November 30, -0001

Caprice Hosts WorldClass Retro Chic Bartender Competition

The Reserve World Class competition organized by Diageo is back. This annual event takes place in 42 countries around the world, where all are competing for the official Diageo World's Best Bartender award. Lebanon has been participating in this competition for the last three years. This year, the competition started with 13 contestants, who competed in the Bar Chef competition at Mandaloun, followed by Retro Chic at Caprice and will end by a Tropical Journey.

Now the spotlight is on Retro Chic which takes place at Caprice, one of Lebanon's popular outlets by Add-Mind. Taking inspiration from the revival of Retro Chic – a global luxury trend, Diageo Reserve World Class is leading Retro Chic within contemporary and experimental cocktail culture as well, paying homage to the simplicity of the golden era of the 50s and 60s.

The idea behind Retro Chic is simple - bringing back old classic cocktails like Manhattan, Margarita, Bloody Mary... by adding to it a twist that would make it better in the bartenders' opinion.

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Grab one of the colorful bow ties -red, yellow, orange, green- and take your seat before the competition starts and get ready to be amazed. The expectations are high and the bar is raised higher and higher every time with memorable creations and outstanding presentations. I can still remember some amazing creations at the BarChef like the Tequila Lebanese Coffee as well as the the liquid nitrogen drinks accompanied with mouthwatering creations of bites that amazed the judges.

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Retro Chic welcomes 13 bartenders from Lebanon's top clubs and bars to compete in front of a tough team of judges. Let's meet them...

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Salvatore Calabrese: 45 years behind the bar Salvatore tells me:

Most people call me the maestro. I've been around this industry for the last 45 years. One thing I love is the art of bartender. I get inspired by traveling the world and meeting young enthusiastic bartenders and see what they can do. To be a great bartender: You need to be a great mixologist, and a great peoples friend at the same time. You have to understand people and know what they want. This is my second time in Beirut where I had the chance to visit the downtown area, Gemmayze, Monot and Hamra. I loved the nice bars, nice drinks and the nice Lebanese service. The people are great and very social. I loved Beirut's vibes.

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Salvatore Calabrese ("The Maestro") is one of the world’s leading bartenders whose performance arena was Salvatore at FIFTY in London’s St James's. The Maestro developed his talent for combining flavours at an early age while working in a bar in Maiori, a small village on Italy's Amalfi Coast. Salvatore then came to London and took a position at Duke's Hotel in St James's. While there he developed a niche market for special cognacs. This was the start of a concept he calls Liquid History. Salvatore then moved to the illustrious Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge, where he further developed his unique style. From the start, it was a passion for the great classic cocktails that led him to his career. The Maestro also experimented with new liqueurs, both new and old spirits and fresh juices, culminating in exotic cocktails that have themselves become classics. For a fee, he will create a bespoke cocktail for you or a friend as the ultimate gift.

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Erik Lorincz: winner of the WorldClass 2010 Erik tells me:

Everything in life has to have a perfect balance. Head bartender at the American bar, savoy for two and a half years, I've got the chance to learn and meet lots of interesting people. I've been bar-tending for 12 fruitful years, a great decision I took, that put me in contact with people by traveling around the world. With the word class, I had too many opportunities and worked on the last James Bond movie as a bartender consultant. It is my second time in Lebanon; I loved the hospitality, bars have a great vibration. It is different then London. Yesterday night we visited February 30 and Garcia's, two places I fell in love with. A bartender is a full package: It is a person that didn't go to university to learn this job so he has to be very intelligent. He has to have great appearance, has to be charming, be a good entertainer, be a good welcoming host, have good techniques, he has to understands the flavors of the bar, all of that inspiring trust by showing his skills to his guests.  A professional attitude that will brake the barrier between him and his guests showing he knows what he's doing. It is very important that a bartender creates a drink as the guest likes it not as he does. A cocktail is a little Cherry on the big cake.

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Lorincz is only 31 and has one of the most enviable positions in the industry, working at the bar that produced the The Savoy Cocktail Book and carrying on the legacy of Ada Coleman, Harry Craddock, and Peter Dorelli. While studying hospitality at home in Slovakia, he got interested in bartending, attended a bartending competition in Prague as a guest, and then signed on for a month-long bartending program there one year out of high school. While in the program he started bartending thanks to a connection his teacher made, and continued to bartend in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. He was a bar manager there as the cocktail scene there was just beginning. Looking to move forward in his career, he moved to London to learn English. He took a job as a barback cleaning ashtrays and such at the Attica club. Then he found a job bartending in a Japanese restaurant and was intrigued by the Japanese style of bartending, so he went to Japan to meet and study under the famous Kazuo Uyeda. After his stint working in Japanese bars in London, Lorincz was able to apply his skills at the hotel bar at The Sanderson and then The Connaught. In 2010, he won the Diageo World Class international bartending competition (beating 9000 entrants), and started his position at the American Bar at the Savoy when it reopened on 10/10/2010.

