Wednesday, January 25, 2012

World Class Australia 2012 semi finals rock the boat

Blue skies on a Sunday afternoon were a promising start to the Diageo Reserve World Class Australia semi finals; part of a global competition to find the "World Class Bartender of the Year".

Bartenders representing 44 countries will compete in the global competition. In the meantime, from more than 130 entrants Australia wide, the national semi finalists were whittled down to nine: three bartenders per category of drinks of Gentleman's Cocktail, Punch and Seasonal Cocktail.

World Class Australia 2012 semi finals aboard the Sydney Glass Island
Boarding the Sydney Glass Island, nine bartenders were set up around the first floor, while the sundeck on top offered fresh air, sunshine and non-alcoholic drinks. A boat turned out to be the perfect venue as one couldn't tell if people were drunkenly stumbling or if the boat was just rocking over small waves in the harbour.

Attendees received 'little black books'; passports with information on each bartender and their competing cocktail, as well as classy voting cards to be used once all nine cocktails were sampled. Determining a winner was going to be fun, although there was a judging panel ensuring it wasn't all just a popularity contest.

World Class Australia 2012 semi finals crowd
Each bartender served their cocktails fresh and shared their drinks philosophies. It was great to see the cocktails getting as much care and attention as they would in a proper cocktail bar, as samples were all fastidiously garnished and presented, despite the plastic glassware.

Each drink featured Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, Ketel One Vodka or Singleton of Glen Ord 12 Single Malt Whisky.

Dockers Union Punch by Sarah Miller (I know a place, Melbourne)
Sarah Miller's Dockers Union Punch was the only cocktail in the (floating) room to feature the Singleton of Glen Ord; and as a non-whisky lover, it was strange that this was the first cocktail I grabbed.

It must have been the summery presentation of the punch, with apple and other fruit juices as well as heavier spice notes and Creole bitters. Served on ice it was, surprisingly, very drinkable in the summer heat with just a wisp of whisky-ness.

The Continental by Philip Gandevia (Eau de Vie/The Roosevelt, Sydney)
We moved onto a Gentleman's Cocktail with Philip Gandevia's dramatic, liquid nitrogen assisted theatrics; his cocktail featuring vodka, orange vodka, gin, dry vermouth and "tea smoked orange and celery bitters".

Philip Gandevia pulls out some cocktail theatrics
Essentially a martini with more bite, Dr Phil blazes the drink in silver goblets with the aid of the liquid nitrogen. No ice also means no dilution, making this Gentleman's Cocktail a seriously hard hitting one but with the headstrong flavour of celery making its presence known.

US 10 by Fred Siggins (The Kodiak Club, Fitzroy)
Moving completely out of order to a Seasonal Cocktail, Fred Siggins' beer cocktail was served out of brown beer bottles, as is done at his Fitzroy bar. Alongside Mexican style barbequed corn with cheese and mayonnaise, this cocktail was to represent American summer.

US 10 served with Mexican style barbequed corn
And summer it was. I don't know if the fruitiness (definite passionfruit notes) came from the American Pale Ale or the gin, but I simply adored the genius and refreshing sweetness of my very first beer cocktail.

Grilled prawns
Canapés were part of the event; however, this was one of the best catered (in terms of quantity) events I've come across. Perhaps related to the rather sizeable amount of drinking everyone on board was expected to partake in, there was no chasing of the large platters of food required.

The grilled prawn skewers were one of the best ones; well marinated and grilled, I may have had more than a couple of these.

Rice paper rolls

Fish cocktails with dill tartare sauce

Collier's Sundown Cooler
We moved swiftly back to Punch for the next drink, arriving at Perryn Collier's Esky, keg and self-labelled bottles. Another drink served by the (green) beer bottle, this carbonated punch was a sweetie featuring gin, vodka, dry vermouth and pink grapefruit juice.

Collier's Sundown Cooler by Perryn Collier (The Laneway, Brisbane)
The sugar hit came from very noticeable ginger cordial and a home made pineapple syrup from fruit which had been marinated in the cocktail concoction, then barbequed for a caramelised surface before being blitzed. If that's not effort, I don't know what is.

Collier's Sundowner Cooler served with pineapple on the side
Served over ice with a dainty mint sprig, this was definitely a libation for sunny days on the top deck of a boat. Drinking snacks of sweet dehydrated and glacé pineapple was supposed to extend the pineapple connection I suppose, but I generally prefer savoury snacks with sweet drinks.

Anita Strother (Malt Dining, Brisbane)
Dorothea Mackellar's poem "My Country" was the inspiration for Anita Strother's citrusy gin Seasonal Cocktail, with the piece de resistance of Aperol and pink grapefruit foam. I love a sunburnt country, where the cocktails are refreshing, pink, girly and fun.

