World Class 2021 had a different vibe this time around with the competition being held virtually, thanks to the pandemic. The competition was eventually won by James Grant from Canada but the one thing that everything agreed upon was the quality of judging even though there was no face-to-face meeting.
We caught up with Anna Sebastian for an exclusive interview to talk about her experience as a judge for World Class 2021, the bartending community and cocktails around the globe. Sebastian is recognized as one of the most popular faces in the spirits world and recently joined Ellie Goulding’s Served Hard Seltzer as Head of Brand. Excerpts from the interview.
Tell us about your preparations as a juror for World Class 2021 finals
It was really exciting, lots of research and reading into the cocktails and competitors as well as moving from real life to virtual was also a lot to take it but overall, it was a really smooth experience which was great.
What kind of cocktails and level of competition did you expect the contestants to put up given it is entirely virtual?
World Class always has a really high standard of cocktails so that was always a given however the challenges of going virtual and not being able to make your own drink is always a bit nerve-wracking. Saying that having the Sweet and Chilli team running the event was amazing as they are known for their execution and quality of cocktails.
What are three factors that determine a good World Class bartender, according to you?
Personality, Passion and Precision.
Given competitors aren’t able to taste the final serves given to judges, do you think this will have an impact on scoring?
It’s hard to say but I think with homemade ingredients there will always be challenges especially when they are travelling across the world. There is always a small chance that this could impact the final flavour. Even things like lemons will have different acidity from different places in the world.
What are some of your best memories from World Class 2021?
Being connected globally, the excitement and being transported to other countries via a drink.
Do you think there’s been a shift in how bartenders perceive and serve drinks post-pandemic?
I think people are more conscious of the consumer and not just the industry which is important considering that 95% of trade in our bars is made up of non-industry. Also, the use of local ingredients I think has become more important.
Describe some of your fondest memories with some contestants and winners from previous World Class editions
I think overall it is about bringing people together and creating this world-class family. It goes beyond the competition and unites and drives people forward to be better.
Tell us about working with other judges on the World Class panel and how you coordinated things amongst yourselves?
It was great as everyone was there to help and support, lots of conversations before and afterwards going across the world which was great. It was really nice to be brought together with the same collective goal.
Have you visited India previously, and are you inclined to visit now that you have experienced Rohan’s hospitality?
100% I love India and have been five times now and travelled all over. I cannot wait to go back and meet Rohan (Matmary of Sidecar India, another finalist on World Class 2021) and experience everything again.
If a bartender had to woo you with his or her cocktail, what is the easiest way for them to do so?
The drink is really a platform, it is all about the experience, the personality and engagement. Everything else doesn’t really matter.
What message do you want to give out to all the contestants before World Class?
Just go for it, work hard and have fun. Sometimes things take time so be patient.
Given your vast experience in the field, what is the one solid trait you want to see in upcoming bartenders?
Rather than attaching yourself to someone or a place, align yourself with an overall cause and mission to make things better for yourself and community and work towards that. It is the only way you can achieve what you want to and true happiness.
What’s your favourite spirit and cocktail?
So hard! I’m currently loving spritzes and highballs. Having said that, I love a good chilli margarita!
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Priyanko Sarkar is the Founder Editor of Gurgl.in. He has been a writer for over 15 years and this site is his attempt to document India's growing beverage sector with impactful and interesting stories. His favourite drink is Vietnamese Coffee and his favourite spirit is Turkish Raki.