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Joey Ghazal: A hospitality guru Joey tells me:

They call me, the serial gastropreneur who has opened dozens of restaurants and bars on three continents. Since moving to Beirut three years ago, I developed some sort of interesting concepts among them BRGR co, the Angry Monkey who won the award of Beirut's best bar, St. Elmos and Cro Magnon restaurants in Zeitunay bay which I currently co-own and manage. Cocktail making is an art by itself and I am really curious to see what the local bartenders can do trusting they have an international level.

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Caprice, a venue with an industrial ambiance: 

  • An industrial feel with a metallic and concrete ceiling
  • A concrete floor
  • A two level place differentiated with industrial wood materials
  • A long bar follows the main wall on the right
  • Far west round tables surrounded by tissue stools
  • Five circular lanterns pending from the ceiling
  • Dimmed lighting
  • Three LCD screens fixed over the bar
  • A long mirror behind the bar makes the place look bigger
  • A couple of black sofas are fixed here and there

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The food served was not the best:

  • Summer rolls with soy sauce: fresh and tasty but were too watery and fell into little pieces even before you grab them
  • Mini chicken burgers: the bread was prominent making the mix unpleasant to chew. Too much bread for a tiny portion of dry chicken
  • Salmon canapé: simple, yet the bread used is too thick and chewy. A very low quality
  • Parma ham canapé. The same bread problem
  • Labneh canapé
  • Mini burgers: the sauce was nonexistent. An overcooked dry meat in a dry bread. Surely not the best you can have
  • Fried shrimps: the oil smell was overwhelming. Way too oily to the extend of shining like a disco ball. A preparation close to being tasteless
  • Spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce: These were good. Crunchy, tasty and fresh

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The competitors each representing a participating venue:

  1. Ayman Zaarour from Bedivere
  2. Rani Bayda from Zinc
  3. Ali Rammal form Garcia's
  4. Walid Darwish from Caprice
  5. Mohammad Abou el Rich from Bronx
  6. Pascal Matar from Iris beach
  7. Alain Achkar from Mandaloun
  8. Julian Youssef from Cassis
  9. Sebastian Emmanuel from Boston
  10. Sebouh Tato from Iris
  11. Eio Oueis from Mad
  12. Samer Nehme from Überhaus
  13. Kareem Dawas from 107 Victor Hugo

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The event started with a welcome note from Joe Nazzal Diageo's, Regional Reserve Brand Ambassador, followed by an example of some Retro Chic drinks prepared by Mr Salvatore and Mr Erik. Both fine tuned two drinks each to heat up the venue and put the contestants on track. Drink created by Salvatore Calabreze:

  • The Vespa: The Vesper or Vesper Martini is a cocktail that was originally made of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet. The drink was invented and named by fictional secret agent James Bond in the 1953 novel Casino Royale. "The twist of Vespa" adding to it some raspberry fruit
  • Breakfast Martini: 130 years, this era is more sweet. Salvatore told us the story of a breakfast with his wife and the marmalade she served him which inspired him to create a breakfast drink. Always start by chilling the shaker, add a teaspoon of marmalade followed by lemon juice to add a bitter essence and a sweet flavor, Cointreau, Gin and a hint of orange zest.

Drink created by Erik Laurenz: 

  • Classic Gin Fizz: A Fizz is a type of mixed drink—a variation on the older Sours family. The defining features of the fizz are an acidic juice (such as lemon or lime juice) and carbonated water. Adding more flavors to it by putting coriander then using yuzu instead of lemon juice. Balance it with sugar syrup then an Italian aperitif wine, Tanqueray number 10 gin and finishing with soda water.
  • Norman Conquest: Angostura, Sugar syrup, Sweet vermouth, Whiskey and Calvados

Let the show begin:

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Ayman Zaarour from Bedivere
  • Drink: The Negroni cocktail is made of one part gin, one part vermouth rosso (red, semi-sweet), and one part bitters, traditionally Campari. It is considered an apéritif.
  • Drink history : While the drink's origins are unknown, the most widely reported account is that it was invented in Florence, Italy in 1919, at Caffè Casoni, ex Caffè Giacosa, now called Caffè Cavalli. Count Camillo Negroni invented it by asking the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favorite cocktail, theAmericano, by adding gin rather than the normal soda water. The bartender also added an orange garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano to signify that it was a different drink. After the success of the cocktail, the Negroni Family founded Negroni Distillerie in Treviso, Italy, and produced a ready-made version of the drink, sold as Antico Negroni 1919. One of the earliest reports of the drink came from Orson Welles in correspondence with the Coshocton Tribune while working in Rome on Cagliostro in 1947, where he described a new drink called the Negroni, "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other."According to the Corsican newspaper Nice Matin Corse of 1980,Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni is among those whom it is believed invented the drink.
  • Twist: Mediterranean twist adding rose marry, lingonberry & herbs as garnish.

