The Diageo World Class Winner 2016 was crowned only a little over a month ago but the search for the 2017 champion is officially launched.
A special event was held on Monday in Geneva with Jennifer Le Nechet, World Class Global winner 2016, Sophie Larrouture, World Class Switzerland winner 2016, and Mido Yahi, World Class France winner 2014, to present Diageo World Class competition to interested bartenders of the region.
At Bistrot 23, Vincent Dumesnil, Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador for Switzerland, introduced the new format of the competition as well as the 2017 challenge to the bartenders in attendance.He also revealed the location for next year’s global finals: Mexico City!
Instead of two rounds for the national selection, there will be only one focusing on a single challenge. This goes for all participating European countries. Contestants can sign up and submit their cocktail entry between 9 November 2016 and 15 February 2017.
To have a chance to be selected for the national finals, the cocktail will have to use at least 30 ml of a World Class brand spirit as a base spirit – the portfolio has increased with the introduction of Ciroc Pineapple, Ciroc Apple, Talisker Skye and Jinzu – and be inspired by at least 2 of the 5 trends imposed by the 2017 challenge to reflect the future of drinking.
These 5 trends are:
1) Emotions: Bartenders are invited to explore the possibilities to convey deeper emotional connection through the drinking experience.
2) Hi-tech: The drinking experience should enhance the customer’s experience as a whole. Contestants are thus encouraged to incorporate sound, new media,augmented reality and other high/new technology means in their service.
3) Into the unknown: The objective here is to surprise guests with unheard of or intriguing ingredients. Focus should be put on superfoods, nuts, tropical fruits, etc.
4) Sustainability: In other words, make the most of what you have or rethink your approach to cocktail making. For examples, use your left-overs instead of discarding them and rethink the use of ice in your drink, i.e is it really necessary?
5) Choice: New forms of menus. Paper menus are boring. Switch for alternatives! Think stories, textures (new material), aromas, colours, emotions, environment manipulation…
After Vincent’s introduction to the 2017 competition, Sophie Larrouture, World Class Switzerland winner 2016, Jennifer Le Nechet, World Class France and Global winner 2016, and Mido Yahi, World Class France winner 2014, took turns to share their experience of the competition and give their tips for a successful participation.
While Sophie compared the World Class to a highway (“Once you’re on it, everything goes really fast.”), for Jennifer it resembled a long distance race: “You don’t win the competition on a single challenge but you can fail because of one.”
“What you will keep from the experience is the people you’ve met, the moments of support and mutual aid, not the memories of a competition.” attested Sophie. Mido concurred with her: “Whether you lose or win the competition, you always learn. In that sense you always win. You’re not fighting against anyone; you’re learning from everyone. The other competitors will help you carrying your stuff, they will even give you ingredients if you’re missing some. What you will remember the most is the people who’ve shared this experience with you.”
Jennifer, Sophie and Mido gave some invaluable advice on how to succeed in the competition. I’ve grouped them after something Sophie said which struck me as a perfect summary of what contestants should bear in mind and pay attention to all throughout the competition and even before: “Starting from the rules, develop your recipe and your theme to achieve what Diageo is looking for: the perfect serve.”
Before and during the competition
– Have fun and enjoy the experience!
– Communicate and share who you are and what you do. The goal is to make people talk about you and your bar. Therefore, you should:
– Define your style but be yourself! “World Class looks for authentic people with charisma. We’re all different: play with that.” recommended Mido.
– Participate in events
– Gather with the community
– Post on products and drinks on your social media accounts
– Create opportunities
– Promote your drinks and your bar
– Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who do the same.
– In all things pay attention to details!
Starting from the rules…
– Read the rules carefully! Jennifer had the bad surprise of having to change one of her recipes at the last minute because she hadn’t seen a certain base spirit had been imposed for one challenge.
– Understand the rules, look where the most points will be given out and focus on that.
– Ask questions, ask for clarification. Better be the annoying person asking questions than ending up off topic.
– Start with the thing you feel less comfortable with: once it’s done, you can “relax” by doing what comes easy to you. For Sophie, it was easier to start with finding a theme and then develop recipes based on it.
