Jan 15 2014

The Holy Smoke, and how to get World Class

By: Anne Berry

blog3The Holy Smoke, photo by Anne Berry

Native son Ricky Gomez was in town Tuesday, talking Diageo World Class with local USBG members.

As the 2012 World Class U.S. winner, Ricky advanced to the four-day finals (held that year in Brazil), where he made more than 30 cocktails for a judging panel of drinks legends.

“It was overwhelming,” Ricky told me later. “The judges expect multiple drink styles, presentation, thinking on the fly, speed, cleanliness and technique. World Class is all-encompassing, which is what makes it unique.”

First, though, you have to qualify: complete two education seminars, submit an original recipe (use only sponsored brands, no housemade ingredients), and answer these two essay questions:

  • What makes this a world-class cocktail? (“Explain why you chose these ingredients,” Ricky says.)
  • When was a time you gave and got a world-class cocktail experience? (“This shows what’s important to you.”)

Other tips from Ricky’s seminar:

  • Bring your flair. Get skilled with your tools (“use every part of your jigger, and use it with style”), and learn to throw cocktails.
  • “At this level of competition, everybody’s making good drinks, so the judges are looking for service and stories,” says Ricky. “Show them you’re creative, that you understand the brands, and let them get to know you in five minutes. Ultimately, think of the judge as your guest.”
  • At any competition, “you’re recreating your bar,” says Ricky. “Judges are evaluating the way you set up your station and handle your tools.” That means bring your own well-stocked kit (checklists help) and have a plan for bar setup so you’re comfortable and everything’s within easy reach.

For a more immediate world-class experience, catch Ryan Gannon (2013 World Class U.S. finalist) at Cure and ask for his Holy Smoke, a masterful pairing of creamy Speyside triple malt Scotch, pine-fermented mezcal, and brandy-based banana liqueur.

Here, the smoke flirts with citrus and a clean mineral sweetness, making it a seductive, almost delicate drink.

Ryan tells me he’s headed next week to another contest, this the finals of PAMA’s “Are You Indispensable?” in New York City. He’ll present before a panel that includes Paul Pacult, Steve Olson and Julie Reiner. Holy smokes!


Cure, 4905 Freret, 302.2357

Cure alum Ricky Gomez is currently a Diageo World Class U.S. Ambassador. His stop in New Orleans is part of a larger tour to other USBG chapters. Tuesday’s meeting was hosted by USBG-NOLA and Cane & Table, who provided lunch and cocktails.

Want to enter the World Class contest? Deadline is March 15. U.S. finals take place June 12-15 in New York City. Diageo will soon announce the location of the global finals.


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