Wow, its been a long time since I've blogged! A lot has definitely happened. Some Chilean miners were trapped underground and have since miraculously resurfaced. (Personally, I liked them better when they were underground). Paul Hogan turned 71, and there has been a Unicorn sighting in Canada! (For those that don't read thesun.co.uk, It's true).
Personally, I wrapped up my whirl-wind tour of a fantastic New York summer, checked into London for a week to say emotional goodbyes to old friends above the equator, stopped into Australia for 36 hours (enough time for a round of golf in the sunshine, a BBQ, a kick of the football, a game of poker with old buddies and, something I perhaps missed more than life it self, a Red Rooster strip-sub combo), then I flew out to Singapore to do a comprehensive tour, and series of training sessions for some five-star hotels. Phew!
Now I'm back in Australia, sleeping in and enjoying not having a job for now. Things have finally slowed down, and I've spent my last couple of days going for runs, making soup, playing with my buddies kid, and drinking lager. As well as this I'm on the net hanging off every piece of information I could get as to who are this years winners at the U.K's CLASS Bar awards.
To start, a few of my good friends were both up for some acknowledgement. Jon Cowley, my old Milk & Honey boss won best Bar Manger for his work at Red Hook. A place that he is not even bar manager at, in a place that isn't even a bar. Oh well, well done anyway homie. Another was David Fisher who commendably made the top ten of the Bartender of the Year competition. Bad luck buddy, I was rooting for you. It would of been nice to see another Aussie guy from Milk & Honey bring home the bacon. You see this competition brings back a lot of memories for me. I won it last year. Some bad, but mostly good. Ill get to that later..
A lot of people ask me what it's like to compete and be judged 'Best Bartender in the Country'. A lot of people don't care. I tell this story to them if they care or not, to anyone that wants to know so i don't have to tell the story again. Here it is..
Pre-Competition day: A week earlier I had just got back from a junket in Aberdeen. The good people at Chivas Regal had sent me, and Ian Daws from The Player to Scotland to drink whisky, eat, drink whisky, tour distilleries, drink whisky and fortunately for me, find something other than whisky, Pastis, and drink pastis. My liver had taken a pounding and I got home to find a email telling me i had made the Top-ten of the Bartender of the Year competition. Exciting stuff. The drink I had entered was a all-wine concoction that was adapted from an old Blackthorne recipe. The drink was tasty and I would have to make that for a panel of judges, along with a written exam, and make a classic cocktail for Simon Difford the following Monday. It was Thursday. In true, "How not to behave a day out from your big day", I went out on a 24 hour drinking and scrabble bender with Liam Davy. The next morning I awoke, put on my best shirt, and jumped on a bus to London Bridge. The CLASS magazine office.
Competition Day: Eleven bartenders assembled for the top ten competition. Obviously this worried me as I really did not want to have the dis-privilege of finishing 11th in a top-ten competition . None the less, I forged on, sat quietly *head still pounding*, and focused my attention on the 30 question exam that lay in front of me.
At the end of the exam I thought I had done alright. I had also managed to hand in my paper before anyone else. I was still not sure if this was a good thing or bad. The time was up and the guy next to me gave me a look after turning in his as if to say, "Well that's me done for this year!" They say 'no question is tough if you know the answer'. I guess that was the case for me as I was lucky enough for the questions to fall in my favour and get a solid 29/30 for the exam. The question I got wrong is one ill be kicking myself over forever.
What is the sole grape variety used in the production of Prosecco? Ill let you guys think it over whilst i keep writing..
Next up was the my original drink. "The Precursory Cocktail". No problems there. I was happy with my drink and excited for the judges to try it.
The last stage was the Classic drink stage. Simon Difford had every competitor make a Daiquiri. Too easy I thought. Straight away my Match Group training taught me to make a 50-20-20 spec. Served up, and unadorned. Then I see bartenders carving ice, reciting Cuban poetry, and using granulated sugar. My geeky bartender side was impressed. I stuck to my uninspired guns and bosh'd out my Match-tastic Daiquiri mumbling something along the lines of, "This is a workers drink, the beauty of it is it's uncomplicated-complexity". *Freakin' GOLD Tim Philips, GOLD!*
The winners would be announced the following night at an awards ceremony in Shoreditch. I thought I had done OK, but not great. My tip for the gong was Charles Vex from Hix to take home the title again. His 37-page Cuban poetry reciting, and ode to the Daiquiri had touched my nerd side and his original drink was triple-tasty. I looked past his obvious arrogance towards me and the other competitors, and the fact he had snubbed me on our shared bus-ride to the city after the competition. To me it didn't matter, the guy was good.
Awards Ceremony: Free and freshly made Lynchburg Lemonades became my best friend for a good part of the 90-minute ceremony. I had resigned myself to a humble DNP and had worked myself into a good head of steam by the time my name was called out as the winner of the competition. If I think back now I can remember flashes of tackling Tom Estes to the ground, getting a handshake from Ago Perrone, telling the crowd in my acceptance speech "I wasn't worthy", and using my new trophy as a drinks tray.
The following party again, is a blur. I remember waking up in the corner of Kanaloa, a newly opened tiki club, without my camera and more importantly, my trophy. A quick search found it safely stashed in two convenient pieces behind the bar. That's right, I had snapped it in half.
The next morning, thinking last night was a dream, I awoke still hugging those two pieces of my trophy and proudly smiled to my housemate, Phil Duffy, that I was the Best Bartender in the UK. He told me I wasn't even the best bartender in the house. Reality.
A lot in my life has changed for the better in the last year. Maybe people respect me a bit more, maybe I respect myself a little more? I can't lie to myself and say i didn't enjoy winning that comp but i must keep telling myself it is just a silly competition. A good friend, who I respect greatly, whom also doesn't enter cocktail competitions says he; "Wants to remembered for the work he has done, not the awards he's won". A nice throw away line that also rhymes, he's got a point though.
Congratulations to this years winner Joey Medrington. I know how you feel buddy. I'm happy to pass on my title and tiara over to you. Get ready for being put on a pedestal, never being able to give crap to fellow bartending buddies without them telling you sarcastically how 'they forgot you were the best in country', and not being able to drink Kahlua and Milk in public again. Just remember to never lose your most important bartending attribute, your humility. Awards like this tend to try to take that one away...and always, always remember Prosecco is the grape used is Prosecco production. Idiot.