– Pay attention to the current trends, like theme bars: White Lyan in London is famous for using neither ice nor citrus juices, Mace in New York for its menu focused on spices, Le Calbar in Paris for their bartenders wearing shirts and boxer shorts (calbar is the slang word for boxer shorts in French), Gravity in Paris for their low ABV aperitive drinks and their decor inspired by sliding sports.
– Give thought to the future trends set for your challenge. Regarding “new menus”, Mido reminded the participants that the atmosphere is what makes a good bar and that music is a powerful conveyor of emotions. Hence, the new cocktails on his menu at Café Moderne, the bar he owns in Paris and where Jennifer works, were inspired by 70’s soul music. The menu itself will be printed on vinyl discs with twists on classic cocktails on side A, innovative cocktails on side B and the explanation for the inspiration for each cocktail on the sleeve. On the topic of sustainability for her World Class participation, Jennifer explored the different issues regarding the protection of the environment and came up with cocktail recipes based on solutions to these problems. For example, thinking of water scarcity, she created a Dry Julep, a twist on the classic Mint Julep without water and ice. To diminish the drink’s ABV without diluting it, she redistilled her spirits through a rotovapor. To lower its temperature, she rolled it with dry ice and, to keep it cold, she poured her cocktail over crushed whisky stones which imitated the traditional crushed ice a Julep is usually served on. Extremely clever!
Develop your recipe…
– Be curious.
– Seek expertise, ask for help: people are willing to help, you’d be surprised how much!
– Try, try again, fail, try again.
– Take risks.
– Take inspiration and learn from others.
– Think about every single detail.
– Always have a plan B in case things go wrong.
– Base spirit: Dare! Try something new for you and/or for your guests. Surprise them.
– Glassware: Again surprise. Don’t only think of the glass you’ll be serving your cocktail in. Also think of the tools you’re going to use to prepare your drink: do they go along with your theme?
– Quantities: Respect them or lose points.
– Techniques: Again, do they go along with your theme?
– Ingredients: Be creative, use unusual ingredients but ingredients you’re comfortable with (so try, taste, test).
– Ice: Much is said and done about ice now. Is it adapted to your cocktail?
– Products: Know your products like the back of your hand in case of questions.
And your theme…
– Think of your story. You bring the customer into your universe. The story helps to create the atmosphere.
– Try to solicit as many of the senses as possible to immerse your jury in your atmosphere.
– Outfit: The way you dress helps people get into your atmosphere. Sophie advised: “Don’t dress in a 5* hotel uniform to present a cocktail inspired by the forest. Wear a lumberjack shirt instead. It makes you and your story believable.” Jennifer concurs: “Dress to impress while adapting to the challenge or to your universe.”
– Think about every single detail.
– Food pairing: It’s not necessary but it can help.
To achieve what Diageo is looking for: the perfect serve.
– Repeat, rehearse as any times as possible.
– Be organized. Jennifer explained she had many lists to help her with the mise en place for example: “The winner is the person who will be best prepared, not necessarily the most talented one.” Mido also stressed the importance of the mise en place: “It’s 80% of your World Class.”
– Relax: whether it’s through breathing exercises or meditation, use whatever stress management technique that floats your boat to deal with pressure.
– Judges: Know who they are to adapt your drink and service to them.
– Make eye contact with the judges.
– Always smile.
– Introduce yourself.
– Serve a glass of water to the judges, like you would to guests in your bar.
– Modulate your voice: You want to convey emotions, so talk with a soft voice.
– Speech: Think of what you say and how you say it.
– Think about every single detail.
– Always have a plan B in case things go wrong. Sophie used an old record player for one of her presentations. It nearly never happened. She hadn’t counted on the voltage in the USA being different from the voltage in Switzerland. If Vincent hadn’t been able to secure a key piece last minute, her whole presentation would have fallen through.
– Time: Be careful with your timing.
– Questions: Anticipate the questions the jury might ask you. For example, why do you use this or that ingredient? where do they come from? why do you use them this way?
Prospective participants to Diageo World Class 2017: Now that you’ve read all this, copy-paste or print this article. You have the material for your first checklist! Good luck to all!