GCP 2012 Winner, Shaher Misif of Cantina, San Fransisco: the Interview
In a wrap up to this year’s GCP 2012 coverage, we asked and Shaher answered:
How will winning the GCP 2012 title change your life/career over the next year?
It means I’m going to become much sexier from drinking all the gin I just won!!! Ha! I’m not sure. I am very interested to see. I have been welcomed with much praise in San Francisco. I think it is a big win for the city!
I just wanted to get people wasted! ;-D I developed the Floraison cocktail, purely based on what my understanding of the summer-ball was. It had to be eye-catching when people held it so others would come to my table. Assuming the weather would be warm, I wanted the cocktail to be crisp and refreshing on the palate. I wanted people to come back, so it had to be light and easy so people would want to drink two instead of one.
I like that G’Vine is made from grapes. For instance in a Martini, being that it is made from grapes, G’Vine is able to play very well with vermouth.
Which challenge did you enjoy the most and why?
Finding a new way to hide my roomie Ricky’s mattress every night! Oh wait that wasn’t really a challenge! I enjoyed the Summer-Ball challenge the most. It was the challenge that most signified what we do as bartenders every day. You can design a drink, you can know the history about it, but if you don’t know how to work a crowd or please a single guest it means nothing!
I didn’t enjoy the written TEST!!! Damn you Phillip Duff! I just wasn’t prepared. I thought I would study the material in my off-time in France, but when I got there I let Cognac consume ME!
You did well in the personality round (ranking first) – how did you prepare for that?
I did 96 pushups and two cartwheels to prepare for the personality test!
One of the nice things about the GCP is that it brings together bartenders from all over. What did you learn from your fellow finalists over the course of the week that was new or surprising in terms of bartending or cocktails?
I learned that no matter who you are or where you come from, everyone likes to Suck that Pig!
My best memory had to be Ricky Paiva and I playing musical chairs on the bus. The cruise was awesome too! It was great downtime to get to know all the other finalists from around the world.
What advice would you give to next year’s GCP finalists?
My advice for next year’s GCP finalists is come with your A-Game! All your competitors are Bad-Asses and are there for that reason!
What’s your drink of choice?
My drink of choice is a Negroni stirred by Gary Regan’s Finger
Congratulations to Shaher and big thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. And now for his winning cocktail:
60 ml G’Vine Floraison
40 ml White vermouth
10 ml Orgeat syrup
20 ml Lemon juice
20 ml Sugar syrup
40 ml Tonic Angostura Bitter
2 dashes of ground Aleppo pepper
Shake all ingredients and strain into a longdrink glass. Complete with tonic water. Garnish with a cucumber slice and an orchid flower.
The Final Fourteen: GCP 2012 Finalists
Now that the GCP 2012 is wrapped up and everyone is back behind their usual bars, I present to you the fourteen finalists and their GCP Summer Ball cocktail creations.
Jessica Arnott, Victoria Room, Sydney
Jessica brought the whole package to GCP 2012: stellar bar skills, outgoing personality and va-voom sense of style. A formidable contender, she placed in the top three in six of the eight challenges. Her GCP bar showcased her eye for aesthetics in a chic celebration of crimson complete with fresh roses and calming candles. And, she also just might boast some of the coolest tats of the group.
La Belle Epoque
40 ml G’Vine Nouaison
10 ml Apricot Eau De Vie
20 ml White grapefruit juice
10 ml chamomile and nutmeg infused honey water A dash of egg white
2 dashes Bittermen’s Boston Bittahs
Dry shake, then shake with ice and fine strain into a martini glass. Garnish with grapefruit zests and chamomile flowers.
Mischa Bonova, Stitch, Sydney
Along with Jessica, Mischa joined the GCP 2012 as a “Wild Card” earning her place with this video. With a calm confidence and ready smile, Mischa shook her way to second place in the Summer Ball Sales challenge with her crowd pleasing jungle themed cocktail. Plus, who doesn’t love a girl that travels with her own big green feather boa?
50 ml G’Vine Floraison
30 ml freshly squeezed Pineapple juice 15 ml white grape shrub
10 ml fresh lemon juice
15 ml Averna
5 dashes orange bitter
Shake all the ingredients, strain over 1 big chunk of ice into bigger old-fashioned.
Garnish: pineapple and grape covered by brown sugar – sugar caramelised with the torch on the pan. Then skewered and attached to the rim of the glass together with a big pineapple leaf by using a small tweak.
