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Partner content: Meet the bartenders in the Diageo World Class Competition 2021

The 12th edition of the Diageo World Class Competition is here: a platform with a vital brand purpose, making people care about what, where and how to drink. 

Founded in 2009, Diageo’s World Class Competition has changed fine drinking and the mixed drink culture far and wide. Presently, in more than 60 countries, it has upheld, taught, and roused more than 250,000 bartenders through its educational program. The World Class Bartender of the Year rivalry unites the very best of the bartending fraternity worldwide and puts them through rounds of rigorous competition to ultimately win the crown of the world’s number one bartender. 

This year the competition is focused on five key brands that will bring the competition to life, namely Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, Talisker, Ketel One Vodka and Bulleit Bourbon. 

The first leg of the competition began in February with the World Class Studios. Following the World Class studios, competing bartenders submitted their first round of cocktail recipes using their acquired skills. With ten finalists from each region chosen, the regional finals got underway in March. Then, at the end of April 2021, the national finals took place in Johannesburg. And later this year, the national top 10 finalists will vie for the ultimate prize of competing at the global finals to be hosted in Madrid. 

Meet the top 10 finalists

Derrick Hartman

Who in the industry inspires you? 

All the OGs with a passion for bartending. Internationally: Dale De Groff, Gaz Ragan, Salvatore Calabrese, Julie Reiner and David Wondrich; Locally: Kurt Schlechter, Travis Khun and Owen O’Reilly.

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

There’s genuinely no other cocktail competition that gets close to World Class, that’s why! And I love how this competition challenges the bartender holistically in every way!  

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

World Class ingredients. The best premium spirits (Don Julio), the freshest pineapple juice and probably champagne!

What is a simple recipe that readers can try at home? 

A French 75! Shake Tanqueray Gin, elderflower syrup and fresh lemon juice, strain into a chilled champagne flute, and top with your favourite local MCC. Garnish with a zest of lemon and an edible flower.

Cassandra Eichhoff

Why bartending? 

Bartending offers a variety of platforms for people to grow in – be it within flavour, flair, design or people. Whoever decides to go on a bartending journey, truly learns a lot about themselves and their surrounding culture, and this enables them to get a different perspective of life.

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

It most definitely is a Don Julio-based drink, with a good measure of danger and a shot of sweetness, mixed well together to quench your thirst. 

What is a simple recipe that readers can try at home? 

Depending on the mood, you can’t go wrong with a quick Johnnie Walker Highball such as this little number: pour 50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label, 25ml raspberry cordial* and enough sparkling water to fill your glass into a highball glass filled with cubed ice. Give it a quick stir and garnish with a squeeze of lime. *For the raspberry cordial, cook 400g raspberries in 500ml water for 10 minutes, strain and measure half part of sugar to water. Stir the sugar until dissolved and allow it to cool. Add a pinch of citric acid for a more sour taste.

Julian Short

Who in the industry inspires you? 

My mentor, Gareth Wainright, and my business partner, Evert De Jong. 

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

You can’t hide in World Class. It pushes you and forces you to get out of your comfort zone and onto the stage. It also allows you to showcase your talents and interests. 

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

A little bit of courage, a lot of intuition, a good splash of creativity and a hearty helping of Don Julio.

What is a simple recipe that readers can try at home?

Kiwi, do you love me? 50ml Don Julio, 20ml honey water*, 25ml chenin blanc, half a kiwi, and pinch or two of salt. Place kiwi in a glass, muddle, then add honey water, Don Julio and chenin blanc. Strain the entire mixture into another tumbler through a fine strainer, add ice and the pinch of salt, garnish with a slice of kiwi, and enjoy! *For the honey water, stir three parts honey into one part water until dissolved.

Daniel Knodl

Who in the industry inspires you? 

Evert de Jong, because of his passion and love for the industry and his eagerness to try new flavours, and Dino Batista, because of his sophistication when it comes to developing serves for cocktails and his attention to detail when executing them.

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

World Class was the ultimate way to showcase myself as a bartender and mixologist, and prove myself as my mentors showcased themselves during their World Class competitions.

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

If my cocktail were called “World Class”, it would contain Bulleit Bourbon, Corona Vermouth, roasted corn shrub and smoked marshmallow fluff, garnished with a mini bowtie.

What is a simple recipe that readers can try at home? 

A mango daiquiri. Blend 50ml Bulleit Bourbon, 30ml yoghurt, one fresh mango, 25ml fruit juice and ice for one minute. Garnish with a mint bouquet.

Joshua van den Bergh

Who in the industry inspires you? 

Many come to mind, but only one truly stands out for me: Lendl Maarman. Lendl has been my inspiration in the art of cocktail-making. Not a day goes by that we are not talking about recipes, bar-related paraphernalia, or just debating the flavours of the world! Lendl is not only a close friend, but he is also my mentor, and I can genuinely say that my passion for flavours and beautiful drinks would not be quite so developed without Lendl’s input.

