Witek Wojaczek of The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy in London is set to represent the UK at the international final of Courvoisier’s Toast of Paris competition in Paris in May.
He will face national semi-final winners from Canada, Japan, Austria, Germany and France, with each presenting their own twist on the classic Champagne Cocktail.
Bartenders were challenged to create a recipe inspired by Paris’s Golden Age. It ties in with Courvoisier’s global campaign, The Toast of Paris Since 1889, and packaging which all take inspiration from the Golden Age, or Belle Époque, in Paris between 1870 and 1910.
Witek won the UK semi-final with La Haute Boheme, which was inspired by high bohemians, a group of wealthy Parisians who enjoyed the good life during the Belle Époque. It used Courvoisier VSOP as a base, infused with a homemade French rose liqueur, mixed with Cabernet Sauvignon and topped with champagne.
He and the five other winners will compete in Paris at the final on May 17 and then travel to the Courvoisier Chateau in Jarnac for a rare opportunity to visit the centuries-old Paradis Cellar with master blender Patrice Pinet.
The overall winner will receive the prize of a bespoke Courvoisier cognac blend, presented in an engraved crystal decanter.
The other national finalists announced so far include Lukas Lou HochMuth-iviert from The Ritz-Carlton in Vienna for Austria, Aleksandrs Sadovskis from Prinzipal Kreuzberg in Berlin for Germany, and Patrice Plante from L’Atelier in Québec for Canada.
The UK semi-final, organised by distributor Maxxium UK, was held at The Punch Room at the London Edition hotel, judged by leading bartender Brian Silva of London restaurant Balthazar, David Miles from Maxxium’s Mixxit training team, and Courvoisier’s global brand ambassador, Rebecca Asseline. Witek is pictured above with Rebecca.
The other semi-finalists were Jason Ballantyne from The Bureau in Birmingham, Kyle Hamilton from Panda & Sons in Edinburgh, and – from London – Mikey Cook from Rules Cocktail Bar, Dario Guaglione from The Worship Street Whistling Shop, and Luca Rapetti from Library Bar at The Lanesborough.
Three were shortlisted to compete in a second spontaneous round where they were challenged to create a cocktail, inspired by bespoke Courvoisier scents.
The two scents were designed by luxury scent technician Ericka Duffy to convey the aromas of the Belle Epoque. Brise de Vincennes evoked daytime aromas, with fresh bread, coffee and vanilla recalling the romance of a classic scene of Parisians sitting at an outdoor café sipping on cognac, and Nuit Debordante conjured up the intrigue of Paris after dark with elements of tobacco, candied orange and patchouli.
Witek’s second cocktail Smokey Daytime was a blend of Courvoisier VSOP sweetened with fig liqueur and balanced with bitters and lemon juice shaken with egg white and finished with chocolate bitters.
Rebecca said: “We were impressed by all of the bartenders’ cocktails, but it was Witek’s serves which were favoured amongst the panel. His links to the Paris Golden Age and brand knowledge and skills made La Haute Boheme really stand out.
“However, a special mention must also go to our runner-up, Luca Rapetti from Library Bar at The Lanesborough, and Mikey Cook from Rules who came third, for their innovative and beautifully created drinks.”
Luca and Mikey were both presented with an exclusive limited-edition Baccarat crystal glass. Luca also received an engraved bottle of Courvoisier Initiale Extra and Mikey a bottle of Courvoisier XO.
The UK semi-final followed a series of masterclasses across the country, led by Rebecca and attended by 500 bartenders. They learned about Courvoisier’s Parisian roots during the era of the Paris Golden Age and how it could be used to create vibrant and aromatic cocktails.
Maxxium UK’s marketing controller for Courvoisier, Chris Anderson, said: “The masterclasses have immersed bartenders in the glorious heritage of Courvoisier and given them a deeper understanding of the house and its style.
“The competition is a celebration of cognac’s place on cocktail menus and has allowed bartenders to showcase their creativity as well as the versatility of Courvoisier.”
Haute Boheme by Witek Wojaczek (pictured)
30ml Courvoisier VSOP
25ml French rose liqueur
10ml Cabernet Sauvignon
5 drops Peychaud’s Bitters
Topped with brut champagne
To make the rose liqueur, combine 150ml of St-Germain elderflower liqueur, 100ml of Chambord, 15ml of Pernod Absinthe and 15g of dried rose petals in an airtight container and leave to infuse for 45 minutes. Build the first four ingredients in a mixing glass, stir with ice for a few seconds and strain into a vintage coupe coated in absinthe, topped up with champagne. Garnish with a feather attached to the stem of the glass.
La Belle Noir by Luca Rapetti
30ml Courvoisier VSOP
15ml Vutter-washed hazelnut liqueur
80ml Champagne brut
Chocolate and Tonka bean sugar (for rim)
Pour first three ingredients into a mixing glass, stir in ice for a few seconds and pour into a flute, previously rimmed with chocolate and tonka bean sugar with a golden spray. Top up with champagne. Add maraschino cherry as garnish.
Toast of Paris by Mikey Cook
35ml Courvoisier VSOP Exclusif
15ml Homemade champagne syrup
10ml Lavender eau de vie
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
Topped up with Joseph Perrier Brut champagne
Build first four ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and serve in a chilled coupe, topped up with champagne, plus orange oil over and a lemon twist in.