Amanda Boucher, Candelaria, Paris
Amanda doesn’t just bring exceptional skills and a cracking personality to the bar. She ups the ante with one crucial element: smarts. And she more than proved it, placing in the top three for the Make Your Own Gin and Personality Challenges. Notably, she ranked highest in guest reading showing she’s not just got the cocktail know how, but the instincts to take the experience to another level.
40 ml G’Vine Nouaison
1 trait d’Absinthe
1 barspoon Dry Curaçao Triple Sec
10 ml Crème de Noyau de Poissy blanc 10 ml Sugar syrup
15 ml Lemon juice
Top with Champagne
Shake all the ingredients except the Champagne and strain into a martini glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a pansy flower and a lemon zest.
Francesc Galera, Slow, Barcelona
Hailing from Spain, Francesc is no stranger to the gin movement, and he more than made that clear with his GCP 2012 bar. He took guests on a sensory exploration beyond just taste with beautiful visuals and sublime smells. He also showed strong in the challenges ranking in the top three for Bar Decoration, Oenowood Seminar and Barmetrix (for which he had the least deductions of all the finalists.) With both strong skills & style, he’s set to be a rock star in the bar world.
40 ml G’Vine Floraison
1 pulpe de Mangostan
20 ml Prucia Plum Liqueur
10 ml Sake
10 ml Pink grapefruit juice
10 ml Jasmin tea syrup
10 ml Egg white
4 dashes Bitter Extreme d’Absente
Muddle the mangostan and add the rest of the ingredients, except the bitter. Shake and double strain into a tea cup (or martini glass).
Harry Glockler, Riva Bar, Berlin
With his refined manner and sophisticated touch, Harry brings a bit of elegance to the game. Having previously worked at the Ritz London, he knows how to bring the customer a complete experience. GCP wasn’t his first foray into cocktail comps having just having come off a win for Germany in the Diageo World Class Western Europe cocktail competition. He showcased his skills ranking in the top three for the Barmetrix challenge. With his focus, I’ve no doubt that he’ll continue to hone his skills and to be a formidable presence in the cocktail world.
40 ml G’Vine Floraison
20 ml Lillet Rosé
Dash Eau de vie de Framboise Dash Grenadine
Mix all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with a single raspberry afloat a white rose petal.
Mariano Ibañez, Felt Lounge, Barcelona
Beneath Mariano’s easy-going disposition and mild manner, you’ll find a serious passion for his craft. He didn’t just create a cocktail for the Summer Ball, but a culinary experience complete with negroni caviar and appropriate nibbles that earned him second ranking in the Signature Cocktail challenge. He also placed in the top three for the Oenowood Seminar Exam. I found him to be one of the quiet contenders: silent but strong, letting his solid skills speak for themselves.
50 ml G ́vine floraison
20 ml Esprit de June
25 ml Lemon juice
20 ml ginger and lavender syrup Cardamom bitter (homemade) Egg white
Shake all the ingredients and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a lavender flower and candied ginger.
Trevor Kallies, Granville Room, Vancouver
Trevor is exactly the kind of guy you want behind your bar: intelligent, personable and handy with a shaker. He exudes a laid back confidence and brings an original approach to his craft – the only finalist to bring salt into his cocktail – with an appreciable touch of Pacific Northwest spirit. Proving stiff competition at the GCP 2012, he ranked in the top three for both Bar Decoration and the Oenowood Exam. He’s proof positive that not only does Canada turn out nice people, but some damn fine bartenders as well.
60 ml G’Vine Nouaison
1 Pinch ‘Davie Street’ Salt – Sea to Sky Seasonings 15 ml Sweet France Tea syrup
30 ml Egg white
30 ml Citrus Trio (citron, citron vert, pamplemousse) 3 dash Scrappy’s lavender bitters
In a cocktail shaker add 2oz G’VineNouaison gin. Add 1 pinch ‘Davie St.’ sea salt, 1/2oz Sweet France tea syrup and the white from 1 egg (1oz). Add 1oz of citrus trio. Fill shaker with ice and shake and double/fine strain into small cocktail coupe. Garnish with 1 each of lemon, lime & grapefruit twist & a small sprinkle of fine ground “Davie St.” salt.
