Reuben Beasley-Palmer mixes winning whisky cocktails at 2023 Nikka Perfect Serve

Botswana Butchery’s Reuben Beasley-Palmer took home the title of Australia’s best bartender at the regional 2023 Nikka Perfect Serve competition.

Premium Japanese whisky maker Nikka invited ten of Australia’s best mixologists to compete in the regional finals at Burrow Bar in Sydney’s CBD on Tuesday 4 July. Contestants got creative pairing a neat serve of their favourite Nikka expression with a non-alcoholic mixer of their choice, before judges crowned Reuben the winner.

“I feel extremely privileged to have been able to take out the top spot, it’s taken a few days for the news to sink in”, commented Reuben who manages Melbourne bar Botswana Butchery. “I started out as a bar back polishing glasses and stacking boxes, slowly getting more and more interested and finding bars that I loved. Essentially I [got to where I am today] by keeping at it, working with people who I value and constantly soaking up as much as possible along the way.”

Three prominent industry figures made up the panel of judges, comprising of owner and head chef at Bancho Bar, Chad Choulai, owner of Burrow Bar, Chau Tran, and last years’ Nikka Perfect Serve Australian winner, Aiden Rodriguez.

Regional winner Reuben was praised by the judges for his impeccable service and ability to connect with the customer, all while he stirred up a storm. Reuben wowed the judges with three winning cocktails, The Other Half, The Lady Fingers and Godfather. “My serving of The Other Half was a pairing of a dram of Nikka Yoichi Single Malt Whisky and a tasty soda that I created. The mixer, named Super Mandarin Soda, was a mix of a mandarin sherbet, cold pressed mandarin juice and soda, adding all of this to a bottle to pre-carbonate it and garnished with a wasabi leaf.”

“I found this was a magical pairing of the mellow peat, slight maritime and bold flavour of Nikka Yoichi Single Malt, with the bright zingy pop of the Super Mandarin Soda.”

The entrants gathered in the intimate setting to create a holistic experience, encompassing the Japanese philosophy “ichi-go, ichi-e” translating to “one chance, one encounter”. The contestants each had 15 minutes to demonstrate their expert whisky pour and cocktail recommendation in true Omakese style, meaning “I leave it to you”.

“Guest experience is number one”, added Reuben. “Without the guests you are basically just signing in the shower. One thing that has always helped me understanding and interacting with guests and what they’re looking for is to get on their level. Ask about their day, try to understand a little about them and understand what they’re looking for in your bar.”

“Maybe your guests are on their first date so they don’t want as much chat, or maybe they’re on their own visiting from out of town and they’re looking for someone to keep them company. Staying aware of this will help pave your pathway as to what they may or may not want to drink, it’s all integral for me.”

Reuben will represent Australia at the global final of the Nikka Perfect Serve competition in San Francisco later this year. He will go head-to-head with some of the world’s leading bar tenders for his chance to take home the ultimate title. At the global stage of the competition, the winner and runner-up will be awarded a trip to Japan to take a journey through Nikka’s distilleries and the iconic Tokyo bar scene.

“I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to be part of the Nikka Perfect Serve global competition, it’s going to be tough but I’m really looking forward to it.”

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