Whiskey and green tea sends Hong Kong barman to world champs
Bartending used to be something you did in between real jobs. Now there are "Oscars" for it.
Hong Kong-based barman Tom Wood is going to the bartending Oscars -- the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year global finals.
Originally from Australia, Wood will be the first mixologist to represent Hong Kong at the championship, contending with 50 other top barmen from around the world for the coveted title of "Bartender of the Year."
Reigning world champion Manabu Ohtake was one of the judges to pick Wood as the Hong Kong representative.
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"I believe we are entering a Golden Age for bartending where bartenders are highly respected and regarded as serious professionals," says Ohtake.
Wood went through a year's worth of heats before winning the Hong Kong final. Each of his three winning drinks have an urban feel and a cheeky edge.
His Johnny Walker Gold Label Reserve ritual starts with a tea "fog" made by pouring Chinese tea over dry ice. The whiskey is then chased with a piece of Jasmine-flavored dragon beard candy.
The proper way to enjoy the ritual is to "take a sip of whiskey, smell the tea aroma and take a bite of candy."
What an endearing whiskey ritual for Hong Kongers. We can't help but think of long karaoke sessions in Shenzhen where the go-to drink is whiskey mixed with sweetened green tea.
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Wood's twist on the classic piña colada cocktail is the Yacht Club, made with rum, coconut vermouth and clarified pineapple juice. A clear, light-bodied concoction, it showcases the pineapple, rum and coconut trinity of the piña colada without any heavy cream.
"The piña colada is a funny one. It's well known but it's fruity and tropical, so not a lot of people will drink it in an urban environment," says Wood. "I want to transform it into a sophisticated inner city-style drink for Hong Kong."
Rice to the Top is Wood's pun-licious nod to Mexico. Using tequila, horchata and a spritz of essence of rice, the drink stands out for the addition of apple cider vinegar.
Wood will serve these cocktails at Wyndham the 4th, which will open "hopefully when I'm back from Brazil," he says. He'll be in Rio de Janeiro for the global finals on July 5-12 where the following masters of the bar will fight him for the trophy.
The list will expand as more countries finalize their representatives.
But for now, these are possibly the world's best barmen:
Austria: Bert Jachmann of Oswald Haerdtl, Vienna
Belgium: Oliver Jacobs of Jigger's, Gent
Denmark: Kasper Riewe Henriksen of Ruby, Copenhagen
France: Alexia Taoufiq of Le Forvm, Paris
Germany: Harry Glockler of rivabar, Berlin
Greece: Vassilis Karitsis of The Gin Joint, Athens
Italy: Dennis Zoppi of Smile Tree, Turin
Netherlands: Fjalar Goud of Vesper Bar, Amsterdam
Norway: Jesper Høst of No. 19 Bar, Oslo
Spain: Guiseppe Santamaria of Ohla Boutique Bar, Barcelona
Sweden: Rikard Enell of Le Rouge, Stockholm
Switzerland: Aramando Archundia of Hirschli, Aarau
UK: Andy Mil of London Cocktail Club, London
Australia: Tim Phillips of Hemmesphere, Sydney
India: Devender Sehgal of Ellipsis, Mumbai
Japan: Shigeki Yoshida of Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, Tokyo
Indonesia: Harli Garnawan of Loewy, Jakarta
Korea: Andy Seo of Bar Rouge, JW Marriott Hotel Seoul
Singapore: Akihiro Eguchi of Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands Singapore
Taiwan: Kae Yin of Marsalis Home x Whiskey Gallery, Taipei City
Thailand: Muttarattana Supawit of St. Regis Bangkok
Mexico: Ricardo Nava of Licorería Limantour, Mexico City
UAE: Jimmy Barrat of Zuma, Dubai
Juan Valderrama from Colombia
Adrian Vega from Costa Rica
Stephon Scott from Trinidad & Tobago