The first round of UK finalists are Robin Honhold from Lucky Liquor Co in Edinburgh, Matthew Soares from Cloud 23 in Manchester, Nathan O’Neill from Milk and Honey in London and James Fowler from The Larder House in Bournemouth.
It followed introductory and educational forums across the UK in October, after which all those who attended were invited to submit their cocktail recipe. Mystery shoppers were sent to observe each entrant, ensuring their bartending skills extended to a high level of service as well as fantastic drinks.
The panel of expert judges, made up of drinks journalists and Diageo Reserve brand ambassadors including Andrea Montague, James Hill and Steven Martin, then decided who would go through to the UK final.
A second burst of UK activity in March will see further introductory forums take place in Glasgow, Liverpool, London and the south, followed by more regional finals in May.
One bartender from each of these heats will join the other competitors at the UK finals, with the overall winner going on to compete at the World Class Bartender of the Year global final in July.
The global final is held in an exciting location somewhere in the world, which in the past has included India and Río. The 2014 location is yet to be announced.
The first four UK finalists were praised for their imaginative cocktail recipes such as the Engine Room from Robin which comprised Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve whisky mixed with ingredients such as grapefruit oil and a homemade violet tincture, served in branded bottles with a glass on the side.
Diageo brand ambassador Deano Moncrieffe, who was also one of the judges, said: “Competition this year was incredibly tough. To win World Class is the ultimate accolade for a bartender so they really pull out all the stops and we’ve seen some incredible talent that is really pushing the boundaries of expert bartending and fine drinks in the UK.
“It’s shaping up to be an outstanding year and we have some real potential in the UK to see our bartenders go far in the competition.”
Alongside Matthew, the other bartenders to make it through to the regional final in the north were Benji Williams of Sky Lounge in Leeds, Christian Tirel of Boilermaker in Nottingham, Dan Berger of Mr Cooper’s House & Garden in Manchester, Massimo Zitti of Manchester-based consultancy The Liquorists and Alex Jones from Kosmonaut in Manchester.
The finalists for the London region alongside Nathan were Michelle Marioti and Lorenzo Antinori of The Savoy, Darren Ball from The Ivy, Valentino Longo from Bambou, and Raffaele Marino from The Arts Club.
In the Scotland region alongside Robin, the other finalists – all at Edinburgh bars – were Michael Braun of Panda & Sons, Mike Lynch of The Devil’s Advocate, Euan Halliday from Tigerlily, Russell Downie from Tonic, and Matt Wakeford from Missoni.
As well as James from The Larder House, finalists in the south region were Nathan Johnson from Sugar House at Bristol’s Hotel du Vin, Ont Phakavipas of Central Bar in Bath, Joel Whitmore from The Library in Bournemouth, Tom Pople from Sub 13 in Bath, Isabella Newman from Circo Bar in Bath, and Johnny Bissenden from Eau de Vie in Bournemouth.
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