Above: Daniel Warren with World Class GB 2017 winner, Jamie Jones
Ladies and gents, we have a winner: the bartender going through to represent Great Britain in this year’s World Class Global Final in Berlin is… Mr Daniel Warren from Last Chance in Nottingham. Whoop!
And what a winner. Managing to remain cool, calm and composed on the surface (who knows what was going on inside?) despite the intensity of the three challenges thrown at him, he gave good chat, had a strong concept that threaded seamlessly through all of the heats and perhaps most importantly, delivered complex, well-balanced and beautifully presented drinks at every turn.
The final ten. L-R: Dan Bovey, Adam Day, Manachain Monaghan, Luke Robinson, Georgia Billing, Dave Hall, Cameron Attfield,
Daniel Warren, James Bowker and Kieran Grieves
Mind you, it wasn’t as if the other nine finalists didn’t show up; he did have strong competition. No one gets to the top ten in the country without having some serious skills in the ingenuity department. Having had the briefing notes ahead of the two-day GB finals in Scotland earlier this week, Cameron Attfield, Georgia Billing, James Bowker, Daniel Bovey, Adam Day, Kieran Grieves, Dave Hall, Manachain Monaghan and Luke Robinson, all had some nifty serves and might fine presentations up their sleeves.
Top: James Bowker talks the judges through his Welcome Drink in the penthouse of the Edinburgh Grand Hotel;
Above: Cameron Attfield chose to greet the judges at door with his Welcome Drink
They began to reveal them at the Welcome Drink Challenge. Talk about the perfect showcase, the backdrop for this one was the swanky penthouse suite at the newly-opened Edinburgh Grand Hotel. With views out to all of Edinburgh’s Instagrammable attractions and the kind of interior to make you swoon, it was the ideal setting for the ten competitors to conjure up the perfect welcome drink to serve to their guests – even though those guests just happened to be the judges.
This was our kind of challenge (which was lucky as we were on the judging panel): something seemingly simple, not too bartender-y and designed to appeal to cocktail lovers and newbies alike. Joining us in the sipping seats were 2017 World Class Global Finalist Kaitlyn Stewart, Don Julio Ambassador Deano Moncrieffe and 2017 World Class GB Finalist Jamie Jones. Perhaps unsurprisingly, fizz and pre-batched, easy-to-serve drinks were the stars of the show for this one – the originality came with the cordials that gave the drinks their edge.
The relaxed setting of the Shooting Lodge at Gleneagles Hotel helped put Luke Robinson (top) and Manachain Monaghan (above) at ease in front of judges (from L-R) Ali Reynolds, Stevie Martin and Colin Dunn
One down, two more challenges to go but these were saved for the next day in the lush surroundings of the Gleneagles Hotel. Where better than the Shooting Lodge to present a whisky serve? Something smoked, using Johnnie Walker Black Label and served in a hip flask? Maybe it was because they had one challenge in the bag, or maybe it was the ease of the room but this one was the most relaxed for all of them by far. Presenting next to, rather than in front of the judges helped for sure, plus all ten competitors had their own personal stories to tell and what’s not to like about having a wee dram from a canny little flask? Putting them through their paces in this round were the Diageo whisky hotshots, Ali Reynolds, Colin Dunn and Stevie Martin.
Georgia Billing (top) and Kieran Grieves (above) bossing things behind the Auchterarder Bar
A few hours later they were at it again, this time behind the Auchterarder Bar, aka the 19th hole, overlooking the iconic St. Andrew’s Golf Course. The scenario here was for them to assume the role of the new bar manager presenting the new Club House signature serve. Not only did they have to dazzle judges Simon Difford, Lauren Mote, Jamie Jones and Dan Dove with the story behind the drink but to keep things real and interesting, orders for Tanqueray No. TEN and tonics, Zacapa Daiquiris and Don Julio Margaritas were called out at random times from the crowd, just like a normal night in a busy bar. They also had to serve up 15 sample drinks to hand out to the audience. It sure did keep the adrenalin pumping and despite the fact that they each had ten minutes to tell the story of their drinks, those cheeky side orders ensured that the pressure was on.
They did a sterling job though and after what seemed like no time at all, it was over, just leaving the team at Sweet & Chilli along with World Class Managers Ali Reynolds and Stevie Martin to tally up the scores.
Which leads us back to where we started. Now time for a few words with the new World Class GB 2018 champ…
Congratulations Dan, was this your first World Class?
No. I entered back in 2013 in Australia and made the national finals.
Why this competition?
Ever since I started in the industry almost 10 years ago, it’s been the competition that I wanted to do well in. I’ve watched how bartenders have been through the competition and developed and I’ve admired what it can offer the right person…
Tell us about the journey that you planned out for the challenges and how and why you came up with the idea?
My journey for World Class started very simply: make three drinks that are all connected while at the same time following current trends. That took in sourcing local ingredients and addressing sustainability issues, foraging, direct sourcing and showcasing what my city has to offer.
Which was your favourite challenge and why?
The last one (the 19th Hole). All of us had been tired and stressed for two days and I had such fun as the last competitor of the day – I really just wanted to remember that round for the amount of energy and fun that I put into it.
Which was the most challenging and why?
The most challenging for me was the first round: the perfect welcome drink… Trying to create the perfect welcome in liquid form was tough enough, but presenting first, when I had no idea of any of the other competitors concepts or ideas was equally challenging as I didn’t know what I was up against.
Now that it’s over can you describe the intensity of the two day final?
It was a real rollercoaster. Yes, I’ve been tired and yes, World Class is stressful at times as you’re put under pressure to ultimately deliver the best drinks and concepts in the country, but I’ve had such a good time. I’ve met people that I know I’ll be good friends with, and I’ve had fun – which is the most important thing for me. I started bartending because I found it fun, and that hasn’t changed to this day.
Dan’s Hip Flask serve
Which of your drinks which you showcased over the two days best sums you up and why?
I think out of all of my drinks the last one sums me up as a bartender: Johnnie Walker Blue Label, terroir cordial and bitters. Simple drinks but complex flavours and serves that tell a story.
Next stop, the World Class Global Final in Berlin. What are you most looking forward to?
Meeting all of the other competitors and seeing their concepts and drinks and honestly, just take it all in!! In what other industry do you get a chance to meet 60 of your industry peers from all over the world and spend a week together just making drinks?
You’re absolutely right. Last question, which Global Final winner best exemplifies World Class to you and why?
For me, and the reason that I started following World Class, bartenders like Erik Lorincz are really what I originally liked about world class. Simply put: simple and classic, yet amazing hospitality.
Daniel wins a prize valued at £15,000, including a ticket to Berlin to represent Great Britain in the World Class Global Finals.