Touring around the world to find the Perfect Host, the Beefeater 24 competition has seen finalists from as far afield as Serbia, France, Austria, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada. By the time the grand final takes place at the Beefeater distillery in London in December, brand ambassadors Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge and Tim Stones will have visited 14 countries in all. We spoke to Sebastian about his whirlwind trip around the globe and the many cocktails he has tasted.
Where have you been so far? I’ve judged eight up to now. The Nordic final for Denmark and Sweden in Stockholm, the Serbian final in Belgrade, Vienna in Austria, Berlin, Paris, Prague, London and in two weeks’ time I’ll be in Belgium. Tim went off to Australia, Italy and he has Canada and Greece still to come.
What criteria are you judging by?
The rules are simple: the main spirit must be Beefeater 24; the cocktail must involve tea; and the presentation shouldn’t go too much over six minutes. We started with several hundred recipe submissions from around the world so the ones that made it to their finals are already winners, if you like.
Why the search for the Perfect Host? It’s not just a drinks competition. We’re looking for someone who can emphasise everything else around the drink, what it means to be a host and bartender on the global stage. At each national final we are looking for someone who can step up to the global competition. After making a great drink it’s narrowed down by how they understand the Beefeater story, their influences, and how they articulate their understanding of Beefeater 24.
How high has the bar been set? It’s all been of an incredibly high standard. The effort that people put in is quite humbling. In one final a bartender produced three handmade boxes that were lined with gin botanicals in which the glass was placed, so the aromas from box added to the experience – and he didn’t even win. I think so far it has been fantastic and you have to remember that many of these bartenders are presenting in their second language.
In what ways has tea been incorporated? We’ve seen it in three different ways: as an infusion in the gin; as a lengthening agent; and some turned the tea into a syrup – and then there have been combinations as well.
What trends are you seeing come through? The trends are very different, there is a real wide spectrum of styles of drinks across the world, but generally speaking those that have been very brave and kept the drink simple have done well. I think trends are much more subtle than they used to be because there are that many good bars and bartenders so you don’t get sweeping trends like you used to see.
Are there notable differences between countries? No, it’s been really mixed and I think that’s because the communities are sharing much more nowadays, I get the feeling that people are talking a lot and standards of bartending are improving rapidly. Of course in places like London there is a bigger depth of talent, the same in Berlin which has a very mature market and Paris had a phenomenal final but there have been very good drinks everywhere we went. You can see the knowledge is out there. It took me 10-12 years to learn about cocktails but people can now absorb this information very, very quickly with the help of brand ambassadors and global networking. Europe has really pushed forward in the last few years.
What can we expect at the Grand Final? We’ll get to see all our winners again, recreating their winning drink, but there will be a number of different challenges and we’ll judge what is presented on the day. This is the second year for our global competition and considering how successful last year’s was I know it will be just as good this year, if not better.
The Bartending News Flash Team
source: diffordsguide CLASS Magazine