French bartender becomes first woman to win World Class competition

Jennifer Le Nechet is crowned World Class Bartender of the Year 2016 in Miami. (PRNewsFoto/WORLD CLASS)

Jennifer Le Nechet from Café Moderne in Paris has been crowned the world’s best bartender at the climax of the global World Class competition in Miami.

After starting the week as one of 56 national winners from around the world, she impressed the judges in the last round which challenged six remaining finalists to create a pop-up bar in 24 hours.

She came up with a bar concept inspired by Steampunk, serving up twists on classic cocktails with homemade emulsions, cola and organic ingredients.

Jennifer, aged 29 and the first female bartender to win the title, said: “I’m completely blown away – it’s such an honour to take home the title of World’s Best Bartender – especially when competing against such talent from around the world.

“This week has inspired me to continue pushing the boundaries of flavours and to explore how all the senses can be engaged through cocktails. I can’t wait for the experience ahead!”

She is now set for a year of adventure – she will have the chance to travel the world as a Diageo Reserve brand ambassador, judging competitions and making bespoke drinks in far-flung locations.

After developing her career in Parisian restaurants and bars such as Café Charlot, she moved to Café Moderne, a bar in the Roquette area of Paris which was co-founded by Ahmed “Mido” Yahi who represented France at the World Class global final in 2014.

Alex Kratena, former head bartender of Artesian bar in London and a judge at the global final, said: “The standard this year has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s been just so difficult to choose between these bartenders.

“Jennifer just nailed it in the Superstar Pool Party showing all the skills you could want in a bartender, and her pop-up bar blew us all away with its cool Steampunk theme and twist on classic cocktails with homemade emulsions, cola and organic ingredients.

“These bartenders really are at the top of their game and the five runners-up were worthy contenders. Not only can they pull off all the classics flawlessly, but they are developing new and exciting techniques every step of the way.”

Nearly 10,000 bartenders from all over the world entered Diageo Reserve’s World Class, with Aidan Bowie of Dandelyan at the Mondrian London hotel winning the Great Britain title and Andrew Dickey of The Merchant Hotel in Belfast winning the Ireland competition. Aidan made it through to the 12 bartenders in the penultimate round in Miami.

Each challenge showcased a different skill from the bartender’s armoury: technique, personality, spirits knowledge and how well they performed under pressure.

Selecting brands from the Diageo Reserve portfolio including Ketel One, Cîroc, Don Julio, Tanqueray No Ten, Bulleit, Zacapa and Johnnie Walker, the bartenders crafted classic cocktails and created their own recipes. They also went up against the clock to mix up to 14 American classics in just 10 minutes.

Johanna Dalley, global World Class director, said: “This week has been a whirlwind of creativity, flair and amazing talent – truly raising the role of the bartender to be on a par with that of the world’s leading chefs.

“And that’s what World Class is all about, inspiring people to drink better and appreciate great drinks in the same way they appreciate great food. The final six were exceptional and it was an extremely close final. However we’re delighted to name Jennifer as our winner and our first female World Class Bartender of the Year.”

At the awards evening in Miami last night, Mexico City was revealed as the location for the World Class Bartender of the Year global final in 2017.

Johanna added: “This year, World Class will take cocktail culture to a new level in Mexico City, and there could be no better place for this, since for many years, this city been developing into one of the most vibrant capitals for food, drink and culture.”

Click here for a full list of the 56 finalists and more about the global final.

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