Canada’s James Grant has been named the Diageo World Class winner for 2021, beating the other 49 global finalists over five days of virtual competition.
Bartenders from across the global were streamed live from their home countries competing in a series of challenges to test their skills, creativity and showmanship.
James said: “I can’t believe I’ve won. All the bartenders were incredible and to be chosen as this year’s winner, after the year we’ve all had is unbelievable.
“When I started my journey in bartending I never thought it would lead me here. I was simply inspired by the community and creativity of everyone around me, it was infectious and soon I had fallen in love with the craft and opportunities.
“It gave me the drive and determination to seek out the best in the business to learn from and that’s what got me here today. I want to thank all those who have been part of that journey and now I want to inspire up and coming bartenders to find a career and a creative outlet in the extraordinary world of bartending.”
Although the competition was virtual, it was no-less real and this year’s challenges saw the finalists tasked with creating a Johnnie Walker highball that reflected the flavours and culture of their home city; hosting a masterclass for making a World Class Tanqueray No. Ten cocktail at home; designing a Ketel One vodka cocktail that had a positive environmental impact and a sense of community at its core, and producing an original subterranean-inspired Don Julio serve.
The week was rounded off with a special edition ‘Malts’ speed round challenge using The Singleton and Talisker.
Simon Earley, Global Head of Diageo World Class, said: “Our first-ever virtual World Class Global Final has been a huge success and has resulted in one the most innovative and creative competitions we have ever seen.
“The judges were blown away by James’ creativity and originality, creating serves that were amazing to experience visually, virtually and in person. They are a fully deserving winner and I’m really excited to start working with them as a World Class ambassador in the year ahead.”
James is now the twelfth bartender to enter the World Class Hall of Fame, and today marks the start of an exciting 12 months that will see them judging World Class national heats; inspiring 2022 hopefuls and crowning regional champions.
Simon added: “For more than 12 months the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit, but what this year has shown is the creativity, innovation and camaraderie that lives within our bartender community and we are delighted that we were able to showcase just some of this spirit within the World Class Competition.”