Franky Marshall, The Tippler, New York
Part spunk, part sass, part cool and part class, Franky is a force of nature on both sides of the bar. She brought her A game to the GCP in a way that leaves no doubt that she never leaves home without it. Ranking 1st in the Barmetrix and Gin Written Exam, she showed she’s got both the necessary mental and physical skills to rock the cocktail world. And to top it off, the lady can belt out a tune.
Shake all ingredients, except Sparkling Rosé Wine, with cubed ice. Strain into All Purpose Wine glass filled with crushed ice.
Float Rosé Wine
Garnish: Seasonal Berries, Fresh Mint leaves, 2 short Straws.
Iain McPherson, The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Let’s face it: people don’t always go to the bar just for the drinks. They go for the company. And this is where Iain shines. He not only makes an excellent cocktail, but just as importantly, he makes excellent conversation. While some people talk at you, Iain talks to you and actually listens – and in my book the ability to connect with people on that level makes all the difference between a good bartender and a great one. But he’s not all talk – he also placed in the top three for both the Make Your Own Gin and Written Gin Exam Challenges. Plus the guy can rock a kilt like no one’s business.
50 ml G’Vine Floraison
25 ml Dubonnet
12.5 ml Grapefruit liqueur
1 barspoon (5 ml) Sugar syrup
Shake all the ingredients apart from lemon zest in a shaker with cubed ice. Fine strain into a coupette. Zest lemon over the drink and then garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Hedi Mesme, Murano, Paris
Hedi is a bartender with an appreciation for clear spirits. Coming from Paris’ bar with the largest selection of vodkas, he proved his ability to work just as easily and knowledgably with gin during the GCP 2012. Not only did he work the cocktails, but he worked the crowd with his fun photo booth and friendly demeanor. His Summer Ball creation came with the elegant addition of a shot of champagne alongside the cocktails. This is clearly a barman who elevates a drinking experience with the French touch. He’s also a good man to have on a train ride when you’re mixing up negronis with Amander and Gaz!
50 ml G’Vine Floraison
20 ml Esprit de June
3 White grapes
8 leaves of Fresh mint
1 dash Grapefruit bitter Champagne Blancs de Blancs
Shake all ingredients except Champagne and strain in a martini glass. Garnish with a grapefruit zest, a white grape brochette and a fresh mint head.
Pour a shot of Champagne and serve it along with the martini glass.
Ricky Paiva, Rickhouse, San Francisco
Ricky doesn’t hold back – he brings a whole lotta personality to the bar. But there’s more to the man behind the mustache than just an in-your-face charisma and good times attitude. Ricky clearly knows his stuff. He placed in the top three for both the Oenowood Exam and the Signature Cocktail challenges. His natural pizazz shows through not just in his personality but in his profession, defining his cocktails in terms of originality and taste. This is the man you want behind the stick if you’re looking for great cocktails coupled with a bit of cheeky fun.
60 ml G’Vine Nouaison
30 ml Aperol
30 ml Grapefruit juice
15 ml Turbinado sugar syrup 1⁄2 Strawberry
2 dashes Bitter Angostura
Add strawberry and muddle then add all ingredients except bitters. Shake and fine strain into a v-shaped martini glass. Add bitters on top Garnish with halved strawberry on sliced on to the rim
Pawel Rolka, Coq d’Argent, London
Pawel brings more than just a sweet smile to the game. With a cool cocktail confidence, a strong set of skills and an easy going nature, he’s got the necessary qualities to pull in the clients with more than just his tasty tipples. And this really shone through at the Summer Ball. He not only charmed guests with his winning personality but enchanted them with his seriously impressive decor, which earned him a well-deserved first in the Bar Decoration challenge.
40 ml G Vine gin Floraison 10 ml Limoncello Sette vie 10 ml Lillet blanc
2 dashes Orange bitter
30 ml Reduced tonic water with lavender flowers
Shake and strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon zest and a lavender flower.
Sebastian Schneider, Beau Bar, Dusseldorf
Sebastian brings a German combination of sensibility and creativity to the bar. His professional demeanor and clean style are just as impressive as mixing skills. He brought a delicate touch to the GCP Summer Ball with his French Fizz appropriately topped off with champagne and served with a smile. Watching him work the GCP week makes one think a detour to Dusseldorf would be worth the trip.
45 ml G ́Vine Floraison
15 ml lemon juice
12.5 ml Giffard Parfait Amour 1⁄2 egg white
60 ml Champagne
Shake it without champagne and strain into chilled champagne glass. Fill with champagne and garnish with dry violet flower.
