Reality TV shows excite me more than sitcoms and soap operas!
They’re far more thrilling, have real people (not actors) on set and the tension is palpable. I love the fact that they’ve all put in blood, sweat and tears to be chosen among the best of the best – and will be battling it out to top each other. The little mistakes that contestants make have me apprehensively biting my nails, the stone-faced judges have me wondering what’s going on in their heads and when a contestant I’m rooting for gets through to the next round, I feel the joy!
Yeah… SO much better than ordinary TV!
And guess what! I just got the chance to witness it all first-hand at the Diageo Reserve World Class India finals!
World Class is an internationally recognized competition by Diageo, the British MNC alcohol beverage company. The contest elevates the craft of the bartending industry and builds careers as well as transforms the cocktail culture around the world. World Class India, now in its 9th season picked 12 of India’s best mixologists from a batch of 303! The Top 12 were picked after a gruelling 6 months of written tests, practical rounds and mini competitions.
At the St. Regis Hotel, Mumbai on 6th of June 2017, these 12 were put through three rounds and were judged by Donald Colville (Diageo Global Scotch Ambassador), Nicholas Ord (Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador) and Nikhil Agarwal (Sommelier and CEO, All Things Nice). The mixologists were challenged through three rounds – Blind Tasting, the Speed Round and the Mystery Box Challenge.
In the first challenge, the bartenders had to create two cocktails, one with the theme ‘Al Fresco’ and the second themed ‘After Dark.’ Kevin Diaz, mixologist at Hakkasan Mumbai stood out with a presence that filled the room and a booming voice that grabbed everyone’s attention. Jitender Singh Rana from Perch in Delhi, was also a crowd favourite, especially since he was the winner of World Class India 2016 and represented India in the World Class Global Championship in Miami, putting India on the map by securing a spot as the runner up!
Niked KR from the Leela Palace Delhi unfortunately had his nerves come in the way and one could see him sweat throughout the round. The youngest mixologist of the lot, Vedant Mehra from the Bootlegger in Bangalore was impressive as well! In case you haven’t seen my video of Dilbar Singh Rawat from Taj Palace Delhi shake his cocktail up to perfection, check out my Instagram page!
To tell you the truth, I was rooting for Devi Singh Bhati! The sole Goan lad at the competition is the mixologist at Swing in Goa and stood out with his fun mix of creativity, colour and charm. We Goans have to stick together, right?
The Top 6 were chosen and moved on to Round 2 – the Speed Round where they had to create the most number of cocktails in 5 minutes! While Devi made it through, he faltered here with only 5 cocktails where mixologists like Arnold Hou from St. Regis Mumbai and a couple of others managed 8. What was interesting about Arnold was that he found out he had made it to the Top 12 when he was on a trip to Africa. He then curated ingredients from the subcontinent to mix into his drinks, setting him apart in a whole new way!
Everyone from the Top 6 displayed incredible mastery and had us hooked to the swiftness of their hands and smooth talking throughout, even under high pressure and an insanely tight timeline. If you’re wondering what sets cocktails apart when they all have the same alcohol at their disposal, it is the fact that they’re always on the lookout for new ingredients. In fact, most of them had a homemade concoction of their own added into their drinks.
It was here in Round 2 that Rohan Rege from JW Marriott Pune edged forward, and what surprised me was that even though he forgot to add a crucial ingredient, in front of a hundred pairs of eyes, he opened his shaker, added it and got on with his cocktail. What a bold move, since his drink surpassed 3 contestants and he made it to the Top 3!
Next, the mystery box! Contestants were given a box of ingredients and had to create two cocktails from the ingredients given, plus one of their own with whatever ingredients they wished to use. They had 12 minutes to complete the task and again, Rohan Rege leapt forward with unparalleled skill and unmatched passion, stirring up cocktails that blew the judges away! He was conferred the title of the India Bartender of the Year 2017 and will now represent India in Mexico for the Grand Finale!
The level of skill was consistent across all competitors and each one had exceptional technique, creativity, hosting skills, brand and industry knowledge and presentation. It was amazing to watch them push the boundaries of their knowledge and raise the bar higher.
I’m sure I speak for everyone who was present at the event when I say that I can’t wait to see what Rohan brings to the biggest and most prestigious bartending competition finale in August!
Hope you enjoyed this post! Cya soon!