Whether you know your Manhattans from your Old Fashioneds – or if your idea of getting “experimental” with your cocktail-making is adding lime and sugar – it’s hard not to be excited by the return of Glenfiddich’s search for the World’s Most Experimental Bartender.
Started in 2016, the Speyside whisky giants call for the most exciting and innovative bartenders from all over the world to enter and show off their skillset in a series of challenges, with only one crowned the winner. Think The Great British Bake Off but with more Mint Juleps than macarons and boozier than Mary Berry’s birthday party.
And there’s a little slice of something extra that sets this competition apart from the rest – finalists in the contests pair up with boundary-pushing, creative minds from outside the world of whisky, to push the limits of their creativity and mix up some truly unique serves.
Previous years have seen cheesemakers, Michelin-starred chefs, furniture makers and even sound engineers collaborate with the finalist bartenders, with last year’s winning duo made up of Alicante bartender David Kandinsky and artisan ice cream master Santi Gomez.
To start with, all entrants are challenged to pitch an experimental serve, using Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, designed to show off their expertise in techniques, ingredients and all-round big ideas. The very best are then shortlisted and invited to pitch their serve concepts live in the local heats.
The winner of each local heat then partners up with one of these carefully selected creative collaborators to represent their country in the first stage of the global final, hosted in Dufftown, Scotland – the home of Glenfiddich. There, they’ll be given a series of whisky-based challenges as well as unparalleled access to Glenfiddich’s distillery experts, to learn even more tricks of the trade, and just what goes into making Glenfiddich the most awarded single malt today.
Armed with fresh Scotch whisky knowledge in their bonnets, the teams then travel to the heart of Glasgow for the grand final later this year, where they’ll face their greatest challenge yet – an “open final” for the coveted crown of World’s Most Experimental Bartender.
They’ll be tasked with creating a unique drinking experience, inspired by Glenfiddich, in front of a live audience and with the victor determined by an expert judging panel, including yours truly. That’s right, Gentleman’s Journal will have a seat at the table, using all we know about whisky and experimental drinks (trust us, it’s more than you think) to crown a winner.
So what’s up for grabs, other than the majestic title and world fame? The winning pair will travel to the prestigious Tokyo International BarShow and Bar Convent Brooklyn, as well as return to Glasgow for the 2019 competition, this time as a judge. To find out more, head to the Glenfiddich website.
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