Irish Bartender Cal Byrne reaches final ten at Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year competition 2021
Ireland’s Cal Byrne wowed the world-stage yesterday as one of the ten finalists vying for the winner’s crown-title of the World Class Bartender of The Year 2021 and the first-ever fully virtual Diageo World Class Global Final.
Canada’s James Grant (pictured,below) took the top prize, yet Cal did not fail to impress with his extraordinary talent.
Over five days Cal Byrne (pictured below) and 49 other bartenders were streamed live from their home countries as they virtually competed against each other in a series of unique challenges that tested their skills, creativity, and showmanship.
Cal (27), originally from Galway, is a bartender at the Blind Pig Speakeasy in Dublin. From the outset his natural talent and skill set him apart amongst the finalists who competed this week at Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year 2021 finals.
In a fitting nod to home, this week saw Cal create a drink infused with natural dyes used in Irish wool jumpers. He chose these ingredients to highlight his project to connect artists and traditional craftspeople whose livelihoods have been hit during the pandemic.
Although he didn’t take home the grand prize, Cal is the first Irish representative in history to reach the Top 10 globally, a testament to years of practice, creativity, and commitment to his craft especially during such a difficult year for the bar-trade.
Cal carried out all his challenges from Irish Craft Cocktails amazing lab based in Dublin. And it was at last night’s Top 10 Global Speed Round Challenge which saw the bartenders create four cocktails in under five minutes. Cal put in yet another a top performance as the world witnessed his skill on the global stage. He has inspired the industry with his creativity, and it is his unique approach to his trade that will continue to bring him much success.
WORLD CLASS WAS A VIRTUAL VICTORY
A virtual competition didn’t mean the challenges were any less ambitious with the finalists tasked to create a Johnnie Walker highball that reflected the flavours and culture of their home city; host a masterclass for making a World Class Tanqueray No. Ten cocktail at home; design a Ketel One vodka cocktail that had a positive environmental impact and a sense of community at its core and produce an original subterranean-inspired Don Julio serve. The week was rounded off with a special edition ‘Malts’ speed round challenge using The Singleton and Talisker, that not only tested the finalists’ efficiency but also the quality and design of their cocktails.
Simon Earley, Global Head of Diageo World Class, said:
“Our first-ever virtual World Class Final has been a huge success and has resulted in one the most innovative and creative competitions we have ever seen. The judges were blown away by James Grants creativity and originality, creating serves that were amazing to experience visually, virtually and in person. They are a fully deserving winner and I’m really excited to start working with them as a World Class ambassador in the year ahead.”
Innovation was at the heart of this fully virtual competition, with a production and broadcast hub based in a London studio alongside a selection of locally-based judges, and avatar bartenders assigned to mix each competitor’s cocktails while the on-screen finalist made and presented the drinks to the judges live from their own country. This novel idea allowed for the expert judging panel of former winners, award-winning mixologists, drinks writers and journalists to taste and critique the cocktails in real time and experience these creations just as they would have in a real-life event.
During the week, as well as a live stream of the competition, there was a packed itinerary of immersive virtual experiences that viewers could engage with online. The content ranged from actor and Tanqueray No. Ten global partner, Stanley Tucci meeting his World Class match with World Class judge and Director of Mixology at the Connaught, Ago Perrone; to a dynamic panel discussion between some of the industry’s leading movers and shakers on the future of socialising, featuring Diageo’s Global Head of Digital Innovation, Benjamin Lickfett and drinks trailblazer, Ryan Chetiyawardana, a.k.a Mr Lyan.
Diageo Global Reserve Director, Pedro Mendonça said:
“World Class is an extraordinary festival of creativity and experiences. From the competitors to the virtual Taste of the Future experiences, we got to see how drinks culture is evolving and it’s exciting. It was also fantastic to see such commitment from our finalists, judges and friends to championing positive drinking, a key focus for Diageo and all its brands across everything we do.”
Since its launch in 2009, Diageo World Class has played a significant role in inspiring better drinking and transforming cocktail culture around the world. Over 400,000 bartenders across the globe have been supported, trained and inspired by World Class since its inception.
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