Colin Tait, Raw Bar, Calgary
Colin has sneaky bar skills. He worked hard all week (placing first in the Oenewood Exam), kept his head down, went through the paces and then – bam! – knocked it out of the park with his GCP Summer Ball cocktail. The consistent crowd around his stand was a testimate to the tastiness of his Arrondissement 8 Daisy and the visual appeal of both the drink and decor. While there might be something about him that seems a bit shy or reserved, he certainly didn’t hold back when it came to the final day and really showed his skills at wowing a crowd.
60 ml G’Vine Nouaison
25 ml Crème de pêche
15 ml Orgeat syrup
15 ml Lemon juice
30 ml Egg white
2 dashes Orange bitter
Shake ingredients and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a small orange wheel in the glass.
From the refined and reserved to the rough and ready, that’s my take on the fabulous fourteen finalist with whom I had the pleasure of spending the week. But, don’t think I’ve forgotten the man who took this year’s GCP title. Coming soon…an interview with Shaher Misif.
The GCP week with its five days of hard work, heavy partying and tongue-in-cheek debauchery is a cocktillian survival of the fittest: any finalist who manages to navigate the exams, the challenges, and non-stop activity while still standing has more than earned their place. So, by Friday, the biggest challenge becomes to choose just one winner.
Each finalist has a shot at a maximum of 500 points throughout the week and another 500 points are up for grabs at the grand finale: the G’Vine Summer Ball. The Ball is a highly anticipated event in Cognac with a guest list of 250 – 300 industry folk, curious cocktailers and friends and family of EWG.
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes players who ensure the success of this soiree, but it’s really the fifteen finalists who make it shine. Each contestant is charged with not only creating a winning G’Vine cocktail, but also with creating a complete atmosphere. In the days leading up to the event, finalists were rushing around Cognac in search of last minute ingredients and props. Many had carried heavy loads on long journeys to make sure they had everything necessary complete their bar.
The result: two large rooms filled by fifteen creative and inviting mini-bars with extra touches of fresh flowers, flickering candles, framed recipe cards, retro radios, board games, film projections, banners, quirky curios and the like. Each space conveyed a complete concept and some even went the extra step of putting out small bowls of bar snacks even though finger food circulated.
For this final stage, a maximum of 200 points per finalist are awarded by a panel of six judges, which included Phillip Duff, Gaz Regan, Simon Webster, Gegam Kazarian (2011 GCP winner), Monica Berg (2011 GCP finalist) and yours truly. We first awarded points on the stand set up based on how well it encouraged cocktail sales and how well it communicated the spirit of G’Vine. We then went upstairs and got down to the serious business of sipping. I was particularly pleased to be on the judging panel as it meant I could sample each cocktail in an orderly fashion while sitting down.
-utilization of ingredients (i.e. is each ingredient doing something for the drink)
Utilization and taste were the most heavily weighted of criteria. Judging in this manner is interesting because a cocktail may rate highly in any number of areas. So, a drink that’s not as pretty or tasty as its competition may still rank highly in creativity or utilization. Rounds were coming to the judges’ table one after another, so we had time to score each category but did not add these up for each individual. Ideally, not knowing the total score you’ve awarded to any one finalist mitigates any personal bias.
And, while I still don’t know the totals on my scores for each person, I do know that they were all within a very tight range. This was a solid group of bartenders putting out nicely crafted drinks without large variations in the quality. Once our work was done, we joined the guests to enjoy the ball and watch the finalists work their final challenge: pleasing the crowd.
Each guest receives 5 tokens on arrival and uses them to vote for their favorite drinks. By the time we got to the party, all the stands were in full swing. This is where the finalists must pull out all the tools in their arsenal: developing a public-pleasing drink, giving good customer service, dealing with a high demand environment and presenting a pleasing ambience.
Given that the ball happens in Cognac it might seem the French-speaking contenders have a home-court advantage. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case since we haven’t yet had a winner hailing from the Hexagon. This proves that a great bartender must be good at communication that goes beyond language. A great bartender expresses themselves and reads customers in any way they can: body language, showmanship, service – whatever it takes to guarentee the most enjoyable overall experience.
At the end of the evening, fifteen hopefuls stood on stage, emotionally charged and physically exhausted, as this years GCP winner was announced and Shaher Misif of Cantina, San Francisco took the crown. Overall scores were incredibly close and nearly all of the finalists placed in the top three for at least one of the week’s challenges.
