The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49

ISSUE 49

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ByThe Cocktail Lovers

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With just over nine weeks to go until the World Class Global Finals in Shanghai, we caught up with World Class GB winner Danilo Frigulti from Viajante87 in London to spell out the key moments of his World Class journey to date…

W is for winning…

What did winning World Class GB mean to you? 

I entered World Class for the first time last year and consequently, winning has been my goal for the past two years. I believe that the work, organisation and care that the World Class team and Diageo as a brand put into the competition is very unique. The way they support you and are always there for you; the way that World Class is organised – for me, there’s no cocktail competition like it. 

O is for organisation…

How did you prepare for the competition and how do you balance that preparation time with your full time work and personal life? 

That’s a very good question! When a big deadline like World Class Top 20 is coming up, I like to give myself permission not to think about it for a certain amount of time. Instead, I’ll get on with my life – making sure I have time to relax, enjoy myself and spend time with my family and girlfriend. Then I set a date where I’m fully focused on work and World Class. I’m very lucky as we have a very nice lab at Viajante87 [the bar where he works] which allows me to do both things: service and prep and everything I need to do for the competition.

That said, I really like to be on point with everything when it comes to competitions but in my personal life, I don’t like making plans.

Danilo mixing up his recipes on day one of the World Class GB finals

R is for recipes… 

Which of your Top 20 cocktail recipes were you proudest of and why? 

Probably my drinks for the Walker of the World Challenge. For this we had to create two different drinks: one with Johnnie Walker Blue Label, the other with Johnnie Walker Black Label and they had to be inspired by a country that we were assigned. I was given Greece which was very lucky, because I’ve been there a number of times. 

I expected everyone would do some kind of Highball with Johnnie Walker Black and an old fashioned-style cocktail for Johnnie Walker Blue. So I was like, ‘what can I do to be different?’ That’s why I decided to make a wine with Johnnie Walker Black and a shaken cocktail with Johnnie Walker Blue. I was really proud of both of my drinks – particularly the Johnnie Walker Blue Label one as, in my research, I read that Diageo really want Johnnie Walker Blue Label to be enjoyed in other ways than just neat or in an old fashioned. So that really inspired me.

L is for lessons or learnings… 

What did you learn from not winning last year and how did you work on it this year? 

The biggest lesson I learned from last year was that I needed to brush up on my storytelling. Even if I look back to my presentation for the Top 100 last year to how it evolved for the GB final in Edinburgh, I made progress but going forward, I knew I needed to do more.

I had very good mentors teaching me the art of storytelling but Giorgio Bargiani from the Connaught Bar was probably the one who helped me most. I’d seen him speaking at the Lisbon Bar Show and I was so impressed by the way he spoke, the way he engaged the audience that when we were back in London, I asked him if he would give me some advice. Luckily, he agreed. We had a little programme together where he taught me how to expose my feelings, how to stand, dress – everything about the importance of storytelling. He really was incredible and I can’t thank him enough. Now I can talk in front of anyone and be much more confident than I was two years ago.

Pure focus

D is for determination…

What does it take for you to come back the second year? 

I participated again because I believed that I could progress as a bartender and a person even more by competing another year – the skills that you develop while participating in this competition are so unique. Of course I wanted to win, but for me, it’s more than that: World Class teaches you to step outside the comfort zone you have when you’re in your bar, when you participate in this competition you go through challenges that you might not be confident in but they help you to become a more competent, more confident, 360-degree bartender. You also learn from the other bartenders as well.

C is camaraderie… 

We’ve seen some amazing friendships blossom through World Class GB, most notably the one between yourself and Lele Mensah. How important is camaraderie in the overall competition?

Camaraderie is a big part of World Class. We’re all going through the same pressure, the same stress and there is so much going on, everyone just supports everyone.

For me and Lele, we knew each other as bartenders – he’d been to my bar, I’d been to his but our friendship really started during World Class GB last year. It was when we’d got to the Top 50, we spent time really getting to know each other. After the final we made a pact that we were going to participate again this year and one of us was going to win. We’ve stayed in contact, met for drinks several times and developed a real friendship. If Lele was going to win, I was going to win and if I was going to win, Lele was going to win. We were a one person kind of vibe.

