Finally, after a year of national competitions taking place in 55 different countries around the world, the finalists are in South Africa for the Global showpiece of World Class 2015. They arrived in Johannesburg late last week for a couple of days of pomp and ceremony before making their way to Cape Town for the business end of the competition. Yesterday afternoon the challenges started, and South Africa's Dom de Lorenzo was out of the blocks in style.
Well, to use the phrase "out of the blocks" might be a little misleading as it implies a frenetic explosion of energy, and Dom was so laid back, it's a wonder he could see over his own pelvis. His cool demeanour was a picture of a man prepared; a mix of focussed and relaxed, Dom had the air of a World Class veteran.
Over the next couple of days, the 55 master bartenders face five different challenges, after which the field is narrowed to only 6. In the past the competition used to gradually eliminate contestants, and this is the first year that World Class is adopting the current format. While some find the precipitous drop from 55 to 6 finalists a little alarming, most prefer it the new format as it gives the bartenders a chance to show more of their skills before they face the axe.
The initial 5 Challenges:
- Against the Clock: A high-pressure speed round where competitors must prepare a minimum of five cocktails in just 10 minutes to the tune of their own, personal soundtracks. Judges will award points based on dexterity, creativity and the contestants' grace under pressure.
- Around the World Bartenders have to create two unique cocktail rituals – one honouring their home country and one honouring the host country, South Africa. Contestants will be judged on their ability to weave a cultural narrative into a drink, whether that narrative be serious, light-hearted or irreverent.
- Night and Day: Contestants must build dichotomy into a pair of cocktails – the casual vibrance of the day and the dramatic boldness of the night, one of which must incorporate Tanqueray No. TEN.
- Street Food Jam: This challenge puts the colour and diversity of Cape Town's tastes and aromas at the bartenders' disposal as they are tested on their ability to incorporate unusual ingredients into their cocktails. Contestants have to match the flavour notes of Ketel One Vodka and Ron Zacapa Rum to a duo of dishes prepared by Italian chef Luca Castiglione, founder of Cape Town's famous Limoncello Ristorante Pizzeria and more recently Cape Town Food Trucks, which takes gourmet food to the streets.
- 2015 "Retro, Disco, Future": This is a time-travelling challenge in which bartenders must infuse the spirit of three distinct eras into three one-of-a-kind cocktails – the old-school chic of the 19th century up to Prohibition, the dance-floor kitsch of the 70s and 80s and the cutting-edge trends of the future. Bulleit Rye or Bulleit Bourbon will star in at least one of each bartender's creations, either adding a contemporary twist to an era gone by or entering the new frontier of cocktail fashions.
Yesterday, Dom got his campaign for Global Champion underway with the Night and Day challenge. The contrast he chose to highlight was the difference in daily routine between most office workers and the professional bartender. His top, a hybrid of a formal white shirt and a flamboyantly coloured number that was sewn down the middle, was the very embodiment of night-n-day, and set the scene for the story he told.
As he painted a picture of a day (night?) in the life of a barkeep, he talked his judges – the legendary Salvatore Calabrese and Erik Lorincz – through the first of his two cocktails, the 5 to Close. Dom artfully worked an explanation of the recipe into his tale before moving on to his second drink, the 9 to Five. Afterwards he opened a wooden box (signifying the opening of a laptop) to release aromas that complemented his drink.
All in all it was a solid performance by South Africa's charge at what is arguably the most prestigious bartending competition in the world. I just hope no one tells Dom what a big deal this is, because he was working his bar and charming his judges like it was just another Friday night.
|Dom de Lorenzo Recipes - Day and Night Challenge|
|5 to Close||9 to Five|
|50ml Talisker||37.5ml Tanqueray No TEN|
|35ml Cold brew coffee||15.5ml Lemon juice|
|15ml Grapefruit tonic syrup||12.5ml Campari (suryp)|
|10ml Egg white||2 Grapefruit zests|
|Shaken and strain||1 Orange zest|
Topped with Pernod, Grapefruit & Orange blossom