What Do World Class Cocktailians Drink?

Jeff Bell and David Rios by Caroline on Crack
Jeff Bell and David Rios by Caroline on Crack

U.S. Bartender of the Year Jeff Bell and World Class Global Winner David Rios

Earlier this week U.S. Bartender of the Year Jeff Bell and World Class Global Winner David Rios of Spain did a private happy hour at Honeycut downtown to promote the launch of Travel Channel’s “World’s Best Bartender.” I had the chance to ask Jeff for tips on how to throw a stress-free holiday cocktail party, which I posted on LA Mag’s Digest blog, but during the course of our chat he clued me in on how he won the U.S. title and the Global “Against the Clock” challenge where he had to make eight cocktails in 10 minutes. It’s so simple it’s genius.

He basically made the judges what they liked to drink. That’s right, he actually researched what was their ultimate favorite cocktail. He also did it for the World Class global round which took place this past July.

This basic tenet of hospitality wasn’t something one would think to apply to a competition. But considering it’s what good bartenders do–“bartenders shouldn’t serve what they want to serve them, they should serve people what they want to drink or what is fitting for them to drink”–Jeff thought, “Why not?” So he researched the judges, which was easy since each are so Google-able.  “If I couldn’t find their exact favorite drink I found their preferences to fit their needs. None of the other competitors did that in the U.S. or global final.”

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share what he made for each judge because what is it that people who drink for a living like? Especially these world class cocktailians?

Salvatore Calabrese, London’s Playboy Club: “Duke’s Martini, it’s his favorite cocktail.”

Peter Dorelli, “Godfather of British barmen”: “He’s Italian so I made him the Romeo y Julieta, aged rum with Campari and Carpano. He’s into classics and that drink isn’t too far from a classic so I thought it’d be safe.”

Hidetsugu Ueno, Tokyo’s Bar High Five: “He’s famous for his White Lady cocktail so I found out the specs he uses in that cocktail at his bar and I made it that exact way for him.”

Aristotelis Papadopoulos, World Class Bartender of the Year 2009: “He has a company called Soul Shaker Bitters so I made him a crisp, refreshing drink with his bitters. Ketel One, Aperol, muddle cucumber, lemon twist and his Lemon Meyer bitters.”

Steve Olson, AKA Wine Geek: “He’s a big tequila and sherry fan, so I made him a Manhattan-style cocktail with Don Julio, sherry and a little bit of Grand Marnier.”

Julie Reiner, Clover Club: “She is famous for her Kentucky Derby parties in New York so I made her a Mint Julep with Bulleit Bourbon.”

Gaz Regan: “He is famous for his finger-stirred Negronis so I didn’t make him a Negroni because everyone wants to make him a Negroni so I made sure I didn’t do that. Because it’s also about expectations. He does this thing where he stirs them with his finger and I wouldn’t do that so I bought a plastic finger from a joke store and I pulled it out of a pocket in my apron and I stirred it with that. So I had fun with these judges as I was making these drinks.”

Arturo Savage: “He is Johnnie Walker’s South American ambassador and I made him a flip Johnnie Walker Blue Label, sherry, egg and nutmeg.”

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