After the Mediterranean Mastery conducted by guest bartender from Nightjar, Luca Cinalli, it was time for the Malaysia bartenders to show what they have learned. The first challenge took place at Zeta Bar, Hilton KL on 5th December 2013.
15 bartenders presented their Mediterranean themed recipes to three judges – Lam Chi Mun (the Director of Diageo Bar Academy), Charles James Wright (Reserve Marketing Manager for Asia Pacific) and myself (the Editor for this drinks magazine). The competition was guided through by Hannah Waters, Reserve Brand Ambassador for South East Asia. All the recipes were pre-submitted to Hannah before the challenge.
Each participating bartender was given one minute to prepare the station and 5 minutes presentation. While one bartender is doing his presentation, the next participant will be preparing the ingredients and station for his turn.
Judging criteria –flavour, presentation, technique and timing.
The cocktails were judged according to their story, technique, favours and timing. Great emphasis was put in timing as a few passed the allocated 5 minutes and scores were taken away.
As a winning bartender in competitions, Hannah advised strongly on keeping track of time as this is the part that can easily hinder your position in the results. She added a positive note, “You had made some fantastic drinks and would have done well over in Singapore as well.”
(From left: Lim Chin Mun and Charles Wright)
Charles, who is now based in Singapore was impressed with the increase number of talents here in Malaysia. “Fantastic drinks overall and great presentations. It was tough to choose just two winners among all of the bartenders,” said Charles.
A few observations were made during the presentation and here I combine the points from the judges. They are the difference between theme based and ingredient based recipes, the logic behind the recipes, the balance of the flavour and the outlook of the drinks presented.
Overall, there was an increase standard in the technique and knowledge of products. Knowledge on ingredients used gives the logic behind the recipe. Combining this with the technique gives a creation that makes sense and most importantly, the balance of the taste. Participating bartenders showed that they have done research on the brands that gave the presentation a flow and reasons behind their combination.
Generally all the recipes contain ingredients of Mediterranean origin, some were created closer to the theme and some with a mere existence of Mediterranean ingredients. Recipes with a theme and a story (reason) for the combination of ingredients and technique based on culture, food type and the time of the beverage being consumed generally score higher. As a mere existence of a Mediterranean ingredient does not automatically make the drink “Mediterranean”.
We saw that Luca Cinalli’s presentation of his delicate garnishing and thoughts had influence on some of the bartenders’ creation that day. A more personal approach base on the type of customers served and the bar setting can also be the materials used in this area.
World Class now and then
We interviewed Lam as he was the organiser for World Class Malaysia when it was first introduced to the country 2 years ago and find out his view on the day’s performance:
You were looking after World Class Malaysia 2 years ago, how does it compare in terms of quality between now and then?
Judging from today’s event, there is definitely a rise in the number of local talents. The bartenders are savvier in their technique, use of flavours and equipment. Cocktail competition was pretty new in KL back then and it was not as exposed. The classic cocktail scene and speakeasy concept have grown for the last 3 years, everyone seems to be feeling their way around on how to participate and present themselves in this competition. It is very encouraging to see.
Is the change expected?
The level of improvement was expected but not the time of when the trend starts. For a cosmopolitan city like KL where you have many visitors and exposed to different culture, I have expected the cocktail culture to be more immersed in the beverage scene much earlier.
What advice do you have for the participants today?
Make your cocktail personal. Your recipe has to always be for your consumers at the place where you make it and the ingredients have to be engaging. It’s not just about putting things together to make a good drink, it’s about the reason behind the use of the ingredients and how the flavours come together. Also, it is about making sure that the drink you make is suitable for the person sitting in front of your bar.
The bartender that scored the highest on the first challenge wins a trip down to Singapore to see the World Class Finals. This will give the winning bartender an added advantage as he/she will see how the Singapore bartenders perform and be ahead from others to get an idea of how the program works over there.
(From left: Charles Wright, Yin Ying Leow, Shirmy Chan, Kelvin Yung, Kim Choong and Lam Chi Mun)
The top three scorers for the World Class first Challenge are:
1st – Shirmy Chan, Omakase + Appreciate
2nd – Kelvin Yung, Marini’s on 57
3rd – Yinying Leow, Marini’s on 57
We will be updating the winners for each challenge here. At the same time, you can also find the participating bartenders’ profile and their recipes on the same page for the update.