Local bartender wins national award

Diageo Reserve World Class - Cocktail Party

Pez Collier with his award. Photo by Daniel Boud

West End’s Pez Collier of the Lychee Lounge, and Thalita Alvez of the Gresham Hotel, have been recognized for their industry talents at the DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS™ Australian Grand Final. Both bartenders were announced as individual category winners following two days of intensive workshops and rigorous challenges at a gala event in Sydney, last night.

Collier, from Lychee Lounge, took out ‘Against the Clock’ – a speed round where bartenders were tasked to make three cocktails in five minutes.

Alvez, from The Gresham, perfected the art of blending and created a blended whisky that worked perfectly as a cocktail base, and was named winner of the ‘Beauty of Blends’.

Each challenge was designed to champion the gifted, and was judged against tough criteria including artistry, innovation, balance, technique and visual aesthetic.

The nation’s top 25 bartenders were tasked with concocting delicious drinks in a series of intense challenges judged by industry heavyweights including legendary media personality and MasterChef host Matt Preston; global whisky expert Dave Broom; Three Blue Ducks restaurateur Darren Robertson; Founder and Director of renowned Edinburgh bar and restaurant, Bon Vivant, Stuart McCluskey; and former World Class winners and successful bar owners Tim Philips, Luke Ashton and Charlie Ainsbury.

Matt Preston said, “This competition is the MasterChef of the bartending world, and I was completely blown away by Jack and all of the finalists’ outstanding talent, technique and creativity. World Class looks to expand this beyond trade and encourage consumers to understand and practice the art of fine drinking. In the same way MasterChef created an army of home chefs, I hope World Class inspires people to start experimenting with cocktails and mixed drinks when they’re entertaining guests at home.”

Dave Broom added, “I have been astounded by the breadth of the contestant’s industry knowledge and bartending talent. Every top 25 finalist showed ambition, integrity and respect – not only for the judges and their competitors, but for the industry. It has been a pleasure mentoring and working alongside each and every bartender.”

The competition also recognised achievements in the following categories, crowning winners for each challenge: ‘The Veggie Revival’: Rowan Furlong from The Victoria Room (Sydney); ‘The Welcome Drink’: Jenna Hemsworth from Lui Bar (Melbourne) and ‘World Class in a Cocktail’: Sasha Leonard from Double Happiness (Melbourne).

Jack Sotti from Boilermaker House in Melbourne was crowned Australia’s 2015 ‘Bartender of the Year’. Jack’s World Class Cocktail submission named ‘The Conversation’, which blended Johnnie Walker Double Black and Bundaberg Small Batch, wowed the judges and set him apart from the

other talented finalists. Jack is really passionate about bartending, with nine years under his belt already.

So, what’s next for Australia’s top bartender? Later this year Jack will battle the world’s best bartenders at Diageo’s seventh annual Global DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS™ Competition to be held in Cape Town, South Africa. In addition to the week-long competition, Jack has won a trip around the world to explore 80 bars. From the world famous Aviary in Chicago, to Bon Vivant in Edinburgh, the world tour is comprised of the ultimate bucket list of bars, meeting inspirational patrons, industry experts and mixologists on route.