What’s better than watching a skilled bartender creating a cocktail at a cocktail bar? Watching 28 of them go head to head in a regional competition.
Held in Bangkok, Thailand earlier this month, the Diageo Reserve World Class Southeast Asia Finals 2015 saw four finalists from each of the six countries in the region compete to not only decide which bartender would represent their country in the Global Finals later this year in South Africa, but also which country’s team of barkeeps would take home the Team Challenge trophy.
At the end of the two-day competition, it was Boo Jing Heng (Jigger and Pony), Steve Leong (TESS Bar), Yugnes Susela (Tippling Club) and Sam Wong (Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall) from the Lion City who garnered the highest combined score in the competition to retain the Team Challenge trophy for Singapore. Participants competed in four diverse challenges that ranged from creating classic cocktails with a twist, building a unique Blood Mary, prepping libations for different occasions as well as a speed challenge that pushed competitors to serve up eight balanced cocktails in less than eight minutes. Things got pretty intense but some great spirits from Diageo Reserve’s extensive portfolio came in handy to calm any finicky nerves (from both the finalists and the spectators).
But winning the Team Challenge trophy wasn’t the only thing that would put a smile on a Singaporeans’ face – Sam Wong won the Occasion Challenge with his cocktails that were inspired by the evolution of kopi culture, and created with Johnnie Walker Gold Label, while Boo Jing Heng took home the Rising Star Award for his outstanding skills behind the bar. On top of that, Steve Leong not only took home the title of Winner, World Class Singapore 2015, giving him the chance to represent the country in the World Class Global Finals, he also won the South East Asia World Class Bartender of the Year 2015 alongside Shawn Chong of Omakase + Appreciate, Malaysia.
The Diageo Reserve World Class Global Bartending Competition has come a long way since its inception six years ago, showcasing some of the best talents in cocktail craft from around the world. With the launch of the SEA Final in 2014, regional bartenders are now given the added opportunity to experience and learn from the cocktail culture in countries located just a few hour’s flight away. Plus, everyone gets a chance to enjoy the festivities during competition week including numerous pop-ups and guest shifts by some outstanding bartenders from around the world.
Congratulations once again to Steve Leong and Team Singapore for the all the silverware they brought home. And to all the finalists representing their respective countries at the Global Finals in South Africa, the very best of luck!
For more information on the Diageo Reserve World Class Global Bartending Competition visit www.diageo.com
*This piece was written by guest contributor, Mark Tay, who is also a World Class guy and journalist in the spirits scene.