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Imagen #InsideGCP 2012: 15 new friends and a great lesson

#InsideGCP 2012: 15 new friends and a great lesson

George Restrepo

I've had two experiences with the Gin G'Vine Connoisseur Program. The first one back in 2011 as a contestant; and the second one, last week as a guest. In the first case was challenging, it was maybe my second or third local competition. I met Philip Duff and I was lucky -after doing a complex tasting and to present a creative cocktail- of being the winner for Barcelona, ​​with good chances of being a finalist for Spain. However, I didn’t make it to the finals and couldn’t be in Cognac that year. And as they say, “en carrera larga hay desquite” which means something like “in a long way there is revenge.” This time, without stress or nervousness, I had the opportunity to experience one of the most rewarding experiences as a bartender-blogger-media-photographer-gourmet-tourist-partying guy you could ever ask in life!

The G'Vine Gin Connoisseur Program (GCP) is a competition designed with the complexity and quality that a bartender must have today. Consumers are increasingly demanding, know more about the products they like and want the bartender not only to guide them but even be able to discuss about spirits. This is a contest that not only expects a lucky moment from a bartender who found a good mixture, combining this with that, including some bitter drops and an acid touch. Competitions nowadays are generally more demanding, for experienced restless bartenders. It is not just to know a lot of recipes. What is expected of a bartender in the quality of a contest as the GCP is to be an executive at the bar. A bartender with deep knowledge of spirits, with the ability to understand a situation in a bar and suggest products, to have general knowledge to talk to the customers, and even the ability to understand a bit of marketing if he has the tools to create a product for you. And of course, know about numbers, understanding profitability of the business. Being the fastest, the best, the kindest ... I understand that is too much to ask, but I was lucky enough to meet 15 bartenders who were prepared to do this and much more!

The tension was general, but the atmosphere and timing were designed so that no one had time to get nervous. Six challenges in five days, with master classes on product, process, and speeches in the middle, guided tours to the Cognac Museum and walks around the city, a tour through the Charente river ending in a Michelin-starred restaurant, an afternoon with swimming pool and fun tequila tasting using a ham (just improvised and it was really fun). Everything in a context of excellent food, drink and fellowship.

Five days of competition, no winner per day

Every day in real life no one tells you what you did right and what you did wrong. In the GCP either. It is a competition that seeks more for the regularity, be good every day, be the best every day. Only in a couple of challenges we could actually see who was pointing out (like in the speed challenge as it was obvious to know the times afterwards). But as I said, those were only partial scores of a large and complex challenge.

You could tell between two groups of participants: those who were focused, thoughtful, and “students”, and other group more relaxed, partying, kind of stress-free without losing the north to be in a very high level competition. For some reason they deserved to be representing their bars and countries. Gradually the cards were uncovering, we could see challenge after challenge who outlined and some experienced professionals were taking distance.

The challenges

  1. Guest Lecturer Seminar & Examination. The first day after a seminar from world-renowned barrel expert Alban Petiteaux of Oenowood, the contestants had a test designed by Petiteaux which had the maximum score of 100 points. At the workshop the participants could see and learn about aging techniques, different parts of the barrel, and a complete master class on examples of wood and wine.
  2.  Speed, Accuracy & Technique. Top score 100 points. A bar on equal terms for the 15 contestants and a time limit of 4'25'' to prepare five cocktails: Floral Martini, two different Gin & Tonics, a Jasmine, and a Negroni. That is, two direct long drink cocktails, one mixed, one shake, one direct and stirred. Then add to the picture the stress, to memorize the details and choose lemon peel, lime or citric squeezed, the right bottle with the correct tonic, some ice here, napkins there, say prices correctly and loosing points if you put more or less alcohol than you should, or if any ice flew over the bar ... Anyone would think after this challenge "I’ve seen them faster." Anyone would say so, but not with the complexity of the score based on a metric called Barmetrix© which scored timing, liquid used, subtracting and adding precision errors, and add the nervousness of being studied rather than viewed in the competition.
  3. Personality Bartending. A curious challenge on which you simulate being in a bar. Where Gaz Regan, Philip Duff and Shawn Soole, the jury, came in an improvised way to your bar and could disarm your prepared speech in a second. It counts your mood, if you are confident about yourself and about what you were saying and event the eye contact with your customers. This was just a prelude of what would be the final challenge.
  4. Make your own Gin. You are bartender not a Master Distiller. Oh yes, of course! In three rounds of five contestants, a table was waiting for each competitor with nine different distilled botanicals with different alcohol content. Alcohol based, distilled water, a couple of laboratory containers, a calculator, paper and pencil. In one hour you had to submit a proposal for what would be your own Gin leveling alcohol, balancing aroma and flavor, and before the contest you should think about the name and bring a proposed label. A really amazing exercise! I'm sure many will want to exchange roles: to be Master Distiller instead of BartenderJ
  5.  The Connoisseur Gin Written Examination. It’s a G'Vine contest so you must know about Gin, mostly when the reading book basis is The Bartender's Gin Compendium written by Gaz Regan, the questions were developed by Philip Duff, and you have to answer them with Gaz Regan and Philip Duff next to you. A really difficult test. Just to let you know some of the questions:
    - What, in your opinion, is the worst reasonably well-known gin cocktail in the world? Support your argument with examples and citations.
    - Under which dynasty, and in which cities in particular, did China get it’s first bars and restaurants?
    - Which gin cocktail would you suggest to a guest who came into the bar in the afternoon, on a Tuesday, and who usually drinks Hanky Pankys, but wishes to have something else today? Explain your advice.
  6.  The party: The G'Vine Summer Ball. An event where 15 competitors have a decorated bar waiting for customers. 500 points in game where the audience could vote (more than 300 guests), with the jury as part of it and also examining the technique used. Welcome to the final challenge and to real life. People like your cocktail or not. Is your bar attractive enough? Are you fast and good enough to make cocktails without losing many customers who can easily move a few steps to the bartender sitting next to you? And best of all. Are customers having fun in front of you? If the bar you create in the final event were your bar, would you be successful? To complicate the situation a little more, you're in a country you don’t know, you don’t know any customer who is visiting you and your clients don’t speak your language.

Here comes the big lesson for me: customers go to a place to have fun and there are small details that make you break the barriers that the language cannot reach. Mixology is a universal language, of tastes, smells, details, gestures, and moments. You look them to the eyes, smile, you move in a different way, make some noise with the shaker, you talk a little in your language or babble a few phrases in their language you just learned. Your client is having fun and most importantly, you're having fun!

After these six challenges based on the attributes that a Bartender must have today with a very objective rating system, clear and with no room for error or to subjective personal judgment, we have a winner. A big check and a huge bottle of G'Vine. There must be a winner and Shaher Misif won the award following the rules and very well deserved it. Shaher knew it before the end of the competition (see the interview we recorded the days before the final). And his teammates were very competitive and left as better professionals than when they arrived.

My prize

A bottle signed by Gaz and Philip of the exercise Make Your Own Gin, Gaz Regan’s jacket that although it doesn’t fit me people will pay a lot of money on Ebay for it;), great unforgettable moments in my memory and my video camera, and 15 new friends all over the world.

See more pictures in our social media channels Pinterest or Facebook. The recipe of Shaher's cocktail, The Floraison, here.

Picture by © Anne LantaPicture by © Anne LantaPicture by © Anne Lanta

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Imagen Carlos Martin Garcia

Carlos Martin Garcia think: 5

Great group of participants :D

Imagen Paul  Pavli

Paul Pavli think: 4

great article