After an intense two round preselection we finally selected 10 contestants who will compete against each other for the title of Best Belgian Bartender and only one of them will win a ticket to the World Finals of the most prestigious cocktail competition in the world which will take place in South Africa. Your's truly was elected judge and here's a short introduction to the Belgian candidates. Photographs by The Cocktail Nation.
Judging is not easy. It’s not all fun and games. After about 5 weeks of in bar judging, we finally were able to make a selection of 10 bartenders who will compete in the Belgian Final of Diageo World Class 2015. The prize is a chance to compete against some 50 other countries and become one of World’s best bartenders. Last year this honour was bestowed upon Charles Joly from Chicago. Maybe this year it will be a Belgian bartender, who knows?
First, however, we have to find out whom we’re going to send to the Global Finals. And this will be decided on the 1st of June 2015 at the Belgian Finals. Venue for this incredible event is the impressive Vaudeville Theatre in Brussels. If you would love to be there and see the whole thing live, please register your attendance at the following website: www.worldclasscompetition.be
And now, without further ado, our beloved candidates…
10. Alexis Mosselman – Odette En Ville, Brussels
A relative newbie to the competition who positively surprised us with lots of creative energy and enthusiasm. He created his own vermouth for this cocktail and threw in an entire bbq, some boomerangs and the unavoidable straw hats…some swear to have seen a kangaroo hopping past the window during his presentation. Honestly, I can not wait to see his presentation on the finals.
9. Maurice Vroonen – Casbar, Sint Truiden
Upcoming cocktail talent Maurice Vroonen decided to ‘Tikify’ Napoleon. Once we got our head wrapped around that concept we feared a second Waterloo, but that just didn’t happen and somehow he pulled it off. A surprisingly balanced and tasteful creation: “Vive l’empereur!”
8. Didier Van den Broeck – Dogma, Antwerp
This man is a drinks wizard and Dogma is a Cocktail Nation’s favourite. He turned a crappy vacation drink into something that should be guarded by beautiful mermaids or the Kraken himself, using vodka infused with a fat-wash of peanuts and his own memoires as an inspiration. This man is the alchemical jedi of mixing drinks.
7. Jim Geurts – Triple J, Bilzen
Everybody loves Jim, it’s a huge teddybear with a ‘huggability‘ factor of 11 out of 10. He mixed Michelangelo and Gaz Regan into a jaw dropping array of Negronis. Absolutely stunning, Triple J really can make your day! By the way, one of Jim’s Negroni recipes was just published in Gary Regan’s book: “Negroni”.
6. Bassche Didden – Dogma, Antwerp
Bassche made a drink inspired by “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, so he created a handcuffed pineapple grenade that delivered a flavour explosion. This is the second Dogma bartender in the Belgian finals, do you realise now why you should visit that bar when you’re in Antwerp? Please do and be mesmerised !
5. Naushad Rahamat – Cocktails@NINE, Antwerp
Naushad created a literal treasure of a drink with Zacapa rum and chocolate cigars. The gentleman’s experience in a drink! This bartender has ‘world class’ written all over him.
4. Dries Botty – Josephines, Antwerp
This man is a World Class veteran and knows what a jury wants, so Dries opened up a rabbit hole and propelled us into Alice’s well known Wonderland with a Tanqueray 10, syrup made from carrots and grapefruit soda drink.
3. Hannes Desmedt – Hertog Jan ***, Bruges
Hannes, best sherry sommelier in the world, decided that cocktails are the next challenge and delivers brilliantly. This man blew us away with a tequila sour inspired by The Perfume and made with ice cubes created with Spa Reine water. An extraordinary experience of flavour and aroma. Remember this man’s name!
2. Jurgen Nobels – Old Fashioned, Ghent
This man is passionate, humble and f***ing awesome at what he does! He mixes a wicked drink wherever he is, no matter the circumstances. A true disciple of the art. Hospitality, creativity, passion and skillset define him. We’re a fan, did you notice?
1. Ran Van Ongevalle – The Pharmacy, Knokke
Ran is the brother of last year’s famous finalist Hannah Van Ongevalle and he surely keeps the family’s reputation on par! This guy is miracle wonder kid in Belgium’s cocktail world and keeps on delivering wonderful drinks. We expect an amazing presentation by him on the finals and you should rank him amongst your favourites. Foraging the dunes on the Belgian coast side he created an unreal drink and earned his place among the top finalists for the Belgian finals.
That’s it and if you are as curious as I am, I’ll be seeing you at the Belgian finals on the 1st of June in the Brussel’s Vaudeville Theatre!