Blog: Bartender tip shows softer side to Diageo's World Class cocktail battle
Andy Morton | 6 May 2016
This week, Diageo held a UK semi-final for its global World Class cocktail competition.
Talk to bartenders and they'll tell you that this competition is the big one in terms of prestige within the industry. And that's not just because of the deep pockets of Diageo, who this year will fly finalists to Miami for the global showdown in September. The competition itself is a tough rite-of-passage for the bar world, and bartenders often wait to get a few years of experience under their belts before even considering entry. Those who win, therefore, attain a certain status among their peers.
This week's stage was as tough as ever, with 50 contestants vying for five places - six, in the end, as judges couldn't split the final two. I spoke to two of the six ahead of the results announcement, meaning I didn't know I was talking to the top tier of the UK bartending world. But no matter, because I wasn't that interested in the competition itself. I wanted to know what the hot new spirits are for bartenders, as whatever these men and women are serving often ends up the choice pick in the retailer aisles.
Disappointingly, both Aidan Bowie of London's Dandelyan and Dominic Whisson of The American Bar at The Savoy had no undiscovered darling of the cocktail scene to share with me, instead saying that gin remains the gilded star. Bowie said the spirit still has a long way to go before it falls from favour, mainly thanks to the new distilleries popping up all over the country. This is perhaps why the gin boom remains for now more of a UK phenomenon that has yet to translate to the US.
However, Whisson did have an interesting tip for the top. He said that artisanal mixers are going to play an increasing part in his cocktail future, partly due to the success of Fever Tree's tonics and also because of trends towards lower-alcohol drinks among consumers.
With even PepsiCo getting into the artisanal soda scene, he may well be right.
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