In general, cocktail bartenders aren’t the easiest people to work with (just ask the next cocktail bartender you meet). Maybe it’s the hours of sweat and stress they put in on a daily basis to make the drinking experience of dozens of patrons enjoyable or perhaps it’s how some obsess over the finest details of the cocktails they craft that make for individuals with an almost ridiculous standard of work ethic who don’t have the time to deal with anybody else’s bulls**t.
That’s why watching a team of skilled young barkeeps band together for a common goal is a thing of beauty. And that’s what we saw with the four finalists from Team Singapore at the Diageo Reserve World Class SEA Finals 2015, held earlier this month in Bangkok, Thailand. Boo Jing Heng (Jigger and Pony), Steve Leong (TESS Bar), Yugnes Susela (Tippling Club) and Sam Wong (Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall) went shaker to shaker against 24 other finalists (four from each of the six other countries in the region) to garner the highest combined score in the competition to take home the Team Challenge trophy for the second year running. Participants competed in four diverse challenges that ranged from creating classic cocktails with a twist, building a unique Blood Mary, prepping libations for different occasions as well as a speed challenge that pushed competitors to serve up eight balanced cocktails in less than eight minutes. Things got pretty intense but fortunately there were some great spirits from Diageo Reserve’s extensive portfolio were easily available to calm any finicky nerves.
But winning the Team Challenge trophy wasn’t the thing that would put a smile on a Singaporeans’ face— Sam Wong won the Occasion Challenge with his cocktails inspired by the evolution of kopi culture created with Johnnie Walker Gold Label and Boo Jing Heng took home the Rising Star Award for his outstanding skills behind the bar. On top of that, Steve Leong not only took home the title of Winner, World Class Singapore 2015, giving him the chance to represent the country in the World Class Global Finals (happening in South Africa this September), he also won the South East Asia World Class Bartender of the Year 2015 alongside Shawn Chong of Omakase + Appreciate (Malaysia). Steve also won the unofficial “Still (Barely) Standing at the End of the After Party Award”, which I personally feel was an even more impressive accolade (though no trophy was given out and most others wouldn’t have been standing themselves to remember).
The Diageo Reserve World Class Global Bartending Competition has come a long way since its inception six years ago showcasing some of the best talents in cocktail craft from around the world. With the launch of the SEA Final in 2014, regional bartenders are now given the added opportunity to experience and learn from the cocktail culture in countries located just a few hour’s flight away. Plus everyone gets a chance to enjoy the festivities during competition week including numerous pop-ups and guest shifts by some outstanding bartenders from around the world (though we’re not sure bartenders need another reason to party hard).
Congratulations once again to Steve Leong and Team Singapore for the all the silverware they brought home. And to all the finalists representing their respective countries at the Global Finals in South Africa, the very best of luck!
For more information visit Diageo.