James Grant named World Class bartender of the year

James Grant is World Class Bartender of the Year To bring the trends to life Diageo has opened the virtual doors to a ‘Taste of the Future’ experience.

Organiser Diageo also reveals top cocktail trends set to make 2021 remarkable

Diageo has awarded Australia-born, Canada-based mixologist, James Grant, the title of World Class Bartender of the Year 2021. In the event’s first virtual global final, James went head-to-head with 49 other bartenders in a live-streamed competition that encompassed a variety of cocktail-making challenges.

Finalists were tasked with developing a Johnnie Walker Highball inspired by their home city; hosting a master class to demonstrate how to make a Tanqueray No. Ten serve at home; creating a sustainable Ketel One vodka cocktail; and putting together a subterranean-themed Don Julia Tequila drink.

Competitors also took part in a speed round challenge to determine their speed of service and cocktail quality. As part of his prize, James will judge World Class national competitions over the coming year.

Mr Simon Earley, global head of Diageo World Class, said: “The judges were blown away by James’ creativity and originality, creating serves that were amazing to experience visually, virtually and in person.”

After the 2020 competition was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Diageo originally scheduled the 2021 final to take place in Madrid (Spain), but later moved the event online.

To execute the virtual competition, the spirits giant set up a production and broadcast hub in London. ‘Avatar’ bartenders mixed each competitor’s drink for the judges as the contestant presented it via live stream from their own country.

Taste of future

Even as 50 of the world’s best bartenders battled it out to be crowned the world’s best bartender, Diageo brought together some of the leading industry figures to reveal the trends and experiences it believes will shape the future of drinks experiences worldwide.

From partnerships with Pinterest to inspire your next cocktail, to leveraging the latest augmented reality (AR) technology to make world class drinks in the comfort of your own home, the future of socialising looks full of new ideas.

To bring the trends to life Diageo has opened the virtual doors to a ‘Taste of the Future’ experience: https://www.diageo.com/tasteofthefuture/.

Simon of Diageo World Class, said that among other things, the virtual space sees visitors able to use Pinterest to answer a series of trend-based questions and as a result find a Pin board, including a cocktail match, completely personalised to their taste.

People can also explore how using advanced AR technology via a phone or tablet can create a perfectly measured Johnnie Walker Highball and unlock the next generation of drinks personalisation on a Ketel One Espresso Martini with a unique selfie, using Ripples printed cocktail technology.

Drinks enthusiasts can also hear leading drinks innovators – among them Ryan Chetiyawardana, Tim Philips-Johansson (World Class Winner 2012  and Johnnie Walker Global Brand Ambassador), Benni Lickfett (Diageo’s Global Head of Digital Innovation) and Anna Sudbury (Senior Partner-Manager at Pinterest) – discuss how elements such as tech and sustainability are central to the future of their drinks experiences.

Virtual spaces

Diageo has turned to Pinterest, the visual discovery platform where people go for inspiration, to help users spark fresh ideas across their drinks choices. Visitors to a Pinterest Cocktail Palate can answer a series of trend-led questions, select their favourite aesthetics, and Pinterest will generate a Pin board, including a cocktail match, completely personalised to the user.

Ms Anna Sudbury, senior Partner-Manager at Pinterest, said, “We’ve seen an increase in the past few months of people searching for cocktail party ideas, so we know Pinners will love the ability to find personalised cocktail recommendations and recipes based on their individual tastes.”

Personalisation continues to be a mega-trend in the drinks industry and Israeli innovators, Ripples, (the brains behind printed cocktails) return to World Class with their latest tech, the Ripples 2.0 platform.

Amongst a series of updates, Ripples has launched a second-generation printer and a revised way to easily build customised web apps to maximise the experience.  All of this is alongside food technology development of ‘Glow’ prints using natural extract, providing a surprise element to any drink as it glows under UV light.

A partnership with Verizon and Yahoo Ryot Lab sees incredible AR technology inspiring the next generation of mixologists.  Use your phone or tablet’s camera and be guided step by step on how to make the perfect Johnnie Walker Highball cocktail – from adding the ice, to pouring the perfect measure of Johnnie Walker.

ThreeDium’s forward-thinking technology provides the opportunity to view and explore bottles online of your favourite brands through immersive and interactive 3D technology – you can even place them into your own home! – inspiring you to try something new.

Another innovative digital experience using artificial intelligence (AI), ‘What’s Your Whiskey’, analyses your flavour preferences to match you with your perfect whiskey serve. Prepare to be inspired to try something new and learn a whole lot more about whiskey along the way!

The Alexa/ Google Home-enabled immersive Talisker Tasting experience transports users to the Isle of Skye, inviting you to join the iconic tasting tour, all from the comfort of your own home.