~ St. Maarten Finals ~
St. Maarten will be one of four other Caribbean nations competing in The World Class Bartender of the Year Competition. SXM is also the smallest country overall. We intend to show the mixology world that we are small but strong and resilient, just like our island has shown many times.
The World Class Bartender of the Year Competition is the world’s largest and most respected bartending competition. It is an annual competition entered by thousands of contestants across the globe, culminating in a Global Final event and experience.
What has catapulted SXM’s cocktail culture to such a level where we’ve attracted such a prestigious competition? Roel Kokkelmans, commercial manager at International liquor and Tobacco Trading NV, and driving force behind the initiative says, “Since Hurricane Irma, a few new establishments have emerged and some old establishments have had to reinvent themselves, with in turn the island acquiring a number of mixologists who have the raised the mixology bar to another level. We’ve moved from Rum punches and Vodka cranberries to the latest trends. We are also now catering to a much larger demographic of travellers with a wider variety of tastes. We have a good range of mixologists on island who have their own networks and take care of each other, sharing tips and tools of the trade, this has all contributed to us finally being at a level where we are now included in the World Class Bartender of the Year Competition.”
For the first time ever St. Maarten/St. Martin will host local finals that will decide who will represent the island in an effort to win the world’s most prestigious title in the mixology and cocktail industry. Eight bartenders from various bars and restaurants on both sides of the island have been selected to battle it out to see who the first St. Maarten World Class winner will be.
Here’s what two of the contestants had to say about the competition:
How excited or nervous are you about the competition? Is it your first? It is not my first at all but I always have that same pressure, I just learned to hide it better.
What do you consider your specialty or strong point as a bartender for competition? Tiki drinks and production of homemade ingredients.
What do you mean? This sounds interesting! Well, nowadays good bartenders can make syrups, bitters, liquors, infusions, ice and more from scratch.
Oh that’s pretty cool, you prefer it that way then? Yes, most of the time, unless there is a better industrial option or if I can’t make it better than well-known brands, like angostura bitters for instance. They’ve been making it for hundreds of years and it’s a secret recipe with tons of ingredients. You can’t beat that!
Where do you take your inspiration from for your drinks and/or for this particular competition? Usually, I take inspiration from the pioneers of bartending like Jerry Thomas, Charles Schumann or Don the Beach Comber Archives. In this one it’s a mix of these guys’ legacy and my personal life experiences.
What’s your favourite regular drink to make for customers? I love to find the one drink that they never tried before and have that become their new favourite.
What’s your favourite drink to enjoy when you are not working? Champagne and old rums.
How excited or nervous are you about the competition? Is it your first? I am really excited. It’s not my first, but it’s definitely my most important one. I thought I would be way more relaxed but 2 weeks ago, the tension started to kick in and I’m really nervous!
What do you consider your specialty/strong point? To make really balanced cocktails with the sweet, sour, bitter and spice tastes. I am also a pretty communicative person. I’m good under the pressure onstage and talking to people.
Where do you take your inspiration from for your drinks or for this particular competition? Usually the creativity comes by itself; I try a spice, a flavour and think ‘Oh this will be good with this liquor’. For this competition I looked for inspiration all over the island and talked to all my local friends, and found inspiration through the island and its people.
What’s your favourite regular drink to make for customers? I like impressing my clients when I make their regular cocktails, my versions are different, even my own version of espresso martini with a shot of Frangelico, or a Basil Smash, which for me is a classic cocktail, but not really well-known here. Every time I prepare it, people are amazed by the colour, perfume, and taste of the cocktail. I like to surprise the customers!
What’s your favourite drink to enjoy when you are not working? Gin & tonic!
Wednesday – 1st round: all contestants will face 2 different challenges that they will have to complete which will be scored by a 3 headed jury of mixologists and industry leaders. The top 4 will advance to the final speed round.
Thursday – Final round: bartenders get 6 minutes to make 6 different twists on classic cocktails. After this, the jury will award the prestigious title to the highest point scorer.
Our newly crowned World Class St. Maarten winner will go on to represent the country in a unique multi-format event hosted in Madrid, Spain from July 5-8th, 2021. Here, after a range of testing tasks the new World Class Global Bartender of the Year will emerge victorious!
Get to Roxxy Beach for the World Class Competition this Wednesday, April 28, and Thursday 29th, in Simpson Bay at 7:00pm SHARP!