São Paulo: Jacob Martin of Canada won the Diageo World Class Global Bartender of the Year 2023 title on Thursday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Martin created 10 classic cocktails in six minutes to win one of the most prestigious bartending challenges in the industry. India’s Aashie Bhatnagar, who was one of the 12 finalists, won the People’s Choice Award.
Twelve contestants from across the world participated in a challenge that tested speed, skill, hospitality, creativity, craft, knowledge and style. The 12 finalists were picked from a longlist of 54 after two days of intense contests. Among the 20 judges were Minakshi Singh, co-founder of Sidecar in Delhi, Erik Lorincz, co-owner of Kwant in London, and former World Class winners Bannie Kang and Adrian Michalcik. “I can tell you from experience that the biggest benefit of being a finalist is the exposure you get to the wider world,” the 2022 winner Michalcik, who is from the Czech Republic and now works in Oslo, told Lounge.
The 12 finalists had to prepare eight rum caipirinhas, which was a test of consistency and balance of flavours, one cocktail from a mystery box of ingredients that evaluated their creativity and innovation, and finally one perfect martini to showcase taste and their bartending skills.
Over the course of previous three days, the 54 contestants, who had won the nationals in their respective countries, participated in six timed challenges to create drinks with vodka, whiskey, gin and tequila. Each challenge was premised on a theme—either a lighthearted one like ‘disco’ or subjects such as sustainability that made the bartenders think about the community in which they work. Bhatnagar, a bartender at Cobbler & Crew in Pune, had infused her drinks with flavours as wide-ranging as beetroot, banta soda, jasmine tea and vetiver, while recreating the feel of her bar on stage as well as leading the crowd through a few steps of 1980s-style Bollywood disco.
Martin from Toronto’s Bar Banane, who won the title, kept his focus on flavours and techniques in the initial challenges, with a clear storytelling to explain how his drinks are inspired, while the final was all about speed and precision.
The writer was in Sao Paulo at the invitation of Diageo World Class Global Finals.