Diageo World Class Western Europe Final 2013 – Madrid

Congratulations to all the contestant for being part of this amazing journey and to the 13 souls who will make their country even more proud at the Global Final.


It was an honour organising such a great event for you all!

The entire competition and celebrations took place in the modern and luxury Teatro Goya in the central part of Madrid.

This is the second edition of the Western European World Class Competition and Madrid has been chosen, being a vibrant, artistic, modern wonderfully cosmopolitan city with an extraordinary reputation for gastronomy and drinking culture from historical bars like ‘Museo Chicote’ which opened in 1931 to the ultra-modern ‘Le Cabrera’ and ‘O-Clock’.

After two days of shaking, mixing, performing and celebrating Diageo’s Reserve spirits by 26 of Europe’s finest bartenders, the winners heading their way to the Global Final of World Class are:

Bert Jachmann, Austria

Carl Van Droogenbroeck, Belgium

Hasse Johansen, Denmark

Jérôme Kaftandjian, France

Atalay Aktas, Germany

Gareth Evans, Great Britain (also Cannes Red Carpet Challenge Winner)

Thodoris Pirillos, Greece

Mattia Pastori, Italy

Ivar de Lange, Netherlands (also Retro Chic Speed Challenge Winner)

Monica Berg, Norway (also Bartender/Barchef Challenge Winner)

David Rios, Spain

Emil Areng, Sweden

Laura Schacht, Switzerland

Click here to get a feeling through some amazing “MOMENTS” shared on Facebook’s World Class page

Below, a nice Video on Spanish Television for you to enjoy

A huge, honest, friendly, professional, human, passionate THANK YOU to Spike Marchant, Malin Möllerberg, Stephanie Jordan, Jorge Pineda & the Spanish Diageo Reserve Team and my biggest respect to the winners of last year’s Western Europe World Class who supported me, working hard behind the Event Bars and Guest Bartending in Madrid, all of us together to make this Final an unforgettable Event!!!!

Below, a nice footage of the competition

In no particular order Olivier Jacobs, Alexis Taoufiq, Jesper Høst, Rikard Enell, Giuseppe Santamaria, Fjalar Goud, Andy Mil, Kasper Riewe Henriksen, Vasilis Kyritsis, Dennis Zoppi and Armando Archundia.



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Photos by Nils Krüger (Berlin), William Dodoo (Frankfurt) and Max La Rocca

11/12/13 – 25/26 February 2013

Here we are with new World Class Training stories for the 2nd Burst of the Competition, this time we have been in the following Cities:

Kufstein (Austria) , StuggartFrankfurtBerlin and Hamburg

In every sessions, we started with an exciting visits to the different Craftsmen, a great source of inspiration for all the participants to get ideas that could be adapted to their day-by-day job behind the Bar.


(Riedel Glass Manufactory in Kufstein )

(Presentation of the craftsmanship behind the creation of a Martini Trolley in Stuggart and Frankfurt)

(Presentation of the craftsmanship behind custom shoe-making in Berlin)

(Presentation of the craftsmanship behind Design in Hamburg)

Then, followed by a great opening by Patrick Tessendorf from Haeberlein & Mauerer Agency (who supported us brilliantly throughout the Road Trip!!) introducing the agenda of the event, and myself as the speaker/Mixologist/Judge of the whole Road trip.

I started going through the reasons why we choose “The Art of the Craft” topic explaining the relation between the incredible work of the Craftsman and our profession, the things we share and have in common, that as you can immagine are endlesss.

