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DIAGEO HUNTS FOR A STAR BARTENDER TO FLY THE SOUTH AFRICAN FLAG ON GLOBAL STAGE

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Nine World Class finalists vie for a place in the international showdown in Shanghai

Nine bartenders from around South Africa are shaking and stirring their creativity to invent cocktails worthy of a ticket to Shanghai and the international finals of this year’s Diageo World Class competition.

The national finalists in the world’s biggest and most prestigious bar competition will go head-to-head over three days as they show off their creativity, knowledge, preparation techniques and commitment to continuous learning.

“We’re celebrating the 15th edition of World Class in 2024, and we’re expecting our national champion to fly the South African flag high in Shanghai with the best bartenders from more than 60 countries,” said Diageo SA’s Reserve Brand Ambassador, Nicci Denman.

“After competitive regional finals, the national finals are sure to deliver stunning cocktail experiences that will encourage consumers who enjoy fine dining to approach the possibilities of fine spirits in the same way.”

Johannesburg provides five of the finalists, including Alex Fahrenheim, Dan Knodl and Burdett Geiling from the canned cocktail company Just Short. They’re joined by Jody Rahme of Father Coffee and Devon Andreka of Obscura. Cape Town is represented by Liam Jukes of VUE Shortmarket and Philip Burrows of Tjing Tjing. The Durban finalists, both from Ballito, are independent mixologist Jason Andrews and Jono Harrison of Alchemy.

The judges are last year’s World Class national champion, Julian Short, the owner of Sin + Tax in Rosebank; Ryan Duvenage, Diageo’s head trainer in Africa; Lungi Nhlanhla, a private chef from Durban; and a surprise judge for each of the finals’ three days.

CAPTION (left to right) The 2024 Diageo SA World Class judges are Julian Short, Ryan Duvenage, and Lungi Nhlanhla

The national finals in Johannesburg from 14-16 July will include five challenges, each with its own score requirements. The top six will be chosen after the first two challenges and will go on to compete in the remaining three challenges.

  • Make it a 10: Produce two Tanqueray No. TEN-based classic cocktails (with a twist) within eight minutes.
  • Singleton Disco: Create an innovative cocktail that elevates a single malt whisky and showcases flavour in an unexpected but fun way.
  • Whisky Mastery: A compilation of mini challenges involving flavour matching, a knowledge test and a blind tasting.
  • Mystery Box: Incorporate a randomly selected ingredient into two cocktails based on a Don Julio tequila variant.
  • Bar of the Future: Create and explain a concept for the future of the bar industry. Bring it to life with four cocktails and a bar space created on a budget of R5,000.

The winner will compete in the international finals in Shanghai from 9 to 13 September and Denman says: “To get there, our national champion will need to show mastery of innovative ingredients, creative presentation, meticulous balance, exceptional preparation techniques, inspiring stories and consistent quality.”

World Class has supported, trained and inspired more than 400,000 bartenders, across 60 countries, while partnering them with the world’s finest spirits – the Diageo Reserve collection.

In South Africa, Diageo’s Hand-Up Mentorship Programme aims to upskill bartenders through training while adding diversity and inclusion to those seen behind the country’s bars, with more women and people of colour. The custodians of the programme are Diageo SA’s brand ambassadors: Denman, Sean Tantsi and Nduduzo Mdletshe.

Diageo SA World Class Finalists

Gauteng

Jody Rahme

Jody Rahme of Father Coffee
Jody, 35, began his bartending career in 2017 at Sin + Tax in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Since then, he’s been the beverage director at Gorgeous George and Fable in Cape Town, and KōL Izakhaya at Hyde Park Shopping Centre in Johannesburg. Earlier this year he took charge of wholesale sales at coffee roastery Father Coffee in Kramerville but cocktails remain his passion. He has entered World Class seven times, made the top 10 on every occasion and come third twice. Follow him on social media: @liquid_squire

Alex Fahrenheim

Alex Fahrenheim of Just Short
Alex, 30, started bartending as a student but quickly fell in love with the idea of working in hospitality and focused on developing and honing his skills. He was one of the first hires when Sin + Tax opened in 2016, and was there until shortly before the pandemic closed down the industry. Realising they needed to pivot, he and three friends launched the canned cocktails manufacturer Just Short, where Alex is the director responsible for training and consulting. He says he misses being behind a bar and World Class has given him the opportunity to rediscover his passion for delighting customers with his creativity. Alex finished second in the 2018 national finals. Follow him on social media: @captain_fill

