On the 29th and 30th of May, Durban will host the South African World Class National finals. The competition is taking place in a 5 star boutique hotel on the sun swept shores of Umhlanga. The Competition will be split over two days putting each contestant through 6 different challenges, each of which will test their bartending skills, theatre, knowledge and creativity. Not only will they be pushed to the limit, but they will also be judged by some of South Africa’s most prestigious faces in the food and beverage industry.
The competition kick starts at 10am on Wednesday with the first challenge called “Cocktail Mastery”. In this challenge each contestant will have to write an 80 question exam paper, conduct a blind spirits tasting and overcome a botanicals identification quiz. The written exam will be multiple choice and will cover all the trainings that have been conducted by the regional ambassadors over the past 8 months. For the blind spirits tasting task, they will have to identify 3 spirits in each category. They will know what the possible brands are, but they will have to arrange them in the correct order. They will get maximum points for identifying the RESERVE brand (Portfolio above). Finally in the mastery challenge, they will have to identify and label all 20 botanicals which will be spread out on a large table. They will have a possible 40 answers which will be listed on a separate sheet.
The second challenge of day 1 will be “Tropical Journey” in which each contestant will need to create a “tiki” style cocktail making use of exotic flavours. In this challenge it is all about the tropics and island style execution. Bright colours and fruity liqueurs! They will also have to be very cautious in their delivery to ensure that the drink still comes through as unique and sophisticated. In this challenge they will have to use the amazing Don Julio Reposado Tequila.
The last challenge for day 1 is “Retro Chic” where the bartenders will have to choose a classic recipe from the past and then deliver a modern day twist on it. They have a list of 12 recipes to choose from, each of which have been the bases of classic style bartending. Like a chef should know how to make a loaf of bread or a crème brulee, these classic recipes are at the foundation of general mixology. After making the classic recipe with their personal touch they will then have to make the “Twisted Chic” which is their own creation but must follow the same style as the classic. In this challenge they will have to make use of the super-premium Tanqueray No.Ten gin.
The second day kicks off with the “Classic Gentlemen” challenge. This challenge is all about sophistication, class and style. As the recipe will be designed for a “Classic” man, who is usually very knowledgeable, we have decided that the bartenders must only use Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky. As this spirit on its own is already refined and complex, it will be a tough task to deliver a drink that It not really changing the flavours of the spirit, but rather just enhancing them! The bartenders will be judges on technique, brand knowledge, drink taste and overall presentation.
The next challenge of the day is called “Durban Market”. In this challenge the bartenders will all be taken to the local market with a shopping budget of R150. With this money they will have to buy ingredients to produce two identical drinks. They have freedom to use any of the RESERVE brands (As above) and there will be some basic local Liqueurs available too. They will have 20 minutes to shop, 30 minutes to create and finalize their recipes and then 10 minutes to deliver the 2 drinks. They will be rewarded for unique and risky recipes that really test their creativity.
The last challenge for the World Class South African National finals is called the “Celebrity Bottle Serve” and like the name suggests, it’s all about presenting either a bottle of CIROC Vodka or Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Scotch Whisky in the most theatrical and entertaining way possible. Usually with a bottle serve the drink should be simple and effective as to allow the consumer to be able to make the drink themselves thereafter. Bottle serves are also ALL about the “bottle” and the beauty of the brand. The bartenders will be judges heavily on how well they thought about the celebrity and why the brand/recipe would work as a personal favourite for him/her. They are also able to pull out all the bells and whistles for this challenge as theatre and presentation are what the judges are looking for!
The overall winner will represent South Africa at the Global Finals where they will go up against 50 other competing countries. The Global Final is taking place in the Mediterranean on board the Azamara Luxury Boutique Cruise liner from the 4 – 9th of July later this year. Not only will they get an all-expense paid ticket but they will also receive R8000 spending money and feature all future World Class material. In my opinion, there is no other mixology competition like this anywhere in the World, this is the pinnacle of Bartending…
Good Luck guys!
The time has come to announce the winner of this months “Tropical Journey” theme and our final contestant for the WORLD CLASS regional finals taking place next week at Luna Rossa in Gateway. As you all know the 5 judges were out in the trade last night at Unity Bar, Fairmont Hotel and Harveys Restaurant. Yet again the competition was stiff with all bartenders showcasing individual strengths. The judges were amazed at how the level is still increasing with new surprises every month.
This month the bartenders had to create a drink that fits into the “tropical journey” theme, which basically means the drinks had to contain wild and exotic flavours that would bring out the characteristics of any of the RESERVE brands. We were introduced to Sorbets, Goo Bubbles, Dry ice sand and magical vapour. The aromas and flavours were fantastic! Please see attached the recipes that were created…
But as we all know, we can only have one winner. And as you can see from the points below, winning by 83.4% from Harveys Restaurant…
- In 1st place we have Hauroon Haffajee winning himself R1000 cash and an addition R10,000 event budget for his venue.
- In 2nd Place we have Steven Saunders winning himself R700
- In 3rd Place we have Patrick Mavundla winning himself R300 and a spot in the Regional Finals
So this brings us to the end of the monthly heats and now onto finding KZN’s best bartenders to represent in the National Finals. The regional finals will consist of 5 contestants battling it out for the regional title. As stated above the Regional finals is taking place on Wednesday the 8th of May at Luna Rossa in Gateway. These contestants will be put through 3 challenges to test their overall skills. They will be judges on Knowledge, Speed and Creativity. So here are your Regionals finalists;
1. Hauroon Haffajee – Harveys Restaurant
2. Steven Saunders – Harveys Restaurant
3. Kwanele Sydney Mkhize – Oyster Box Hotel
4. Jason Andrews – Unity Bar
5. Patrick Mavundla – Fairmont Hotel
Well, this opportunity doesn’t come around very often, and I would imagine that the person who gets this exclusive role would be in for a number of industry changing decades. This position includes managing 22 staff, Erik Lorincz (Head bartender and winner of World Class 2010), and a world known bar that’s heritage alone is something to respect. I have never been to the hotel, or even seen the bar (accept in photos) but I do know that this land mark in London has led the cocktail industry for decades, and any mixologist on the planet would tell you this.
Recently I organized for some of my customers in Durban to visit the hotel bar with Tim Judge (Africa Reserve Brand Ambassador) and from what I hear it was an overwhelming experience. Just the impact and presence alone is enough to send you home with passion and inspiration to jet set you along your journey as a professional bartender. I am extremely jealous!
Good luck to whoever is successful in being awarded this title, I do hope that one day I can meet you!