TIPS FROM THE BEST BARTENDERS IN THE WORLD
Next month the world’s best bartenders will arrive in Mexico to compete for the title of WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year. So what does it take to be the best in the world? We caught up with last year’s winner, Jennifer Le Nechet as well as finalists, Nick Wu and Andrew S. Meltzer to find out their top tips and signature serves.
Jennifer Le Nechet, World Class Bartender of the Year 2016
Works: Café Moderne, Paris
Time in the industry: 5 years
My tip for anyone aspiring to be a top bartender is to be yourself, don’t try and imitate somebody else.
To me, what makes a good member of the bar staff is someone who has a good mood, motivation, creativity and listens to the customer.
I get inspiration for my serves from lots of places—movies, music, books, video games as well as traveling. I'm a big fan of retro-futurism, post-apocalyptic world where people need to survive with very little. That’s why for the final bar pop-up challenge at the WORLD CLASS Global Final I chose the steampunk theme.
To make a great signature serve you need to reflect your personality in your cocktail and bring the customer into your own world.
The cocktail serve that represents me is the El Taco Rojo.
During the World Class global final, I created a cocktail called El Taco Rojo inspired by Mexican tacos.
A few years ago I lived in Spain for a year and I studied Latino civilization, so I'm pretty familiar with their culture.
I infused the wonderful Don Julio Blanco with grilled corn in a sous-vide machine at a low temperature to extract the taste of the corn and keep the brightness and ABV from the Don Julio. I've made a red bell pepper shrub and a homemade soda with herbs and spices for this cocktail. To finish you have to cover the rim of the glass with salt and spices.
I served my cocktail in an artisanal tacos mug made by a Parisian artist especially for the occasion.
El Taco Rojo
- 2 oz. DON JULIO Tequila infused with grilled corn
- .75 oz. red bell pepper shrub
- 2 oz. homemade soda
Rim glasses with salt and spices.
Combine all ingredients together and shake.
Pour into glasses.
Nick Wu, World Class 2016 Finalist
Works: East End Bar, Taipei, Taiwan
Time in the industry: 15 years
I started my career early and I majored in food and beverages in high school. It was at that time that I chose to attend the school flair bartending club. I took part-time jobs at hotels after school, and when I wasn’t working, I was practicing my flair moves.
The best career advice I was given was by Mr. Hidetsugu Ueno. He told me that as long as you continue to work hard, in time, everything will come. It might come a little late, so be patient. Also for this reason, we must work steadily every step of the way, and cherish every chance we get.
To make a great signature serve you need to remember these 4 points:
No matter what form or flavor, a cocktail must, first and foremost, be “balanced.”
Next, something in the process of making the cocktail must attract the guest’s attention, prompting him/her to order.
Something must make the guest want the drink just by looking at the picture on the menu, be it bespoke, pretty or luxurious glassware, the color of the cocktail or the garnish.
How you use word-magic to describe the special ingredient(s) or method you used can really spark the imagination.
The cocktail serve that represents me is Envy Me
I have always wanted to make cocktails with an Eastern vibe, and to open people’s eyes (and taste buds) to flavors or ingredients that are rarely used. I also want my cocktail to have distinctly different beginning, middle, and end notes. The first thing you will taste is the refreshing juniper and citrus of Tanqueray No. TEN, then comes the texture of the body and tea aromas. In the end, there is the grassy fragrance of this particular breed of green soy bean and the elegant, lingering flavor of taro. The color and presentation are both unusual in cocktails so far.
- 2 oz. TANQUERAY NO. TEN Gin
- .5 oz. homemade Oolong Tea Liqueur or Green Tea Liqueur
- .25 oz. Amber Vermouth
- .75 homemade green soy bean syrup
- .5 oz. lime juice
- .75 egg white
Add all ingredients to a shaker, then shake with ice and strain.
Pour into a coupe glass.
Garnish with a green soy bean.
*Instead of using green soy beans in its original form, I make the green soy beans into a syrup, so the cocktail is easier to make and it can keep longer.
Andrew S. Meltzer, World Class Finalist 2016
Works: 15 Romolo, San Francisco, USA
Time in the industry: 9 years
I started bartending at an Atlanta pizzeria where I fell in love with Beer, then Wine, then making simple drinks as best I could. I was finally taken to a proper cocktail bar where I was awestruck by the attention to detail, balanced cocktails, and modern techniques. When I joined the United States Bartenders Guild and moved to San Francisco in 2012, my focus was solely to work in the craft cocktail scene.
The biggest thing I have learned from my career so far is that knowledge is endless. Even the best bartenders, chefs and artists in the world are constantly learning new things. It can be exhausting, but you’ve got to stay ahead of the game.
The most important skill a bartender can have is the ability to put out fires. Not one day will pass without a small problem or two coming up, which is okay. Problems will happen. A great bartender (or server) will make it look like nothing is wrong. If you can listen to your guests, predict their needs, and act effortlessly, even the busiest, craziest service will look like a well-rehearsed production to your guests.
My top tip is to use every opportunity you can to look up and make eye contact with your guests. Never ignore a guest, no matter how busy you are. Always smile.
The cocktail serve that represents me is Queen Anne’s Lace.
Queen Anne’s Lace is a great representation of my own style, which is heavily influenced by San Francisco. I moved to San Francisco about 5 years ago to find artistic inspiration; I wanted to befriend all of the artists, foodies and street characters that the city is famous for. The Queen Anne’s Lace is a daring step away from the Bloody Mary, just as San Francisco is the home of many risk-takers. This cocktail is loud and colorful, relies on local produce, and is perfect when paired with food (it won me 1st place in the Food Pairing Challenge at World Class US). Ultimately, this drink is more of a tribute to the City than it is to me.
Queen Anne’s Lace
- 1.5 oz. SMIRNOFF No. 21 Vodka
- .75 oz. fresh carrot juice
- .25 oz. frsh lemon juice
- .25 oz. thyme syrup (simple syrup cooked briefly with thyme sprigs)
- .25 oz. Elderflower Liqueur
Combine all ingredients in a mixing shaker with ice.
Fine strain into a chilled Irish coffee glass.
Garnish with a sprig of thyme, fennel, or small edible flowers.
(*One standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol)