Presented by Johnnie Walker
The 11th edition of Diageo Reserve’s annual WORLD CLASS competition has returned with the world’s best bartending talents ready to compete for the coveted ‘Bartender of the Year’ title. This year, entrants must submit serves around two themes that highlight their creativity, knowledge and technique. One of which reflects their ability in “Understanding Smoke” using the iconic Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker.
Smoke is the cocktail world’s most elusive flavour that infuses both visual and taste appeal, but it can also be incredibly difficult to master. Therein lies the challenge. This creative cocktail must include a minimum of 30ml of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky, match well and complement the smoke in the whisky with a pre-smoked ingredient.
Successful applicants from the first round submissions will compete in a four day cocktail competition from 4-7 July to be crowned the Hong Kong and Macau representative, before heading to Glasgow in Scotland for the World Class global final. But before they get there, we decided to explore (and sample) some of these World Class cocktails and meet the bartenders who created them.
Party in my Pantry
An ode to the kind of barbecue that brings people together, this smoky highball uses white oak-smoked whisky at its base before mixing in a peppery maple syrup for sweetness and an added touch of piquancy. It’s freshened up with a little lime before it’s topped with a homemade rose grapefruit soda to induce a hunger that will fire up any grill.
Inspired by the man behind the whisky, John Walker, this cocktail is all about standing tall against challenges, while remaining deeply rooted in your passions. This whisky is infused with black sesame to provide a roasted nutty flavour and earthy undertones. It is then mingled with carbonated coconut soda, coconut foam and a hint of smokiness from the toasty black sesame seeds.
The story behind this cocktail is one of China’s most well-known teas — Lapsang Souchong. A strong black tea from the Fujian province that gets its distinctive clean and smoky character from leaves that are traditionally smoked over pinewood. Here, the whisky is washed with the fat from anchovies and blended with a Lapsang Souchong tea infusion, topped with yuzu juice and soda to add balance and acidity to the drink.
Ace of Cups
Named after the tarot card, this cocktail’s reading indicates love, along with compassion and creativity. In the mix is a loving relationship between Johnnie Walker Black Label and the gin-based Pimm’s infused with Lapsang Souchong tea which drives a smoky flavour with a refreshingly herbaceous approach. Next, compassion goes towards a concentrated syrup, or Shrub, made with pepper, apple cider vinegar and sugar, topped up with the creative flavours of a spicy ginger ale and cool cucumber garnish.
Haze of Wisdom
The science behind this smoke is a homemade cherry brandy smoked with Chinese black tea. It is then added to the smoky notes of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky to evoke the charred characters of this cocktail. Thereafter, nutty elements including Frangelico, hazelnut syrup and a hazelnut brittle provide warm and sweet accents to this highball.
Heart Wood Collins
Calling upon the local way of enjoying Johnnie Walker Black Label, this cocktail uses the seemingly straightforward mix of whisky and tea. It also looks at the way timeworn methods of infusing liquids can add flavour. In this sense, a coconut and smoked Jasmine tea tincture is created through a series of processes such as smoking and sous vide. It is then added to whisky and topped with coconut soda. The result of which is a complex but softly aromatic highball served with a smoked tea towel for an added sensory experience.
Over The Sea
This cocktail is inspired by the literature of Marco Polo, in which he described his journey to Asia in a 13th-century travelogue. His discoveries along the silk road leads those who drink it through a journey of flavours. Whisky and a Lapsang Souchong vermouth mix together with a Gran Classico bitter, followed by a Salted Islay spray.
Drink on Fire
Influenced by her Burmese background, Aye uses a home-style charcoal-soaked honey and ginger syrup to bring a strong and smoky aroma to the cocktail. It’s blended with Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky and a zesty yuzu juice to bring together a balance of flavours. It is then finished with another sensory experience — a fragrantly flamed rosemary garnish.