Bartending is a highly competitive profession, but the Spirited Awards 2014 have selected these 10 mixologists for their killer cocktails, innovativeness and outstanding customer service.
As the cocktail renaissance of the 21st Century continues across the globe, there has never been a more exciting time to enter the bartending profession.
While the on-trade was once confined to serving rum and cokes, beer, and shots, intercepted with the odd Daiquiri or Mojito, the industry is now seeing greater experimentation and talent than ever before.
But a flair for true innovation is what separates the great and the good. One of the world’s foremost cocktail and spirits festivals Tales of the Cocktail recently endeavoured to recognise the world’s bartending greats when it announced the top 10 finalists for its International Bartender of the Year Spirited Award, spanning the international bar scene from London to Tokyo.
Click through the following pages to see our list of the world’s best bartenders, as identified by Tales of the Cocktail’s International Bartender of the Year Spirited Award.
If you think a talented bartender should have received a spot this list, let us know by leaving a comment below.
Marian Beke, Nightjar, London
Marian Beke, bar manager at one of London’s most notable speakeasy bars, Nightjar, is well regarded among drinks aficionados for his extensive cocktails and spirit knowledge, as well as his extravagant garnishes.
The Slovakian-born bartender pioneered Nightjar’s use of vintage barware, the iconic nightjar bird vessel, and cocktail recipes which “use garnishes as an extension of the cocktail”.
He told The Spirits Business last year: “When we first opened our menu was very classic so we decided to play a bit more with the garnish to make sure that when people leave Nightjar they are left with an impression. We started out using vintage glasses, then progressed onto different vessels that featured the nightjar bird.
“We then looked at the recipe and how the garnish is an extension of the cocktail – not just a decoration but to add flavour.”
Monica Berg, Pollen Street Social, London
Monica Berg is known for her inventive and immaculately-crafted cocktails at chef Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social restaurant.
Combining the world’s of food and drink, chef and mixologist, Norwegian Berg’s concoctions certainly have a gastronomic edge, complementing Atherton’s wonderful Pollen Street food menu.
Some of the cocktails Berg serves at the venue include: Breakfast Fizz (Chase Marmalade vodka, yellow Chartreuse, pink grapefruit, prosecco, toast and jam), Vintage Vesper (Citadelle Reserve aged gin, Adnams Northcove aged vodka Cocchi Americano, PSS juniper and rosemary silverskin onions) and Rumbullion (PSS walnut-infused Smith and Cross and Appleton V/X rums, Cynar, lime, maple syrup, PSS orange bitters, white praline walnut)
Simone Caporale, Artesian Bar, London
As bartender at the “world’s best bar” – the Artesian at The Langham hotel – one would expect Simone Caporale to have a mention on a list of the world’s best bartenders.
Caporale joined the Artesian team in 2010 and under the guidance of head bartender Alex Kratena, has grown to be one of London’s top bartenders, whose personal creations are often featured in national and international press.
Such cocktails, created in collaboration with Kratena, include the Unfinished Business, an aged cocktail which is a mix of Woodford Reserve, Martini Rosso, bitters and galangal, and Secrets & Lies, a mix of Glenmorangie Ealanta, Noilly Prat, pomegranate, roase and citrus.
He even gave some guidance to famed British chef Jamie Oliver upon the launch of his online drinks channel, Drinks Tube.
Ryan Chetiyawardana, White Lyan, London
Famed UK bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, formerly of 69 Colebrook Row, Purl and Worship Street Whistling Shop, has never been afraid of testing industry boundaries.
At his recently opened Hoxton-based cocktail bar White Lyan, Chetiyawardana swaps cocktail theatre, ice and citrus for pre-bottled mixes, non-perishable ingredients, and freezers.
Chetiyawardana told The Spirits Business back in October last year that the reason he and his business partner Iain Griffiths, formerly of Bramble in Edinburgh, created a bar in this way was to offer a greater customer experience.
“We love drinks, they are the crux of everything we do, but we just don’t think they need to be the be all and end all in a bar,” he said. “We really wanted to put the complete customer experience above the drinks and the theatre and make sure everyone who came here had the best night possible.”
