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Capetonian Joshua Hendricks has been crowned best Barman in South African at the local leg of the Diageo World Class bartending competition recently held in the mother city. The 24-year-old is the youngest person to win the award of this Global Competition, which has supported, trained and inspired more than 400 000 bartenders, across 60 countries, for over 12 years

Hendricks and nine other top bartenders were put through gruelling challenges over three days at the competition in front of a judging panel of the who’s who in the industry. It included Johnnie Walker brand influencer Kay Ngonyama; award-winning restaurant chef, cookbook author, “MasterChef SA” judge and “Ultimate Braai Master” judge Pete Goffe-Wood; three-times World Class champion and co-founder of Diageo SA The Hand Up Mentorship Programme Brent Perremore; Diageo Reserve brand ambassador Dom de Lorenzo; and runner-up for two consecutive years in the World Class competition and current bartender trainer Haroon Haffejee. 

Hendricks said the first day started with a Mastery challenge, where they had to identify 50 cocktail ingredients by smell and taste alone. He said classic cocktails were served in test tubes and they had to identify these blind.

In the knock-out challenge, 50 spirits had to be identified correctly by the contestants until just one person remained.

“I came fifth in this challenge, so I didn’t do that great. In fact, I did not win any of the rounds, but I managed to be consistent about placing in the top three and this is why I had the highest mark at the end of the competition,” Hendricks said.

In the speed round, where contestants had to create 10 original cocktails in eight minutes, he said his best creation was a Singleton honey sour, with a red wine and pear reduction between the foam. Hendricks said it is a New York sours type of drink which is done quite often, but the way he did it was amazing. And Tuesday saw two challenges for the mixologists, a heritage challenge where they had to make a group serve using one of the Johnnie Walker expressions based on their culture.

“I am coloured, so I made a rooibos pinotage tea blend which represented the aunties that sit and skinner in the kitchen, and a vermouth with crackling,” he said.

In the evening during the food challenge, Hendricks chose a deconstructed paella and a saffron risotto croquette, and spiced prawn to pair with his Singleton and apple fennel juice cocktail. He said it had cumin-infused vermouth and honey citrus with star anise – aromatic, fresh and tart so that the acid could cut through the fat of the dish. 

Lastly, the remaining six contestants had to create their own pop-up bar within 24 hours, using a concept of their own choice. Hendricks’s concept was chrysalis – the metamorphosis of a butterfly, and the bar featured a garden atmosphere with autumn leaves and origami butterflies.

“Each of my cocktails represented a stage of the metamorphosis of a butterfly’s life cycle. The judges liked the concept and for me, this challenge was my favourite despite being stressful as I’d been planning it for such a long time that seeing it come to life so that people could experience it was really exciting,” he said.

Hendricks will be flying his way to Australia in September to represent South Africa in the global final of the Diageo World Class competition.

You go Joshua! We wish you the best of luck !

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