May 3, 2016 - It’s that time of year, when Diageo World Class comes into town to select the finest talents Malaysia’s bar scene has to offer.
Familiar faces from the previous years were among the participants who gathered at the ultra-hip KL Journal hotel, where the competition was held. In a change from last year, where the challenges were done over six months, 2016 saw the small group of eight competitors battle it out doing four challenges over two rigorous days at the beginning of May. The end of the second day revealed Malaysia’s four finalists: Jeffri Sulaiman, Boy Labib, Osmund Bernard, and Joel Timis – names that might ring a bell if you’ve been following World Class in Malaysia the last few years.
Judging the competition was Director of Diageo Bar Academy Lam Chi Mun, 2016 World Class Winner for Singapore and South East Asia Steve Leong, Mortlach and Singleton Global Brand Ambassador Georgie Bell, and Timothy Jason, Giffard Brand Developer & Beverage Innovation Manager for Asia.
Each day saw the bartenders participate in two rounds: day one was the Tanqueray Perfect Serve challenge (making one classic G&T, and another gin cocktail of their choice) and the Singleton Whisky Prohibition challenge (which produced all manner of whisky cocktails, from Old Fashioneds to Boulevardiers).
Day two brought out the bartender’s creativity with the first challenge of the day: From Bali to Miami. Using Ketel One vodka in one cocktail and Haig Club whisky in the other, bartenders made two cocktails that they felt represented aspects of the two destinations – Bali, being where the final four go for the regional finals, and Miami for the global finals. The cocktails seemed to follow a trend, with sophisticated island-inspired cocktails for Bali, and sexy urbanity of Miami (which saw a super flashy champagne cocktail piled high with strings of lemon rind that looked like gold chains).
Last was the World Class favourite, the Speed Challenge, where bartenders were tasked to create at least six cocktails in eight minutes. A tactic that many competitors seemed to use was setting out up to 10 different glasses on their bar top, to push themselves to do as many as possible within the time limit. All managed to accomplish the six drink minimum.
This year’s participants have shown massive improvement from the previous years, especially among the World Class veterans, who demonstrated greater confidence in their technical skills and presentation techniques.
The final four will progress to the Southeast Asian World Class Finals 2016 in Bali, Indonesia, to compete with their bartending brothers and sisters from Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam from May 31 to June 2. One finalist from each country will proceed to the intense Global Finals held in Miami, USA, in September.
Jeffri Sulaiman's Dirty martini that uses Tanqueray 10, dry vermouth, olive brine, olives and simple syrup
Boy Labib's Proibition cocktail with an Asian twist that uses Singleton 12yrs, Antica Formula Vermouth, Fernet Branca Menta, Burlesque bitter's, asam jawa syrup, tamarind slice (asam keping) and salted radish serve on the side.
Osmund Bernard's Asian Negroni that uses Singleton Glen Ord 12 year old, Aperol, Manchino Rosso and Vanilla Gin Sake House Blend.
Joel John Timis' Negroni that uses Singleton Signature Glen Ord, Campari and sweet vermouth