Two and a half days of gruelling competition had come to this. Fifty five of the world's best bartenders had each been through five challenges, and last night all but 6 of them were cut from World Class 2015.
Earlier in the day, South Africa's Dom De Lorenzo had finished the last of his challenges, the Retro Future Disco event, and had once again put in a strong showing full imagination, precision and, of course, his signature wit. Throughout this competition, no judge has left his bar without a smile on his face.
The sun setting over the sea at the Lookout Deck, situated in Cape Town's famous V&A Waterfront, provided a suitably dramatic backdrop as Spike Marchant took to the stage to address the scrum of spectators and media. Group by group he called the contestants up until all 55 of them stood behind him, looking like a dapper regiment of choir boys (and girls) as they stood nervously to hear their fate.
Not one to pass up an opportunity to raise the tension, Spike took time to thank all the contestants for their part in driving bartending forward. "From the North to the South," he bellowed, "from the East to the West, the call went out to the best bartenders in the world!"
Like a caged lion on a Red Bull overdose, Spike traversed the breadth of the stage back and forth as he shared his passion for the World Class vision. It was impossible not to be drawn in. Almost as if it was against his very nature, he eventually drew to a halt, front and centre, as he readied himself for the big reveal. No one blinked.
|Dom de Lorenzo (SA)|
"The first bartender through to the Final 6 is," announced Spike with the prerequisite pause, "Michito Laneko!"
The crowd went nuts, particularly the Japanese contingent as they celebrated the advance of their charge. The names then came thick and fast as finalists 2 through 5 rattled of Spike's tounge: Ariel Leizgold, Vitezslav Cirok, Emmanouil Lykiardopoulos and Ali Reynolds. He could easily have read the name of the last contestant to make it through and let everyone head to the bar in celebration or commiseration. But he didn't.
A few bartenders got special mentions as Spike drew it out, tightening the invisible garrotes around the necks of everyone present, especially the 50 remaining bartenders. Only one of them would be joining the other five; the tension was delicious.
Eventually Spike mercifully relented, naming Australia's Jack Sotti as the last Super 6 finalist. Jack had blown the judges away earlier that day when he made his levitate – yes, it actually floated an inch above the table with the clever use of magnets – and this undoubtedly helped seal his passage to the next stage of World Class 2015.
Sadly South Africa's Dom de Lorenzo was not among those named, but he truly did his country proud. Not only were his drink excellent, but in my completely biased opinion, he was the most entertaining bartender on show, masterfully melding his infectious sense of humour with precision and skill. Asked afterwards how he felt, he said in his usual unflappable manner, "I'm not upset, I'ved every minute."
The bartenders that went through have little time to celebrate. From yesterday evening they were given 24 hours to erect a fully operations pop-up bar from scratch. Who needs sleep anyway.
|World Class 2015 - Super 6 Finalists|
|Michito Laneko||Lamp Bar||Japan|
|Emmanouil Lykiardopoulos||Theory Bar and More||Greece|
|Jack Sotti||Boilermaker Bar||Australia|
Article by Grant McDonald