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Rani Bayda from Zinc
  • Dress: White shirt, black waist overall & tie.
  • Set Up: Retro , gramophone,  two vintage candle stands, a Jar & smoking tank.
  • Drink: Bloody Mary is a popular cocktail containing vodka, tomato juice, and usually other spices or flavorings such as Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, piri piri sauce, beef consommé or bouillon, horseradish, celery, olive, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and celery salt. It has been called "the world's most complex cocktail".
  • Drink history: The name "Bloody Mary" is associated with a number of historical figures — particularly Queen Mary I of England, who was nicknamed as such inFoxe's Book of Martyrs for attempting to re-establish the Catholic Church in Britain — and fictional women from folklore. Some drink aficionados believe the inspiration for the name was Hollywood star Mary Pickford. Others trace the name to a waitress named Mary who worked at a Chicago bar called the Bucket of Blood.
  • Twist: Smoked vodka, fresh tomato, herbs, dry cherry, Tabasco, mustard, celery, ginger.

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Ali Rammal form Garcia's
  • Dress: White shirt black tie & pull over.
  • Set up: A red napkin in front of the jury. A crystal glass with bitter chocolate pieces to accompany it .
  • Drink: The Hanky-Panky is a variation on the sweet martini, inasmuch as it calls for gin and sweet vermouth, but Coley's secret ingredient was Fernet Branca, a bitter Italian digestivo. By adding a couple of dashes of this herbal elixir, she transformed it into a whole new drink. 

The Hanky-Panky cocktail was the brainchild of Ada Coleman. Her benefactor was Rupert D'Oyly Carte, a member of the family that first produced Gilbert and Sullivan operas in London and that built the Savoy Hotel. When Rupert became chairman of the Savoy in 1903, Ada was given a position at the hotel's American Bar, where she eventually became the head bartender and made cocktails for the likes of Mark Twain, the Prince of Wales, Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, and Sir Charles Hawtrey. Charles Hawtrey was the man for whom "Coley", as Ada Coleman was affectionately called, created the Hanky-Panky cocktail. He was a Victorian and Edwardian actor who mentored Noël Coward. Coley herself told the story behind the creation of the Hanky-Panky to England's 

The People newspaper in 1925: "The late Charles Hawtrey... was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when he was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, 'Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.' It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, 'By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!' And Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since."

  • Twist: Named it Zanky Panky, Rum instead of Gin, Menta Branca, Chocolate Bitter

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Walid Darwish from Caprice
  • Dress: White shirt, Black butterfly & Vest (Gilet).
  • Set Up: A small carafe & another big one. A small cup with ingredients
  • Drink: The Sazerac is a local New Orleans variation of an old-fashioned cognac or whiskey cocktail, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac that was its original prime ingredient. The drink is some combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint, and Peychaud's Bitters; it is distinguished by its preparation method. It is sometimes referred to as the oldest known American cocktail, with origins in pre–Civil War New Orleans, though there are much earlier published instances of the word cocktail.
  • Drink History which walid started with as Antoine with a barbe & moustache: Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar, The Merchants Exchange Coffee House, and went into the imported liquor business. He began to import a brand of cognac named Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. At the same time, Aaron Bird took over the Merchants Exchange and changed its name to the Sazerac House and began serving the "Sazerac Cocktail", made with Taylor's Sazerac cognac and, legend has it, the bitters being made down the street by a local druggist, Antoine Amedie Peychaud. The Sazerac House changed hands several times and around 1870 Thomas Handy took over as proprietor. Around this time the primary ingredient changed from cognac to rye whiskey due to the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated France's wine grape crops.
  • Twist: Called it Oriental Sazerac. Added Lebanese Arak to chill the glass. He used special ice-cubes with rose flowers. Served in a gold egg cup