Then an introduction to RETRO CHIC and the different features why this is the main Trend behind World Class 2013

followed by a reminder of the past 3 challenges of the 1st Burst:

-Hollywood Cocktails

– Bartender/Barchef

– Where Flavour is King


After that, I started with the next 3 challenges for the 2nd Burst:

1)Vintage with a Contemporary Twist

After talking about the “Queen” of this Challlenge being Ketel One Vodka, the perfect example of Modern Craft (that’s where the name of our Road Trip came from), I went through the importance of a drinking Ritual and how to apply to our Bar and to the Competition, followed by a Fantastic “Dali’s Moustache Punch” using the beautiful new “Copper Kettles” it’s matching glasses and to bring some emotions, elements and ingredients from my latest experience as a Bartender in Spanish Land.

now let’s rub the magic lamp and…make three wishes

2)City Glamour

Now the objective has been to inspire the Bartenders through the glamour and sophisitcation of their own City/Country and combine them to the modern luxury by using Don Julio Tequila and Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge.

To put this into practice I prepared for our Bartenders a drink called “Where is the Turkey?? to showacse the citrusy, peppery notes of Don Julio Blanco that with its grassy finish combined perfectly with an herb like rosemary and a little funny story behind it, to explain the importance of always having a story for our customers and our judges in the competition.

Then I showed some visual examples on how to use Grand Marnier to get resonance to the related challenge.

3)Whisky is

I love this challenge and I could see how the Bartenders were also excited about using Single Malts into Mixology, no more just “Neat or over Ice,Sir?” but an intriguing product that is becoming more and more used in cocktails by contemporary Bartenders due to it’s amazing characteristics.

We went back to the practice of distillation, formerly used for medicinal purposes and so I created a “Doctor’s Nightcap” using the unique flavours of Talisker 10 yo, mentioning the “Ritual of a Nightcap”, the distilling of Aqua Vitae, saying Gaelic proverbs and playing “Amélie” Movie Theme as nightcap song from an old Carillon…really Magic!!

After Patrick went through the Terms Regulations and Deadlines to apply for World Class in Austria/Germany, I started my “World Class Experience Presentation” where I took the partecipants through a fantastic journey “behind the scenes” of my personal experience  as a Bartender in the Competition and talking about the stages I went through, to get to the Global Final.

Then we had a genuine interaction with the attendants to spot who already was making their own liquor infusion, Barrel Aged Libations, Home-made Bitters, tinctures and liqueurs…it was the right time for a big surprise for our beloved Bartenders!!

“SHOW YOUR SPIRIT” a fantastic program never organized by a liquor company, that would give them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to co-create a Spirit or Liqueur that could be listed in the Best Bars in Western Europe, people was so excited and I could see their eyes already rolling searching for ideas/inspiration, this is the right approach!!

Following last year approach suggested to me by the German Team, we decided to interact with the Bartenders organizing a Market challenge “with a  friendly approach” and no pressure, just to see how they would react to the information they gathered thrughout  the day, how creative and inspired they were, and judging them in order to provide an important feedback on their performances that could further enrich their learning experience and go back to work with a new attitude and approach towards the craft.

Challenge in Kufstein



Our guys in Berlin putting into practice the little Tips and Tricks in my presentation on “Dealing with the Judges

..and in Hamburg for the first time ever, I saw muddling French Fries and come up with a very unexpected Ketel One drink…to take away..

It was an intense Road Trip as you could see from the schedule, but I’m 100% sure that the interest we generated about all this amazing activities and the motivation was huge, listening to the feedback of all the attendants in the different cities.

But the most important motivation was the FUN we had together while doing serious things and the fact that at the end of every event we asked every contestant the “1 KEY THING” they would take away from the Workshop and REALLY apply to every day-to-day behind the bar.























Thanks for giving me this amazing chance!


Celebrate life every day, everywhere

Max La Rocca


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Here we are with a new amazing World Class Training of 2nd Burst in Bologna a fantastic City with a lot of History, Art and Style, also a bit “Retro Chic” I would say!

