Anthony Medina takes Diplomático crown

Venezuelan bartender Anthony Medina has become Diplomático rum’s inaugural world cocktail champion, after unexpectedly triumphing on home soil.

Medina, who works for bartender training website and is based in Caracas, prevailed from a strong field of 15 international bartenders, representing 14 countries.

The three-day Diplomático World Tournament took place in multiple venues across Barquisimeto – the hometown of DUSA, which produces Diplomático rum and Diageo’s Cacique, among others.

Bartenders competing had successfully navigated regional and national heats in their respective countries to qualify for the final.

Ian Burrell, global rum ambassadorMedina performed strongly throughout the contest, which consisted of four rounds: Mystery Box – in which competitors drew a random selection of ingredients – Twist on a Classic, Create a Classic and Signature Serve.

Judges were taken with Medina’s imaginative, prop and equipment-loaded performances and his ability to showcase Venezuelan culture through his drinks, which were laden with unusual flavours and perfectly balanced.

The four-member panel was headed by the Connaught’s Ago Perrone; Michael Mcilroy, formally of Milk & Honey NY and now co-owner of Attaboy in New York; Geoffrey Canilao of Employees Only-fame and now bar manager of The Union in Copenhagen; and deputy editor of Drinks International, Hamish Smith. Global rum ambassador, Ian Burrell, hosted the competition.

Anthony MedinaMedina dropped to his knees on hearing he had won – his progression had been against the odds, at regional, national and global level. Just to arrive at the final he had defeated over 100 other Venezuelan bartenders.

On taking the title of Diplomático World Tournament Champion, Medina said: “It has been a dream to win.  I put a lot of work into the competition and lost a lot of sleep preparing.  I deeply researched into the brand,  the other bartenders and the judges, and I tried to present a positive image of Venezuela.”

Medina, who received an over-sized $5,000 cheque on the night, added: “I want to use the money to go on a trip to visit other cultures – London, New York, Italy – an educational trip to grow professionally and personally. I aspire to be like Erik Lorenz or Ago Perrone.  [When I come back] I want to teach Venezuelans about cocktail culture and how to make a living out of cocktails.”

Mcilroy said: “He captured the essence of the competition, using the range of rums well and showcased the local culture. His last drink was fantastic - a clever and well executed coffee drink.  He delivered his presentations through a translator but in spite of that he created a connection. He delivered a great show.

“Anthony could easily make it abroad. He reminded me of a classic hotel bartender. His poise, fluidity and presence is what the world’s top bars look for. It was a real pleasure to watch him work and be served his drinks.”

Canilao added: “We debated the politics of a Venezuelan winning a Venezuelan competition – how it looks from the outside – but the way it played out, Medina scored highest and performed the best. It was an emotional, but statistical outcome.”

Matteo Zamberlan of Settembrini CaféMatteo Zamberlan (right) of Settembrini Café might count himself unlucky after narrowly losing out on the competition’s top position. The Italian left Venezuela with $2,500 in prize money and made an impression on judges, who commended his studious preparation and classic yet creative style. He couldn't have done much more. 

Daniel Warren, a Briton from 1806 in Melbourne, had provided stiff competition too, finishing third. A 22-year old in his first global competition, Warren belied his tender years with what judges described as “flawless presentations and classically-inspired drinks to match”.  Judges agreed Warren was a future star of the bartending world. He won $1,000 for his efforts.

The panel added that bartenders such as Nick Nistico of The Regent Cocktail Club in Miami, Florida, Jason Browne from Calabash Bistro in Vancouver, Jaroslav Janoušek of Black Angel  in Prague and Jon Lister of Purl in London, all deserve recognition for their thorough preparation and drinks execution.

Canilao said: “The standard was particularly high. Everyone was very talented. These were not all seasoned competitors but Diplomático unearthed some pearls. Jon Lister is highly talented just not a seasoned competition bartender – if you went to his bar – you would say wow. Look at Daniel – I hadn’t even heard of him but he showed such natural talent and poise.”

The finalists

The finalists (from left to right): Darren Crawford of San Franciso, the US;  Brendan Boehning, an American representing Denmark; Nick Nistico of Miami, the US; Matteo Zamberlan of Italy; Michael Landart of France; Mateusz Swiercz, a Pole working in Germany; Anthony Medina of Venezuela; Daniel Warren, a Briton representing Australia; Jon Lister of the UK; Luis Cano of Colombia; Axel Tesch of Sweden; Eugene Chua from Singapore; Jaroslav Janoušek; Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain; Jason Browne, a Briton representing Canada.

Images: Diplomático and Bára Urbanová of BarLife CZ.