Jameson crowns 2019 Barrelmen’s Homecoming winner

Norway-based bartender Ania Kulak has been crowned the winner of this year’s Jameson Barrelmen’s Homecoming cocktail competition, held in Ireland last week.

The global competition saw bartenders hailing from 28 countries, along with more than 120 guests, head to Dublin and Cork from 23-26 June for the four-day event, which took in three competition heats, distillery tours, tastings, workshops, a gala dinner, and a live music concert.

This year, Jameson Barrelmen’s Homecoming focused on the theme ‘from farm to glass’, challenging bartenders to partner with their local community and use materials that can be found in the area to create a new Jameson cocktail.

In addition to the competition, bartenders took part in a series of workshops and seminars with industry experts, as well as educational tours of the Jameson Distillery Bow St in Dublin and the Midleton Distillery in Cork.

Workshops included a look at urban environments with Simon O’Donnell, creator of a hydroponically-powered urban farm in Dublin; a glassware designing class; a masterclass on using clarification and carbonation to create complex drinks with simple ingredients; and a discussion with DJ Aidan Kelly on the importance of music in the bar environment.

The first heat of the competition saw bartenders compete in a speed round, challenging the participants to create 10 classic Irish cocktails in five minutes. The following evening saw the top 15 from the speed round go on to showcase their ‘from farm to class’ cocktails created during the local heats.

The gruelling finale, held in Cork, was a collaborative effort with the top five bartenders choosing teams made up of bartenders from other countries to help create a cocktail menu.

The top five bartenders created three new ‘from farm to glass’ serves, with two of the judge’s choice to be tasted.

Kulak stormed to success in the final with her cocktail menu, which included serves: In The Green, High on Life and Goosebomb.

The judging panel comprised: Will Meredith, head bartender at Lyaness, London; Andre Duncan, the 2018 Jameson Barrelmen’s Homecoming global champion; Angel Ji, award-winning Malaysian bartender; and Billy Leighton, master blender at Irish Distillers, producer of Jameson Irish whiskey.

Kulak was praised for her “level of commitment to utilising local ingredients in a creative way”. Her menu was based on the cultures of her fellow teammates, who hailed from China and Sweden.

For winning, Kulak received a partnership with Jameson to develop a project that will support her local community with funding of up to €20,000 (US$22,574).

Simon Fay, business acceleration director at Irish Distillers, said: “Bartenders around the world have been key to the success of Jameson. To host this global gathering of bartenders in Ireland has been a real honour and reinforces our commitment to fostering collaboration, innovation and creativity among the globe’s leading mixologists.

“As cocktail competitions continue to evolve, we’re incredibly proud to be able to offer a programme that brings together the excitement and interactivity of a global competition, while showing our commitment to supporting bartender education, community and innovation.”

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