After Alessio Dantino opened the day by explaining terms, conditions and deadlines of the competition, our great Franco Gasparri started the session with a fantastic journey inside the 3 Challenges of this 2nd Burst:

Vintage with a Contemporary Twist where the undisputed Queen is our 100% wheat Ketel One Vodka

City Glamour that sees the uniqueness of Brands like Don Julio Tequila and Grand Marnier

Whisky is.. an intriguing way to bring to life the fantastic universe of Single Malts into Mixology

After this first part, I followed with a practice session, helping the Bartenders to better understand the concepts behind the challenges.

Then, it was the right time to pick our Bartenders’ brain talking about our brand new Program Called “SHOW YOUR SPIRIT” having been given the opportunity and the pleasure to come up with this intriguing name, taking inspiration from my Blog

..and when we asked:

“How about a once in a lifetime chance to co-create a Spirit or Liqueur that could be listed in the Best Bars in Western Europe?”

Everybody was speechless at the beginning..

..but after a while we started a fantastic Q&A session, having had the pleasure to present with Ravi Jakhodia from the Diageo Innovation Team, the “behind the scene” of this amazing program.

The entry form has gone live from the 18th February and it will close on the 18th March so WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

You can get an idea on how to enter your infos, by checking the example form that with a bit of imagination I invented for you, showcasing a brand new liquid called “THE WHITE TIGER” and explaining the inspiration behind it, the perfect serve, a food pairing (that is NOT essential, I just put it as a reference) and other inspiring ideas  that will help you to understand the sort of content we are expecting in your submission.


Celebrate life every day, everywhere

Max La Rocca


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Italian first Semifinal: Vespas, Scottish Moss & Carillons!

Photos by Marco Curatolo

When Italian creativity meets the World Class’ amazing sense of Community , that’s what happens, PURE…MAGIC!

Just like in the magic atmosphere of the 50′ and the 60′, we experienced the sense of drinking great Classic Cocktails  made with contemporary techniques, attention to details, great charisma and showmanship by our beloved Bartenders.

Daniele Gentili is the first finalist of the Italian World Class Competition that took place at the MICCA CLUB in Rome  (where Daniele also works as the Bar Manager)  gaining his ticket to the European Final in Madrid!

One of Daniele’s winning recipes:

 “Frankie loves Rome” (in the picture below)

50 ml Tanqueray No. TEN

20 ml pepper and tonka beans syrup

30 ml lime juice

1 spoon meringue

Frangelico and grated tonka beans “Velvet Foam”


Pour all ingredients into shaker, except foam, and shake vigorously.

Strain in a large cappuccino mug. Complete the drink with the “velvet foam”. On the side, serve two mini croissants, a sweet one  (cream with chamomile and juniper) and a salty one (with foam Gin Tonic).

Garnish” with a miniature Vespa and a newspaper featuring Frank Sinatra having a drink at the Harry’s Bar in Rome during the 50′.


– Antonio Parlapiano  (in the middle) from The Jerry Thomas Project – 2nd Place (below, one of  his amazing drinks)

– Francesco Spenuso (on the right) from The Flair Project – 3rd Place (below, one of his great creations)

And in no particular order:

– Enzo Chichierchia

– Alessandro Ismaele Avilla

– Patrizia Bevilacqua

– Paolo Sanna

– Mattia Cilia

– Elìa Calvieri

– George Jackson Cerrone

– Salvatore Mosca

– Francesco Tota

I’m so excited to see that the level of the Competition is getting higher and higher every time I visit a new country, that’s something we all should be proud of in the industry, and today I was REALLY impressed! 

W E L L    D O N E   E V E R Y O N E !!

The Judgin Panel for the day (from left to right) consisted of Dennis Zoppi (WORLD CLASS 2012 Global Finalist),  Stefano Nincevich (BarGiornale Journalist), myself and Giorgio Fadda (President of the Education Development Committee of IBA).

Thank you for making our day, a real RETRO CHIC DAY!!

