Although he didn’t make it to the final 6, Belgian bartender Jurgen Nobels managed to successfully impress the jury of the Diageo World Class Global Finals on several occasions with his excellent drinks, unbridled creativity and amazing speed. It heralds the start of a busy, but interesting year for Jurgen.
Diego World Class is the most prestigious cocktail competition in the world. To be elected and join the 54 best bartenders in the world 2015 is quite an honour. This year the battle of the best was held in South Africa, where the 54 competitors would undergo 5 challenges. One of them is the speed challenge.
If I remember correctly the objective is to make at least 8 cocktails in just 10 minutes. If this already seems daunting to you -and it should – it gets a bit more complicated than that. For starters you can’t just make 8 Gin Tonics and call it a day. (People will laugh and throw strainers at your face)
You want to make 8 totally different cocktails using as many different techniques as you can (shaken, stirred, built, swizzled, maybe even thrown). Furthermore, these cocktails need to taste better than good (duh!) and last, but not least you have to make a decent presentation too.
You can’t just say: “And now I’ll be making a rum Old Fashioned…it has rum, syrup and bitters in it, exciting isn’t it!” It isn’t! The room is filled with bartenders and you’re judged by four cocktail demigods, they know what a rum Old Fashioned is. Chances are even the camera man knows what an Old Fashioned is. (so people won’t like it and stab you with swizzle sticks)
You’re goal is to entertain and impress the jury and this should reflect in your presentation (often centred around sprezzatura). So in fact there’s a huge pressure on you. When the most basic of all cocktail competitions would be ‘to make a good drink’, this challenge requires you to do that 8 times in just 10 minutes. As you can see it is considered the most dreaded of all challenges in World Class.
Jurgen didn’t make 8 drinks… he made 10. Including a Ketel One Bloody Mary with…goatmilk, which he affectionately called the ‘Bloody Mèèèèry‘. In fact this drink impressed the jury so much that Julie Reiner – herself not a big fan of Bloody Marys – immediately asked for the recipe! 10 fantastic drinks in 10 minutes with a fantastic presentation earned him the award of “Best Competitor – Speed Challenge“.
So he didn’t make it to the final 6 candidates, but he can return home proudly, holding a prestigious award in his hands. When asked what will come next he immediately replied “a couple of weeks of rest & recreation with family and friends are on top of the bill now and then it’s back to Uncle Babe’s (a famous Burger Bar in Ghent)!”
Enjoy your well deserved rest Jurgen! I can foresee hordes of curious customers storming Uncle Babe’s to get a good look at you, so you will certainly be able to put your speed talents to good use!
P.S. Also congrats to Tess Posthumus from The Netherlands who made it 7th best in the world! And of course Michito Kaneko from Japan who can call himself best World Class Bartender of the Year 2015!