Western Expression by Thiago Santos (The Loft, Sydney)
Points for most creative would have to go to Thiago Santos and his artists' palette of cocktail flavours. Starting with a base of gin, elderflower cordial and lemon juice, the idea behind this Punch is that each drinker can 'paint' their own flavours into their drink, then top it off with sparkling camomile tea.

The puree/paint options were red strawberry and Campari, green cucumber or blue grapefruit and Blue Curaçao.

Thiago Santos adds more blue 'paint' to the palette
Using thick paintbrushes that took me straight back to high school art classes, I added a few helpings of green 'paint' to my drink, stirring in the cucumber puree for what turned out to be quite the zingy drink.

Sydney Calling by Colin Perillo (Zeta Bar, Sydney)
Having only arrived in Australia three months ago, Colin Perillo's tugging of the patriotic heartstrings was certainly working, as was his double shake for his Sydney-inspired Gentleman's Cocktail.

Wattle leaves and 'Pure Harmony' lavender leaves
Using Australian wattle and lavender leaves to subtly infuse vodka, this drink balanced maraschino liqueur with grapefruit juice, and was definitely one of the more interesting flavours of the bunch.

Our Little Secret by Adam Smith (Press Club, Brisbane)
There was a bit of a rush at the end as everyone tried to get in their last of the cocktail tastings - I mean, I couldn't vote until I'd tasted them all.

Adam Smith provided a complex combination of peach tea, rosemary, agave and grapefruit mixed with gin, a bespoke "Little Ten Liquor" and Lillet Blanc. The rosemary was a surprising, warm ingredient in the drink

Breakfast in Bed by Jason Williams (The Loft, Sydney)
There was an lot of noise and cheering from Jason Williams' corner throughout the day and I was looking forward to discovering the reason. His gin and vodka cocktail included fruit marmalade, spiced bitters, supposedly a white chocolate liqueur and dandelion tea.

I missed most of the delicate flavours (orange and cucumber too) in what was possibly a rushed drink as the countdown loomed, but the end result was sadly unbalanced.

World Class Australia 2012 semi finals awards
We all adjourned upstairs to the windy but thankfully sunny deck as the results were collated along with the judges' votes. It was a chance to rehydrate with water and soft drinks, and actually take in some of the scenery we'd been cruising past for a couple hours already.

(Left to right) Fred Siggins, Perryn Collier and Philip Gandevia
And the winners: in the Gentleman's Cocktail category - Philip Gandevia. In the Punch category - Perryn Collier. And in the Seasonal Cocktail category - Fred Siggins.

I heard that the Seasonal Cocktail category was very closely contested, but the semi finals produced three finalists for the next round; where one national winner will head to Rio for the global competition, which by all accounts, is no holiday.

World Class Australia 2012 semi finalists

Perryn Collier (The Laneway, Brisbane)
The national finals will be held later in the year with a winter theme, as opposed to the summer oriented semi finals. Best of luck to all the finalists! See more photos here at my Facebook page.

Food, booze and shoes attended the World Class Australia 2012 semi finals courtesy of Diageo Reserve World Class and Behind Bars.


JB said...

Yes, it's sponsored by Tanqueray but I do love me a good gin cocktail. Amazing concoctions there.

Incidentally, after an overzealous duty free visit, we had all these bottles of gin. We did a double blind test of all them. I'd always declared Hendricks to be my fave gin but most of us picked T10. That is all.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

They're very creative indeed! :o Those ingredients and taking out a paintbrush are certainly very interesting!

Simon Leong said...

looks like some very interesting cocktails and canapes to match. hopefully the boat was calm with all those cocktails in you :-)

missklicious said...

This looked like fun!

The palette reminds me of the Cafe Ish Sugar hit!! Very cool idea.

Tina said...

Hi JB - So many good gins, and all rather unique, unlike vodka...

Hi Lorraine - Definitely thinking outside of the cocktail box!

Hi Simon - Luckily it was, aside from a few wobbles (the boat, not me)

Hi missklicious - Too much fun for a Sunday afternoon ;)

Dee@foodinhand said...

Wow such quirky concoctions, good to know so much creativity's around. Those prawns look soooooo good right now, that sauce looks sticky and thick :9

Tina said...

Hi Dee - I think the sauce was sweet chilli... But yes, so many interesting drinks - makes me want to go out for cocktails every night!

Sophie said...

I'm quite impressed with the creative paintbrush guy, haha. I saw the facebook event off your page and was so interested in going myself! But sadly couldn't make it that day, but your post makes up for it for me. :)

Dolly said...

the prawns look amazing..

julie said...

omg the artists' palette ... just wow! speechless. Looks like a great event!

Tina said...

Hi Sophie - Shame you couldn't make it; was a fab day. At least you got to experience it in pictures :)

Hi Dolly - Yep, definitely the best food of the day ;)

Hi Julie - It was; can only wait to see what the national final will be (and where...)

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