I think that’s a unique thing about World Class. In other competitions, everyone is against each other, but in World Class, if I can give you a hand, if I can do something for you, I will. An example of that was the night before the Mystery Box challenge. Me and Lele sat in my room creating a menu of 12 cocktails for the challenge and at the same time, we were on the phone with [fellow competitor] Katie [Rouse] brainstorming on what she could do. We could have each sat on our own, thinking about ourselves and our drinks but instead we were all planning how we could help each other and share ideas. That sums up World Class to me.

L is for legacy… 

So now we’re approaching the global final what do you want your legacy to be?

This is the global final of the most important cocktail competition in the world and what I want to do is enjoy the process. I don’t have the brief yet so I don’t know what I’m planning for my drinks but I do think I’ll be approaching it very differently to the way I approached the GB final. 

The main thing is, I’m so excited to get to work, I can’t wait to meet all the participants and learn about their cultures; it’s going to be an amazing learning process. And of course, I can’t wait to show everyone around the world what GB’s bartenders are capable of. 

Friendships formed and celebrated at World Class GB

A is for attitude…

What sort of attitude do you think you need to be part of World Class? 

I would say that you need to have a sense of camaraderie, that sense of community we were talking about before. It’s really important to get to know your fellow competitors – you can’t just close yourself off and focus on the competition – you’ve got to talk to the other participants, have a laugh, get to know the judges, get to know everything around you. I would say the right attitude to approach World Class is literally being open to anything that comes your way and most importantly, enjoying the process.

S is for speed round…

Danilo nailing the speed round

You absolutely nailed the speed round during the World GB finals. How did you approach it?

That was a very fun one and one I was really looking forward to. I’m quite fast as a bartender, but thanks to my training at the Nomad hotel in London, I’ve learned to be fast while being consistent. 

I didn’t practice before the final because we do a speed challenge every day at Viajante. It’s a challenge to make the best experience for our guests in the shortest amount of time. Mind you, it’s one thing doing that in front of a few people but in front of 300 people was very different. So I created a bubble for myself on the stage, I didn’t look at my friends, colleagues and the guests in the audience – it was quite the party! In that moment, it was just me, my four drinks and my station. That’s how I managed to get through it.

And the other S, S is for Shanghai baby!…

What are you looking forward to? 

I’ve never been to Asia, so I’m really looking forward to my time in Shanghai. I mean, you could go there on holiday and enjoy it, but going there as the World Class GB champion and a global finalist, is going to be quite an experience!

I’m really looking forward to showcasing GB to all the world, meeting all of the other participants and creating new bonds. Because from there, we’re all going to have new friends all over the world. 

G is for greatest moments…

What are your greatest moments of World Class so far?

There have been so many. But probably, the moment that stands out is hearing last year’s World Class GB winner Matt announce me as the overall winner. It was such an incredible moment – a mixture of adrenalin, happiness and a real release of emotions. I’ve dreamed about that moment many times before. When you start World Class, you start to dream about that moment when the winner is going to be announced and you hope it’s going to be you.

The moment Danilo heard he was the World Class GB 2024 winner

It was even more special because is was Matt who made the announcement and he’s been such an inspiration to me – he’s an incredible bartender and being handed the trophy by him, in front of all my friends, classmates, colleagues and family  – it was the greatest moment. I’ve watched the video of that moment about 200 times – even on my commute to work. I put my airpods on and I’m like, ‘wow!’ I have goosebumps just thinking about it now. 

B is for brand ambassadors…

What role do they play in the World Class journey?

It’s so much more than a brand ambassador role because they are really there for you every step of the way. They are there to support you, to tell you that everything is going to be all right, that whatever you need, you can ask them for. They approach the competition in a way where they want everyone to be at their best, but not just to present at their best but to enjoy the moment, which I think it’s a very unique thing. I’d like to say a massive thanks to all the Diageo World Class GB ambassadors for all the help and support they’ve given me in the last few years. I’m looking forward to doing them proud.

For more details and to follow the World Class journey, see @worldclassgreatbritain

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The Cocktail Lovers

The Cocktail Lovers are Mr G and Ms S, a man and a woman who share a passion for cocktails. (We also happen to be married, so we’re cocktail lovers in more ways than one…)

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The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49
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The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49
The Cocktail Lovers Magazine Issue 49

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