manager of the Artisian in London, which won the Worlds Best Bar award 3 times in a row
- Michito Kaneko, the latest winner of World Class from 2015
Jonas’ drinks where:
Valkyrie – Cardhu 12, Drambuie, Lemon, Cream, Malt Syrup and Weissbier
The Nordic Botanist – Tanqueray Ten, Fermented Carrot Juice, Seabuckthorn, Gentian Liquer, Lavender and Bergamot Extract
Calluna – Tanqueray Ten, Heather infused Yellow Chartreuse, Yoghurt Syrup, Lime, Eggwhite
Looking back at that moment, I was at least as nervous as Jonas himself as you might have noticed in my lame attempt of live streaming the event.
But he did not disappoint! There is a reason they call him „The Entertainer“ in the bar scene in Copenhagen!
Very calm, with the right attitude and with almost no mistakes (so marginal that a non professional or guest would never notice, but hey, Jonas is extremely self critical and pointed them out to me afterwards, as I would not have noticed them either), he nailed his presentation and I could see that the judges, especially Alex Kratena, where very impressed. So was I.
His second challenge later that day was the Before&After Challenge.
„This challenge is about presenting an Aperitif Menu of three cocktails and make on of their choosing. These can be linked together with an idea or theme and the menu can be delivered in any way, making it the most creative challenge in the whole competition. Then the bartender has to present their „Digestif Trolley“ serve. They can also use food to compliment the cocktails.“
An extremely demanding challenge, as having the opportunity to basically do anything you like, can be really hard to work with.
The Judges for this competition were:
- David Rios, winner of world class 2014 and Spanish cocktail legend
- Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, Chef and Owner at Restaurant Malabar, Peru
Jonas did an excellent job here, and I think this was his best presentation so far.
When he presented his menus, which where custom made Toy Viewfinders, everyone in the room was amazed and excited to look through them to see the menu and also be taken back to their childhoods.
What a brilliant move from our guy, I believe this was the best menu design in the whole competition.
As an aperitif Jonas made the so called “Twin Peaks“, served with a slice of dried pear topped with whipped cheese infused with pine oil, walnuts, red sorrel, Danish blueberries and freeze dried blueberries.
It is as delicious as it sounds, the judges and the guests in the room really enjoyed this drink.
As Digestif Jonas made the: „.Midnight Oil“ which is based on Ron Zacapa 23 and Eau de Framboise, which is then smoked with orange, vanilla and pine infused hickory (a drink which you, by the way, can enjoy at MASH Penthouse).
This drink is really defining the future of dessert drinks for me. Not in a classic way, just sweet and boozy. No, this drink has so much more layers to it and is just evolving with every sip you take. Savoury, sweet and a touch of bitterness. I am literally getting goosebumps just thinking about it. (No, I do not have an alcohol problem)
You could feel the room was on Jonas’ lips as he was talking about his drinks and it was a great „AAAAA“ moment when he smoked the drink live in front of the judges. Amazing performance by an amazing person and bartender.
I was so happy for him after this, and as proud as I could be! Job well done!
The sundowner, directly at the private beach of the hotel, spoiled us with great drinks from Bulleit Bourbon and Don Julio Tequila.
At the pool people could enjoy a proper Gin&Juice menu and a Ron Zacapa special serve, the Royal!
In the evening we split up into groups and transported to different locations in Miami down town to have dinner. This was by invitation from Diageo and was held out of the hotel to support the local restaurants.
Day 3 / the last 2 challenges before the first cut to the top 12
„The Miami Pool Party“ Challenge is really a tough one. Especially when you are the first to go, right at 09:00 in the morning!
„First of all the bartenders are going to prepare a Miami Pool Party Punch that will go out to the judges and the audience. The Next part is when we spin the Wheel of Fortune and a „Mystery A-List Couple“ walks into the bar, thirsty and looking for refreshment. We have four well-known couples from different walks of American life lined up for the Pool Party and it’s only at the very last moment that the bartenders find out which one of our couples is going to walk through that door!“
His judges were:
- Charles Joly, Winner of World Class 2014 and Headbartender at The Aviary, which is the bar owned be Alinea Legend, Grant Achatz.
- Laura Cullen – Trainer for Bar Programmes in the USA
- Steve Olsen – Bar Consultant and Judging Legend
A very fun, but really difficult challenge as the contestants need to be very spontaneous about the story the are going to tell.
After some difficulties with the preparation, Jonas got into his flow and served the imaginary President Barack and Michelle Obama his delicious drinks, which where:
- The Rocket ship – Tanqueray Ten, Sloegin, Apricot Liquer, Coffee infused Ron Zacapa 23, Floral Lemon Sherbet, Soda
- True Hawaaian – Ketel1, Linie Aquavit, Oloroso sherry, Blue sherbet, Pineapple Juice, Lime, Coconut
- Grace of the Big Kahuna – Ron Zacapa 23, Grapefruit infused Velvet Falernum, Lime, Violet Bitters
After that, Jonas had a bit time to prepare himself for the last challenge before the Top 12 announcement.
We met in his room the last hours before the challenge and went through all the whiskies one last time (or lets say several times)!
This last challenge was the „The Art of Blending Challenge“.
I know I said about every challenge that is was very hard, but this is the Mount Everest of all of them!
The World Class App describes it as followed:
Jonas, accompanied by 5 other bartenders, had 30 minutes to complete this challenge.
I spoke to the host, Ewan Morgan, who is a 3rd Generation Scotch Distiller, about the challenge and he said not even himself could do it 100 percent correct. Talk about a tough challenge...
Jonas seemed really confident, and it looked like he nailed all the whiskies after about 10 minutes.
When it came to the blend and the cocktail, he also seemed to be on top of things!
I loved that moment, when he was asked if he needs a refill for the cocktail to try, and Jonas just answered: „No that's alright, I got it sorted out!“ What a lad!
I have a great feeling, but extremely nervous, before the announcement tonight.
UPDATE: Jonas made in into the top 12!