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Mohammad Abou El Rich from Bronx
  • Dress: White shirt, waist overall
  • Set Up: Bottle display, drink recipe handed to the jury.
  • Drink: The Bronx Cocktail is essentially a Perfect Martini with orange juice added. It was ranked number three in "The World's 10 Most Famous Cocktails in 1934", making it a very popular rival to the Martini (#1) and the Manhattan (#2). Today, it remains a popular choice in some markets, and is designated as an Official Cocktail by the International Bartender Association. Like the Manhattan, the Bronx is one of five cocktails named for one of New York City's five boroughs, but is perhaps most closely related to the Queens (cocktail), which substitutes pineapple for the Bronx's orange.
  • Drink History : As with several mixed drinks invented prior to prohibition in the United States, more than one story is attributed to the creation of this cocktail. The Bronx Cocktail, strange to say, was invented in Philadelphia, of all places! There it might have remained in obscurity had it not been for one Joseph Sormani, a Bronx restaurateur, who discovered it in the Quaker City in 1905. The original recipe has been greatly distorted in the course of years, but here's the original to guide you and to compare with the other recipes being used: Four parts of gin, one part of orange juice and one part of Italian Vermouth. Shake thoroughly in ice and serve.
  • Twist: Called the Bronx Flip: Ron Zacapa 15, Martini Rosso, martini extra dry, Agave nectar, pimento dram liqueur, fresh orange juice & egg white

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Pascal Matar from Iris Beach
  • Dress: White shirt black tie & vest (gilet)
  • Set Up: Long drink & a jar used as a pitcher
  • Drink: The Tom Collins is a Collins cocktail made from gin, lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water. First memorialised in writing in 1876 by "the father of American mixology" Jerry Thomas, this "gin and sparkling lemonade" drink typically is served in a Collins glass over ice.
  • Drink History In 1874, people in New York, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the United States would start a conversation with "Have you seen Tom Collins?" After the listener predictably reacts by explaining that they did not know a Tom Collins, the speaker would assert that Tom Collins was talking about the listener to others and that Tom Collins was "just around the corner", "in a bar," or somewhere else near. The conversation about the nonexistent Tom Collins was a proven hoax of exposure. In The Great Tom Collins hoax of 1874, as it became known, the speaker would encourage the listener to act foolishly by reacting to patent nonsense that the hoaxer deliberately presents as reality. In particular, the speaker desired the listener to become agitated at the idea of someone talking about them to others such that the listener would rush off to find the purportedly nearby Tom Collins. Similar to The New York Zoo hoax of 1874, several newspapers propagated the very successful practical joke by printing stories containing false sightings of Tom Collins. The 1874 hoax quickly gained such notoriety that several 1874 music hall songs memorialised the event.
  • Twist : Adding homemade ginger

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Alain Achkar from Mandaloun
  • Dress: Black shirt with black bow-tie & red waist overall
  • Set Up: 2 set of white nap with a butcher knife a hammer, 2 vintage vases, a photo cadre. A perfume
  • Drink: Manhattan "Manhattan Cocktail": Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Commonly used whiskeys include rye (the traditional choice), Canadian whisky (simply called Rye in Canada), bourbon, blended whiskey and Tennessee whiskey. The cocktail is often stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass, where it is garnished with a Maraschino cherry with a stem. A Manhattan is also frequently served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass (lowball glass). The whiskey-based Manhattan is one of five cocktails named for one of New York City's five boroughs, but is perhaps most closely related to the Brooklyn cocktail, a mix utilising dry vermouth and Maraschino liqueur in place of the Manhattan's sweet vermouth, as well as Amer Picon in place of the Manhattan's traditional bitters.
  • Drink History: A popular history suggests that the drink originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, where it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston's mother) in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The success of the banquet made the drink fashionable, later prompting several people to request the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated—"the Manhattan cocktail". However, Lady Randolph was in France at the time and pregnant, so the story is likely a fiction.
  • Twist: Very nice presentation well know the history & interaction. Chocolate + chilli pepper & cutting ice was impressive and new even though copied from the first event.

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Julian Youssef from CASSIS
  • Dress: A black blazer to look like a Casino employee
  • Set Up: Julian created a 007 setup on a silver tray. Poker chips, cards, red dices and nuts
  • Drink: Vesper Martini: The drink was invented and named by fictional secret agent James Bond in the 1953 novel Casino Royale"A dry martini," [Bond] said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet." "Oui, monsieur." "Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?" "Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea. "Gosh, that's certainly a drink," said Leiter. Bond laughed. "When I'm...er...concentrating," he explained, "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name." Ian Fleming, Casino Royale, Chapter 7, "Rouge et Noir'
  • Twist: Creating the rose vesper

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Sebastian Emmanuel from Mr. Boston
  • Dress: White shirt with black neck-tie & black waist overall
  • Drink: The Old Fashioned is an IBA Official Cocktail made by muddling dissolved sugar with bitters then adding
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