Max La Rocca

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Here we are with new exciting World Class Training of 2nd Burst, this time we have been in the stunning Bristol Hotel in Paris, folllowed by “Le Bis” Restaurant in Poitiers a cute little city full of history, amazing food and kind people who welcomed and supported us with great care just like we’re used to support each other in the World Class Community, thank you!

In both sessions, after a great opening by Grégory Messaoudi who introduced the agenda of the event, the relation between Diageo / World Class Platform and the speakers of the day, I started my “World Class Experience Presentation” where I took the partecipants through a fantastic journey “behind the scenes” of my personal experience  as a Bartender in the Competition and talking about the stages I went through, to get to the Global Final.

Then Yoan Bonneau (Reserve Brand Ambassador for France) exposed brilliantly the Challenges within the “Retro Chic” Trend following with the great world of Ketel One, explaining the importance of the Ritual in the Bartending world and showing how to apply it through a great “Ketel One Martini Ritual”.

We continued with a Grand Marnier Masterclass, followed by a great drink to inspire the Bartenders on how to mix it enhancing it’s fantastic orange notes and smoothness, in a perfect “City Glamour” style

After Yoan, the amazing Mr Julian Hutchings, a real Whisky “walking encyclopedia” kept everyone speechless with it’s great explanation on Single Malts, focusing on Cardhu, Singleton of Dufftown and Talisker, our protagonists fot the challenge “Whisky is”, making everyone fall in love with the category, a great performance followed by Yoan’s tasty Whisky Cocktails.

Santé Bonheur!!

And the next morning…voilà on the French Newspaper with style!

Celebrate life every day, everywhere

Max La Rocca


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World Class Belgium 1st Semifinal, Impressions,Tips & Tricks

Reserve Brands, the luxury spirits portfolio from Diageo, has named Jeroen Van Hecke of L’Apereau in Blankenberge as the winner of  World Class 1st Belgian Semifinal, gaining his place to the European Final in Madrid!

Jeroen (pictured above) won his place, in the stunning “Event Lounge” at Felixpakhuis, Antwerp on 10th December 2012 amongst 7 other World Class Bartenders that may try their luck again in April 2013 in the last Belgian Semifinal when the second ticket to Spain will be given out.

– The winning recipe –

The PT cocktail (inspired by Jim Meehan of PDT bar in New York)


60 ml coconut oil infused Zacapa 23
12.5 ml orange blossom honey
2.5 ml Lagavulin Distillers Edition
2 Dash Angostura bitters
2 Dash chocolate bitters


Stir  with ice in an old-fashioned glass on a large block of ice. Spray a zest of orange over the drink and use it as a garnish. Add a wooden honey stirrer.

The Judgin Panel for the day consisted of Frank Van der Auwera (wine and food writer), Gerty Christoffels (leading television presenter in Belgium and Communication Coach), Ben Belmans (teacher at Nine-X Cocktail Academy) and myself.

The bartenders were judged on technique, presentation, creativity and taste.

It was a great pleasure to work, laugh and dream with all the competitors in this amazing event organized brilliantly by Ben Belmans and his Nine-X staff and our incredible Antoine Ghyselen who hosted the event and brought the Master of Ceremonies role to the next level!



Written Challenge:

– Questionnaire focused on the history and technical characteristics of Zacapa, Tanqueray N° Ten and Johnnie Walker SDLX range.

Signature Cocktail:

– Zacapa 23 was the featured product in the “Bartender / Barchef” theme

– Tanqueray N.10 was the protagonist within the “Hollywood Cocktails” concept

Shop of secrets and Diageo Classic Cocktails:

– Bartenders had to show their mastery of flavours from “mistery” ingredients and create an amazing Johnnie Walker cocktail as part of the “Flavour is King” theme.