Mario Kappes, Le Lion Bar de Paris, Hamburg
One of the most prestigious bars in Hamburg, and indeed Germany, is Le Lion de Paris, which is run to precision under the watchful eye of head bartender Mario Kappes.
With an encyclopaedic knowledge of cocktails and spirits and a thorough understanding of impeccable customer service, Kappes ensures the bar’s high standards are maintained.
He and his team were also nominated for the Best International Bar Team Spirited Award.
Zdenek Kastanek, 28 HongKong Street, Singapore
Czech Republic-born Zdenek Kastanek has helped Singapore’s HongKong Street become known as one of the best bars in the world.
A finalist for the International Bartender of the Year Spirited Award in 2012 and 2013, Kastanek also previously managed the award-winning bar program at Quo Vadis in London.
HongKong Street’s cocktail menu is a combination of classic American spirits and cocktails and more “progressive” mixes created by HongKong Street co-founder Michael Callahan, along with Kastanek.
Tim Philips, Bulletin Place, Sydney
Tim Phillips, now co-owner of Sydney watering hole Bulletin Place, made the trade sit up and take notice in 2012 when he was named winner of one of the world’s most prestigious cocktail competitions – Diageo Reserve World Class.
Impressing the judges with his creative take on the hot toddy, a mix of Johnnie Walker Gold Label, honey, cinnamon quill, and ginger, Phillips was able to demonstrate his unique style and “creative vision” throughout the competition.
On his bartending style, Phillips told the drinks business in 2013: “It’s taken 11 years to define. Most bartenders need to define their own style. I’m a pretty simple guy at heart and I like to let that shine through my drinks.
“I always have a classic as a base, generally and then I like to add something contemporary. That could be something that is in season for six weeks of the year like the nectarine, which is probably the most underrated fruit in the cocktail world, and one of the most delicious.
Hidetsugu Ueno, Bar High Five, Tokyo
One of Asia’s most revered bartenders, Hidetsugu Ueno owns High Bar Five, which, not surprisingly, also happens to be one of the most iconic bars in Tokyo. Having studied in America, Hidetsugu developed a speakeasy-style feel to this tiny bar that comfortably seats 20 people at most.
Famous for his ice-diamonds and precise Japanese methodology, Ueno has been both winning and judging cocktail competitions for over 20 years.
In addition to his perfect technique and creative flair, Ueno is also known for his playful and affable demeanour.
Tom Walker, The American Bar at The Savoy, London
Quite the “bartender to watch”, Tom Walker, of The American Bar at The Savoy, recently reached the heady heights of mixology glory when he was crowned this year’s winner of one of the world’s biggest cocktail competitions, Bacardi Legacy.
Although he has vast experience with The Savoy’s iconic bar, Walker rose to worldwide prominence when his Maid in Cuba cocktail won over a critical panel of Bacardi Legacy judges.
“It’s actually quite overwhelming to win this competition, because I have been working towards it for such a long time,” said Walker.
“Winning Bacardi Legacy gives me an unbelievable opportunity to place my original cocktail on a global stage and develop my bartending career.”
Jason Williams, The Rook Bar, Sydney
Another young mixology maverick is Jason Williams – a Sydney-based bartender who was crowned winner of the Beefeater 24 global cocktail competition last year.
Williams, bartender at The Rook, impressed the line-up of judges, including Beefeater master distiller Desmond Payne and world-renowned mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, with his signature Beefeater 24 cocktail Werewolves of London.
The drink was a winning mix of Beefeater 24 gin, orange and peach liquor, lemon juice and frankincense bitters, finished off with a green tea mist.
Some of Williams’s cocktails served at The Rook include the Fear & Loathing, a mix of Ilegal Mezcal, grapefruit, lemon, brown sugar, maraschino liqueur and cedarwood, and the Smoke & Broadswords, a mix of Johnnie Walker Double Black Scotch, orgeat, fino ‘perdido’ sherry, ginger liqueur, jasmine tea smoke.