Chivas Masters was the first competition I had ever entered. That was last year in Hong Kong. Joe Villanueva was the deserved winner that day and it showed me what competing in these prestigious challenges was all about.
I have been around competitions, have seen them and even helped out in a few. But I never actually competed. So to see how it went and how I faired gave me the desire to come back stronger the following year.
The global final destination is a great golden ticket – compete in the final in New York, stay at the iconic Nomad Hotel, followed by a few days at Tales of the Cocktail. Even if you don’t win in the global final, you felt like you had won anyway.
So, on to the competition and how I prepared myself.
Firstly, entering and finding out who you are up against is scary enough. Not to mention the challenge to create not one, but four cocktails! Crafting one drink takes a lot of effort and time. Four is a whole different story. The cocktails that you have to make come from four different eras: The Classic Age (1880-1920), The Post-War Boom (1945-1965), The Disco Years (1975-1990) and The Age of Revivalism (Modern Day).
Trying to emulate and create new drinks from such significant eras was quite a challenge but something I really enjoyed. As part of my preparation, I started reading about those time periods, what made them so important and not just focusing on the age’s drinking culture but the history itself.
For each cocktail, I focused on particular points in time and tried to produce those moments within the drink. Bringing one example of history in a glass wasn’t easy. I was at work two to three hours earlier and out two to three hours later. On my days off, I was at a coffee shop, sitting in a corner researching the history of each era and how my thoughts and ideas would fit into those time periods.
Preparing for the next round – the Global Final in New York – is going to be my most challenging yet as the majority is going to be a surprise. We obviously take our drinks with us and present them during the final. All I can do on that front is fine-tune my drinks as much as I can and ensure I get my thoughts and ideas across on that day.
Lastly, I will be working, reading and practising all the techniques, food pairings and other aspects or surprises that could come my way. Either way, it’s going to be an amazing experience. Hopefully, I can bring the crown back to Hong Kong!
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