– Besides they were tested on classic cocktail knowledge and technique from a list of 18 Classics

The other Bartenders we were honoured to judge are:


– Dries Botty – L’apereau (Blankenberge) – 2nd Place

– Dieter Van Roy – Josephine’s (Antwerp) – 3rd Place

And in alphabetical order:

– Ben Bruyneel – Jigger’s The Noble Drugstore – Ghent

– Jan Van Ongevalle – CASINO KNOKKE

– Kevin Ligot – Elixir of LIFE – Brussels

– Steve Okhuysen – Old Fashioned – Ghent

– Tom Neijens – Old Fashioned – Ghent


FROM A BARTENDER TO A BARTENDER (A few words out of personal experience)

Please understand that the following has to be intended only as a constructive discussion on this competition and that can be helpful for future reference.


1) I can’t hide there was a quite lot of tension within some of the contestants. Of course this is understandable to a certain extent, provided that we don’t allow it to overpower us.

As the competition continued though, they started to be more focused and relaxed, impressing the jury and their peers.

A bit of tension can be used at our advantage as the adrenalin rush wil help to focus the mind and ready ourself for the competition; it acts as a positive motivator too!

It’s wierd to see that what we do every day with hard work, passion and love for the craft and for our guests gets a bit mixed up in our heads when we are in a competition, making us go “out of focus” sometimes.

The fact we always have to be aware of, is treating the competition as an (extra)ordinary day behind our Bar, visualizing our regular customers, friends and situations that force us into a peaceful state of mind, where we feel in the comfort zone…even if we’re not.

Our mind doesn’t actually know the difference between reality and imagination, I experienced it personally and…guess what? IT WORKS!

To make you understand my point, another similar experience I had lately, was when judging some recipes by mail and found that ingredients really gave me that mouth watering sensation you only get when really tasting a drink, so…it wasn’t real.

2) In the Diageo Classic Cocktails Challenge, generally some homework to do is handed out to the contestants beforehand, this to give the chance to be prepared on the history, method of preparation and to try our routines in our Bar environment, so there would be no reasons for forgetting ingredients, stir a drink instead of shaking or not knowing where a drink’s name comes from.

Since “Classic s a Classic” and it’s because of its nature that it has survived the test of time, another issue is that variations on this challenge are NOT requested, otherwise it would have been called “Twist on Classics” or else.

3) The Shop Challenge or also called Market Challenge in other events, is the time for us as Bartenders to shine and show our mastery of flavours; so by playing safe on this particular challenge we take away the chance to our guests or judges to be really impressed by us.

– If performing in English is requested in our Country even though is not our primary language, this is done for a number of reasons, the most important of which is to push us to do our homework directly in the language used in the European Final so we would have part of the job ready for the next step that is the Global Event.

This really worked for me, going from my national Final to the Global Final in Athens back in 2010, where by going through this steps, I became so much more confident and in control of what to expect!

I hope you’ll find this useful as I did.


Even though I understand that often for timing reasons this is not possible, I wanted to stress that the need for performance feedback from our contestants is crucial to add elements to their learning experience at a deeper level.

This will be “THE” thing that would enrich them and change their approach and attitude towards the craft…at least it did to me!

But please Bartenders, let me remind you it will be also your commitment to help us understand what you would love to find in the future events and trainings (product/support/facility-wise) in order to always improve World Class performances towards our beloved community and getting closer and closer to your needs.

Thank you for making our day, an oustanding day

Max La Rocca

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The Blazing “Irish Coffee-less”

Here I have a nice a simple Blazer for your Holidays!

Just a little blazing experiment with Bushmills after fast-infusion chattin’ with former Ireland’s Diageo Brand Ambassador Martin Duffy in Rome to try and re-create an Irish Coffee aroma without actually using…liquid coffee.

Bushmills Irish Whiskey
Coffee beans
Star Anise
Powdered Cinnamon
Simple syrup

I made this drink back in 2009 and then modified last year in Barcelona using Bushmills 10 yrs, Blazing “pots” from Istanbul and garnishing with the same raisins used for Blazing

and sticking with the “Don’t take yourself too seriously” concept, I created this video for you to enjoy:

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