A Lesson in Understanding Smoke

Danish top three for World Class 2019 announced

World Class is a very well known term for everyone in the cocktail industry. A competition that focuses on the most renowned skills in bartending – knowledge, craft, presentation and dexterous skill.  Every year the announcement of local rounds is expected with great anticipation. For this year’s entry challenge, the Danish aspirants were invited to create a highball or cocktail on Johnnie Walker blended Scotch whiskey that required the use of a homemade pre-smoked ingredient, showcasing their understanding of smoke as a flavour — a key component of scotch whisky’s profile.

Nine selected bartenders made it to Danish finals at Lidkoeb. They were greeted with 10 blind tasting glasses with various stirred classic cocktails. This was to be their first test. Half an hour of focused tasting of cocktails most bartenders love to make, but rarely get the chance to, started up the competitors’ tastebuds at high speed.

“The blind tasting was very nice but also difficult. There were some unexpected twists on classics that made it tricky and very interesting.”
– Hardeep Singh Rehal, Blume, Contestant

A short break gave the competitors time to decompress and reset, ready for their individual presentations. One after one, the competitors took the stage, each one presenting new inspiring ideas reinventing and enhancing the highball category.

“Highballs are rising in popularity because they are simple, refreshing and everyone can enjoy them.”
– Jonas Junge, Dæl (Oslo), Judge

Each contestant shared new and highly personal stories about both the whisky and their creative use of the smoking process. And there was a lot to talk about. We saw everything from clarified Johnnie Walker Black Label by Christian Tang of Kyros & Co. to the use of traditional eastern-European kvass by Hardeep Singh Rehal from Blume. Everyone tried to showcase their heritage, be it coming from a different country or doing something typical for their bar. Memories of family trips to remote Swedish forests with Strøm’s Roy Atarodi or riding a tractor in Fyn fields with Rasmus Greve Christiansen of Visit in Odense.

“Coming from the restaurant industry, I was very focused not only on the balance of the drink and the creative expressions of smoke but also on the presentation. Clean glassware and the way in which a bartender is handling their tools is often overlooked but massively important.”
– Thanos Feskos, Geranium, Judge

All the drinks showed incredible complexity, especially considering the innate simplicity of cocktails prepared for competition, to be served in a time limit. This year’s qualification round pushed not only the competitors but also the bystanders and the judges as they tasted the drinks.

“We carefully selected the judging panel to both display the bartending expertise with Mate Csatlos and Jonas Junge who both appeared at the Global World Class Finals in recent years, and Thanos Feskos from Geranium, who perfectly understands the culinary side of things. All of these guys are closely connected with the local scene but also stand a bit on the side which allows them to have a greater overview and objectivity.”
– René Hedeland Larsen, Diageo Reserve Brands, Host

But in the end, only the top three qualified for a trip to the Netherlands. The most excellent performance both on stage and in the tasting room was from Martin Žikavský (Curfew), Alexander Remoundos (Ruby), and Tina Rovåger (Duck and Cover). We will bring you the winning recipes in a follow-up article so you can stay in touch with the winners as they prepare for the regional final in the first week of July.

In the meantime, remind yourself of what happened at Clairin World Championship or check out our latest bar visit to Paloma. May day-drinking be the tune of your week. Cheers! And don’t forget you can always find us on Facebook and Instagram. Pictures by Dennis Larsen and Alexandru Barbu.

Author image
Jiri Malis
Pretending to be a flamboyant aficionado behind the bar during the weekend, pretentiously scribbling about cocktails the rest of the week. Is your cocktail not good enough? Add more port wine!