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

Lendl encouraged me to enter World Class one evening after a night of debate and drinks at his home. I took his challenge in 2019 and joined the Johnny Walker Smoked challenge. I did not place in that competition and knew I needed to try again. I can genuinely say that I am inspired by the footage of previous world-class competitions and aspire to have the knowledge and the skill that so many of my contemporaries worldwide have mastered. What I love about the World Class competition is its intensity, the amazing people you meet – from the contestants to the judges, and the challenge of pushing myself to reach the top. I am in awe of the doors that have opened even up to this point. World Class is a game-changer!

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

Tequila, something fruity, something bitter. A cocktail along the lines of a fruity paloma.

What is a simple recipe that readers can try at home? 

Shake 50ml Tanqueray No 10, 50ml pineapple juice, 10ml lemon juice and 20ml coconut cream together, pour over ice in a Collins glass, and top with peach lemonade. Garnish with a fresh pineapple slice and edible flowers.

Simphiwe Ndaba

Who in the industry inspires you? 

Shaz and Bruce Dofling inspire me big time sometimes. I wish I had a big heart like them because whenever I need help or I am confused, they are always there to help. 

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

I didn’t know anything about World Class until Shaz Dofling introduced me. I like World Class because you learn a lot about cocktails, and Diageo teaches you about their brands while allowing us to make cocktails. We are given the opportunity to travel to places that some of us never dreamed of. 

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

50ml Bulleit Bourbon, lemon juice, Oros, Ocra and soda.

Oscar Bhengu

 

Who in the industry inspires you? 

My inspiration in the industry and my mentor is George Hunter. His passion, incredible work ethic and the time he has invested in the industry are incredible. He has also helped me realise my own skills and helped push my confidence to new heights.

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

For me, World Class is the ultimate test of the modern-day bartender. It’s also a competition that opens bartenders to new experiences within the industry. It’s a competition that has definitely helped me grow as a bartender.

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

My World Class cocktail would have Tanq 10, chamomile and buchu tincture, simple syrup, and citric acid, topped with smoked grapefruit soda.

Jody Rahme

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

World Class is hands down the most significant and best bartending competition – it’s like the Olympics for us. The biggest attraction for me is the community. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet such amazing people from all over the world. I also love the pressure the competition puts an individual under; it can be soul-destroying but satisfying at the same time.

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

Bulleit Bourbon, pineapple, vermouth, cinnamon and Peychaud Bitters.

What is a simple recipe that readers can try at home? 

Add 50ml Bulleit Bourbon, 40ml fresh pineapple juice, 25ml fresh lemon juice and 20ml honey (simple syrup will suffice for vegans) to a cocktail shaker or mason jar. Fill with ice and shake well for about 15 seconds. Strain into a tumbler filled with ice cubes. 

Brent Perremore

Why World Class? And what do you love about the competition?

Because it’s by far one of the most coveted awards in cocktail bartending. I love how it pushes us to our limits in a variety of skills.

If your cocktail was called the “World Class”, what would be in it? 

A gin-based cocktail because it’s taken the world by storm a second time around. 

What is a simple recipe that readers can try at home? 

Old Fashioned. Add 50ml Bulliet Bourbon, a bar spoon of maple syrup, three dashes of Angostura Bitters and three dashes of orange bitters to a tumbler with ice. Garnish with orange zest.  

Gareth Wainwright

Tell us about yourself.

I began my hospitality career in late 2000, starting at the Blues Room, a live music venue in Sandton, to sustain myself as I had studied music at the National School of the Arts and careers in the music industry are hard to come by. I got my first real cocktail experience in 2004 at Salvatore’s Restaurant, in the West Rand of Johannesburg. I found a creative outlet outside of what was now a music career that had never taken off. In 2012, Brandhouse (Diageo) approached me to lead a mixology and brand ambassador programme for the luxury portfolio in the Gauteng region. And, in 2015, I opened The Landmark Cocktail Bar in Bryanston, Johannesburg, which has gone on to win numerous titles and awards. In 2016, I launched The Republican Drinks Agency, a turn-key consultancy agency assisting liquor brands and bar owners, restaurateurs and hoteliers in creating best in class beverage programs and engaging consumer experiences with global best practice brand strategy consultancy.  From 2018 to 2020, I was the beverage director of The Little Fox in the Joburg CBD while still consulting various other brands and outlets. Post-COVID-19, I am is in the process of rebuilding the hospitality industry with new venues and ventures.

What is your favourite cocktail?

An empty one.

What is your favourite Diageo spirit?

My favourite Diageo Reserve Spirit is Don Julio.

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