Kenya’s 2016 Bartender of the Year is crowned!

bartender joan samia artcaffe diageo world class 2016 susan wong

Kenya’s best bartenders shaked and stirred at the 2016 national final of the Diageo Reserve World Class, on Tuesday.

Joan Samia of the Artcaffe Group claimed the title of Kenya’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2016 and will be representing the country at the global finals in Miami.

The Kenyan national final featured four challenges before judges Reserve Ambassador for Kenya Dougie Duncanson and Alex Kavita, 2015 Kenya Champion Akash Tomar, Global Mortlach and Singleton Ambassador Georgie Bell, Reserve Brand Manager for Kenya Sherlyne Muita, and Executive Chef Ciaran of Villa Rosa Kempinski.

The seven finalists prepared elaborate cocktails that took judges around the world, showcased the natural rhythm of life through night and day, challenged their palates whilst on a culinary journey, and captivated spectators with the high-pressure speed round.

“It’s been very interesting. You can taste and see some of the cocktail trends in the country,” Georgie Bell explains. “World Class is a great way to challenge bartenders and to raise the overall level of the industry in Kenya.”

Level of Competition Raised

Many of the finalists were returning competitors from the 2015 Kenyan national final and clearly had improved upon last year’s efforts.

“This year I’m using a lot of different ingredients like saffron and Hing,” Benu Kundra of Brew Bistro, the 2016 runner-up, shared after completing the Around The World Challenge.

Some drinks speak for themselves, especially when one is made with ingredients such as Hing, which is also known as Asafoetida. Historically, Hing has been used for medicinal purposes and as a spice that can transform any dish into a delicious savoury offering. The use of Hing in Kundra’s Around the World challenge was brave to say the least considering that the spice is known to be exceptionally potent.

The level of creativity and presentation for this year’s final also impressed many of the judges. From poignant music choices such as Perminus Waiharo (Dusit d2 Nairobi) garnishing his “Classic Man” cocktail to Jidenna’s chart-topping hit, to Kundra’s remote controlled truck that delivered his drink to a miniature club, to Wilberforce Ochanda’s (Juniper Social) homemade Olleo Saacharum Syrup that filled the air, and to Samia’s delicious food pairing of ravioli with a Zacapa Rum-based drink laced with sweet vermouth and organic Kenyan honey – the bartenders certainly served their best.

Samia will now go on to hone her bartending skills at a bootcamp before she heads off to Miami in September to compete against bartenders from 59 nations at the Diageo Reserve World Class Global Finals. Held annually, the Global Finals is recognized internationally as a mark of distinction for mixology.

Congratulations Samia!


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