Dan Khodl

Dan Knodl of Just Short
Dan, 27, started working behind the bar at a burger joint but quickly switched to a mobile bar company that trained him and employed him full-time for four years. When Covid-19 arrived, he and three bartender friends launched the canned cocktail company Just Short, where Dan is the director in charge of events. The company runs cocktail master classes and takes its mobile bar to corporate functions and parties. Dan came fourth in the World Class 2020 national finals, which were held in 2021 when lockdown eased. Covid temporarily took away his senses of taste and smell, forcing him to rely on memory rather than his palate when creating cocktails. Follow him on social media: @daniel_knodl66

Burdett Geiling

Burdett Geiling of Just Short
Burdett, 28, is the only woman in this year’s national finals and admits she finds the responsibility daunting. But she’s quick to acknowledge the community spirit in the bartending community, where she says love for the craft makes other differences irrelevant. Burdett started bartending with LiquidChefs in 2016, and after a course at the European Bartender School, she spent several years working in the profession in Johannesburg and Cape Town. After the pandemic, she joined Just Short, where she is responsible for production and logistics. She has entered World Class four times but this is the first year she has reached the national finals. Follow her on social media: @life_through_burdi_

Devon Andreka

Devon Andreka of Obscura
Devon, 31, started his bartending journey alongside George Hunter 12 years ago at Hard Rock Café in Sandton. When George opened Obscura in Rosebank three months ago, he invited Devon to be his general manager, continuing a partnership that has seen them working together on several occasions. Devon’s career has taken him to many bars, restaurants and hotels, but it was at the Mont Aux Sources Hotel in the Drakensberg that he learnt techniques from chefs which he began to incorporate into cocktails. Now he’s keen to break boundaries, starting with his first encounter with live judges in the 2024 World Class competition. Follow him on social media: @bartendingbarista_devon

Cape Town

Liam Jukes

Liam Jukes of VUE Shortmarket
Liam, 28, was studying industrial engineering in Gqeberha when he started bartending at White Tiger Bar+Café in Humewood. He fell in love with the industry, and brand ambassadors such as Roxanne Rock and Bradley Jacobs inspired him to make it his career. Liam developed his skills through programmes such as the Diageo Bar Academy and Shōshin Art Club. Learning from industry giants at brand competitions is an important part of what he calls a never-ending journey of education in the industry. Liam was a World Class national finalist in 2022 and 2023, when he worked at Tapas Bar & Restaurant in Gqeberha, and finished seventh on both occasions. Follow him on social media: @lucidlikeliam

Philip Burrows

Philip Burrows of Tjing Tjing
Philip, 28, pivoted from corporate construction into bartending in 2021 after remembering how much he enjoyed working in hospitality while he was studying. He moved from Durban to Cape Town, took a European Bartender School course and found work at Rockpool in Sea Point. He then spent nearly two years at House of Machines, developing his skills and building a support network in the industry. Now he’s relishing his role as bar manager at Tjing Tjing, where he’s created a menu he’s proud of. Philip is competing in the World Class national finals for the first time. Follow him on social media: @phil_of_it

KwaZulu-Natal

Jason Andrews

Jason Andrews
Jason, 41, started bartending while he was at hotel school in Durban but fell in love with it when he joined the Cunard Line’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, in 2005. After six years of sailing around the world and becoming a bar supervisor, he returned to Durban to start a family with the dancer he fell in love with on board. He stayed in the hospitality industry and has just started a new job as national sales manager for DaVinci Gourmet, supplying flavoured syrups and purees for cocktails and other drinks. He remains passionate about mixing cocktails and pushing his boundaries. Jason came forth in his first appearance in the World Class national finals in 2023. Follow him on social media: @jasonthechef

Jono Harrison

Jono Harrison of Alchemy
Jono, 37, believes he is the first chef to enter World Class in South Africa but says his palate works just as well when he’s creating a cocktail as it does in the kitchen. He’s had a lifelong love affair with food and learned his trade in restaurant kitchens in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Shortly after lockdown, he moved to the Karoo, opening a café in Philipstown and his own restaurant in Richmond. It was here that he discovered a love for mixology, creating cocktails to complement his menus. As the head chef at Alchemy, he works closely with bar manager Richie Nahkala – who came second in World Class in 2023 – to ensure food and drinks work in harmony. World Class 2024 is his first competition.

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