The Beluga Signature global finals didn’t begin where you might expect. Eight national winners had traveled to Sochi, Russia—some from continents away—and spent the evening before the competition at an arboretum, not a bar.
The world-class bartenders weren’t there to admire the local wildlife. They were given a lecture on smells and perfumery, covering everything from how the nose is connected to the brain, to basic note combinations and how flavors are created. Following the seminar, the global finalists had a chance to create their own perfume and personalized bottle during a workshop. This gave each bartender a keepsake. More importantly, it gave them the information and skills they would need in the global finals.
Because after the workshop, the perfume experts brought out eight different basic essences, one for each of the global finalists to utilize in an original cocktail. The bartenders had a day to craft an original recipe showcasing the essence they were randomly assigned, inspired by the memories, associations and feelings the scent evoked.
The last stop before the competition was a local market, where the bartenders were given 30 minutes and 500 rubles—approximately $7—to pick up the ingredients the bartenders would need, in addition to their assigned essence and Beluga vodka.
The tricky part: No one at the market was allowed to speak a word of English. It took a lot of wild hand gestures and guesswork, but all eight bartenders got the ingredients they needed.
The group reconvened for the global finals at the beautiful and luxurious D.O.M. restaurant at the Grand Marina, with awe-inspiring views of the seafront. Would you expect anything less from a global competition put on by a super-premium Russian vodka?
Each finalist had 15 minutes to prepare their cocktail and tell the story behind it. At stake was the chance to travel the world as the 2019 Beluga Signature global brand ambassador.
These were the results of the global finals.
Home bar: Hotel La Griffe
A truly great bartender has to fill a variety of roles: chef, artist, scientist and, in the case of the Beluga Signature global finals, perfumer. Alessandro Venturi played these parts to perfection and has become the 2019 Beluga Signature global brand ambassador.
The Rome bartender was assigned Peru balsam oil as the essence for his cocktail. The refined, soft scent carries hints of vanilla and cinnamon and is best paired with caramel and chocolate flavors.
Venturi used ingredients from his trip to the market, lessons from the perfumer and his experience from bartending at a five-star hotel in the cocktail he created. It all led to him winning the global finals.
By becoming the global brand ambassador, Venturi has won far more than a title. He will represent the Beluga brand and promote his cocktail at major industry events around the globe, including Bar Convent Berlin, Tales of the Cocktail and Barra Mexico. Venturi will also get to choose one of the 50 World’s Best Bars where he will enjoy a one-week internship.
It’s fair to say that winning the Beluga Signature global finals is a career-defining opportunity.
Natalie Van Wyk
Home bar: Dietrich’s
Hometown: Lubeck, Germany
Natalie van Wyk was the youngest competitor at the global finals, but nothing in her performance would lead you to suspect that. She was assigned a challenging essence, mate absolute, and made inspired use of its notes of hay, tea and wood.
By combining mate absolue with citrus flavors, Van Wyk brought out the complexity of the essence and showcased the luxury of Beluga vodka, something she aims to do whether competing in a global competition or winding down after work.
“Beluga vodka is something that has put a little luxury in my every day,” says Van Wyk. “It’s why I make myself a Beluga drink after I finish my shift on busy Friday nights.”
Home bar: La Havane
Hometown: Nice, France
Guillermo Pittaluga has worked in bars in the U.S., the U.K. and France. His experience extends to the Beluga Signature global finals, since the bartender from Nice, France, also represented France at last year’s finals.
Once the judges tried his cocktail, discovering the way Pittaluga highlighted the woody, sweet and balsamic scent of oak extract, it became obvious that he earned his repeat appearance. Because of his familiarity with the subject, he was able to articulate what the brand and competition are all about.
“For me, Beluga vodka represents luxury, subtlety and elegance from its creation to bottling,” says Pittaluga. The best cocktails at the global finals were able to capture that same essence.
Anyone interested in entering the 2019 Beluga Signature competition would be wise to follow the example of these winning bartenders. It’s launching soon, so stay tuned to see when you can enter the luxurious and unique competition.