Thursday, November 11, 2010

World Class Australia- Raising the Bar.

Once again, life has been getting in the way of blogging. I should probably throw work somewhere in there too. At the moment, it's all been too hectic so this post is a little late in coming. For that, I apologise- however, late is better than never- right?!

A couple of weeks ago, Ally from Eat Drink Brisbane and I went on a lovely little evening run to learn about the World Class Bar Competition and Sangrita Rituals. As soon as the email hit my inbox, I was definitely excited. I'd heard about Sangrita from my one of my Mexican pals, but had never really delved any deeper and, here was an opportunity to learn from some of the best in QLD!

So... from the start- World Class Bar Competition - Raising the bar (ha- good one guys) is the search for the 'World's Best Bartender.' The competition is run by Diageo Reserve Brands who encompass heaps of the big alcohol brands i.e. Smirnoff, Tanqueray, Bailey's, Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Don Julio and Jose Cuvero. This thing is actually worldwide, but in Aus, bartenders from each state compete in heats and are asked to create a World Class Concoction which is then assessed on concept, appearance, experience an taste.

The entries are then shortlisted, one winner from each state competes in the National Final. At the Finals, the Australian winner is chosen to represent Australia in the International competitions with some of the 'cream of the bartending elite from across the globe. Now- that's all good and well, but where does the Sangrita come in, I hear you ask!?!

Sangrita, not to be confused with the more common Sangria, is an old school mexican ritual that celebrates the tequila's distinctive flavour by sipping it alternately with what was traditionally a spicy, tomato-citrus blend. No drinkin' the tequila with the lemon and salt here lovelies!  The bartenders were tasked with coming up with the best twist on the old Mexican tradition of the Sangrita and I might add, the concoctions we tried were quite wonderful.

To start the evening, we met with Brand Ambassador Jay Lambert who is lucky enough to have the job of, well, being a brand ambassador for Diageo Reserve Brands. He basically gets to drink and promote premium alcohol for a living! A little jealous, I might add. 

The whole night was really informal, whilst also being very informative. We sat down to have a chat about the Sangrita Ritual at Cloudland and were then introduced to Adam Brewer, 3rd place winner in the competition. Both Jay and Adam emphasised that there is a trend towards quality rather than quantity, and it's really good to see that the boys from Brisbane are doing their part to help perpetuate this trend. 

Adam chose to use Don Julio Blanco as it's flavour profile is sweeter and frutier. He explained that it has good character for its youth, and sways towards being matched with something natural, which is why he chose to accompany with a beautifully fresh oyster,  cucumber sorbet topped with grated white chocolate and coriander. Oyster and white choc I hear you say? What a weird combo. Well, weirdly, it worked. Don't ask me how, but it did. Perhaps the fresh addition of the coriander and cucumber sorbet had something to do with it, but whatever it was, I wanted more. I also learnt a few little interesting facts about the special Tequila.

Don Julio is one of the most respected brands of tequila around. It has been around since about 1942 when Don Julio, the man himself, decided he wanted to create a tequila that stood apart. In the beginning, he only shared the drink with his friends, but word got around and soon it became a really sought after drink! Another cute fact, the bottle is deliberately short and squat so that you can talk over the bottle with friends.

Adam was luck enough to be the National winner of the competition last year and as his prize, (the lucky bugger!) went to Greece to compete in the world final. He says this was one of THE most amazing experiences of his life. He learnt a lot and had even more fun. This whole being a good bartender is a pretty good gig- right?!  

Next, our driver picked us up. Yep, we had a driver. This is of course a very thoughtful little detail seeing drinking tequila, even if it is just sipping, and fanging around in a car don't really mix very well. We then headed to Canvas bar at Woolloongabba. Canvas bar has been open for about four months but has already made a big splash on the drinking scene. It is a cool little place and you should check it out. Turns out that Jaye our brand ambassador also works at Canvas on weekends, so he knew the deal pretty well and we scored a great table down the back where we could watch both the winner and second place getter show us their stuff.

Angus Burton was the winner of the competition with his very cool sangrita concept- 'A little blood for a silver peace'. Angus used Jose Cuevro Platino served with a bespoke bitter chocolate, orange and chilli macarons  and El Injerto coffee. Now, you all probs know by now of my stupid caffeine aversion, but I still had a little sip just to get the whole experience! The El Injerto single origin bean from Guatemala was smooth and lovely. As the macarons were custom made for the competition, we didn't get to sample the exact version, but Angus gave us some others to try that also worked really well. It turns out that coffee, macarons and tequila make strange but awesome bedfellows. 

His presentation was also quite visually spectacular as he used a syphoning technique for the coffee.  Angus was also really passionate about the bar industry in Qld, as was Jay. It was really refreshing to hear the boys talking about the quality of the liquor, and letting us in on some of their incredible knowledge. Oh how different this was to the usual tequila experiences I have had!! Angus gave us a rundown on how he came up with his concept and the name, which was really involved and very well thought out- something about the pastry war and the blood of someone of something possibly named remantel?! How ignorant of me!! I wish I could remember, so I could share it with you! Now I know I was only sipping small amount of tequila, but somehow this info escapes me!! It's worth finding out though- cos it was actually really interesting. Note to self!

Second place winner, and Canvas bar owner, Marco Paulo Pereira Nunes was the last to show us his Sangrita ritual entitled Noble's Consort. 

Marco also chose to use the Jose Cuvero Platino and served with spicy peppered sausage and a spicy chilled juice he created called a patecati potion. This was also a very cool combo- who would have though- juice, sausage and tequila could be so tantalising. Everyone had put a serious amount of effort into their entry, and it really showed. 

When I came across this whole competition, it's like a whole new world/subculture was opened to me. Somehow, I've missed out on this before even though I usually like to hang out in cocktail bars rather than the establishments that are so well known for serving bottomless amounts of bad alcohol. 

It's really, honestly great to see young people that are interested in being involved with and promoting something very cool and a little more cultured than your average drinking competition. Passion was something that shone through with the bar peeps, and I'm happy to report, that with them at the helm and with great competitions like World Class nurturing our talent, I'm looking forward to where the Brisbane drinking scene is heading..... Hopefully- far away from the bogan binge drinking past and into the macaron dunking, tequila sipping future. Another nice thing about this comp is that everyone is obviously really supportive of each other. This year Adam had fun on facebook promoting his campaign, whilst Angus made the video below, which is definitely worth watching if you are interested! Argh- all this fun is making me want to become a bartender! (Five seconds pass) On seconds thoughts, I'm happy to just enjoy their clever concoctions. 

World Class has another two rounds, the Best Seasonal Cocktail and the Best Gentlemen's Cocktail- so I will be waiting to hear the results of this! Good luck to all our QLD competitors!

So tell me readers- have you ever heard of the Sangrita Ritual?

World Class

Gastronomy Gal and Ally attended the evening courtesy of Reserve, World Class Competition & PR company Splendid Communications. 

7 fabulous comments:

Digella said...

How fantastic! I have never heard of the Sangrita Ritual. But sounds like I would like it!
What fun you had.

Sarah from said...

Hi! Did you take these pictures? They're good! :D

Linda V @ Bubble and Sweet said...

Sounds so interesting and fun, I've never heard of it before.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I remember first hearing of brand ambassadors for liquor and thinking wow, what a job! :o

Emma @CakeMIstress said...

You lucky thing! Tequila and macarons, how awesome.

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Such a fun place to be!

The InTolerant Chef said...

Sounds like a fum night, I'm glad you had a driver!

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