And, that really says it all. Even though there was only one official winner, this was a tight and highly talented group, all of whom deserve recognition for their feats of the week.
One of my best things about joining along for the G’Vine GCP week is the warm welcome and the exceptional treatment. From the moment we arrived, EWG has thrown open the doors to Villevert and invited everyone to make themselves at home. And, they’ve meant it. Audrey Fort and her colleagues Isabelle and Virginia go above and beyond to ensure that every moment counts and I’ve been incredibly appreciative of this. But, more importantly than making sure I’m having a great week, they really pull out all the stops for the finalists. After yesterday’s Personality challenge, they threw a lovely pool party and barbecue to give them a chance to take a dip, relax and blow off some steam after a week’s worth of heavy work.
When the bus pulled up, we found the EWG pool and lawn transformed. Mixing stations were set up on cloth covered tables and inviting food options beckoned from every angle with fresh oysters, foie gras, thinly sliced ham and steak, shrimp and chicken fresh off the grill. White and red wine flowed, alongside the gin, June and tequila.
Just prior to the pool party, finalists were informed that there was currently only a 120 point spread between first and last. That means that tonight’s final event, the Summer Ball, with 500 points up for grabs, will be the game changer. Watching them relax around the pool, it was clear this news incited a dash of healthy competition, but it also provided a sense of hope, relief and relaxation making it easier for them to throw themselves into some poolside fun.
And, while it’s undeniably enjoyable to hang at pretty pool parties with free cocktails made by some of the world’s best new bar talent never father than arm’s reach – it’s also enjoyable to see what kind of interesting inventions happen when innovative bar minds converge. As I stood, cocktail in one hand, finger food in the other, chatting with one of the finalists, it appeared that movement was being made for one particular table. A passerby announced “We’re cutting a tequila luge in the ham!” We joined the crowd and watched the stoic (and probably dismayed) French chef carve a line down the middle of this solid hunk of meat. When it was ready, Gaz Regan (who always gets the first drink!), received the first flow of tequila.
Thus it began. As the chanting of “Suck that pig!” built to a frenzied crescendo, all kneeled before the porken luge – some caressing it tenderly, some nearly molesting it with their mouths – and received its golden offering. Respectful of dietary requirements, a cheese luge was created for those averse to having their lips on a carcass.
I wasn’t present for the birth of this brilliant idea, so I made every effort to get the hard cold facts. Apparently responsibility for this pork driven tequila delivery system lies with Shawn Soole and finalist Trevor Kallies. And, one Mr Phillip Duff may have cornered this reporter and insisted he had a part to play in it. But, things were a bit fuzzy at that point so that that may just be the pig talking.
This morning as I came down to the breakfast room, the smell of ham was still heavy in the air. Okay, I might be using a bit of poetic license. But the smell of tequila was literally still in the air as participants descended in varying states. But the pig luge remained the talk of the table. Suggestions for next year include cutting out all activities but the luge or giving awards for most creative luge. Either way I predict this will not be its last appearance. So, when you see the new Excellia tequila packaging on the shelves complete with miniature ham luge and the tagline “Suck that pig!” remember: you read it here first.
I’m in Cognac this week, tagging along with some impressive industry folks and fifteen G’Vine Connoisseur Program finalists from all over the world who face six challenges in five days to determine the world’s best gin bartender. I’m also joined by fellow cocktails writer, Simon Webster, from BarLifeUK who offers a nice recap of the first challenges including two written exams and a make your own gin session. But what’s struck me as particularly interesting so far is the Speed and Accuracy Round, which elevates cocktails to a competitive sport.
Having previously received a list of five cocktails and bar schematics, finalists had the opportunity to physically practice and mentally prep for the task beforehand. So, on Wednesday, afternoon I sat in the small EWG ‘home’ bar to see what these boys and girls could bring to the next challenge. Now, your first question might be: how interesting can it be to watch the same five cocktails made fifteen times in a row? The answer: very interesting (and very dangerous if you’re sitting at the bar with a fresh round of drinks coming every 10 minutes.)
But, this challenge isn’t judged by tipsy customers on bar stools. Phillip Duff, Shawn Soole and Gaz Regan, use BarMetrix© software, which allows for a new level of judging speed and precision. Bottles are weighed before and after each round to check accuracy. Ingredient costs, times and various criteria are entered to create a report card for each bartender. The final result is a good indication of how fast and financially advantageous one can be behind the bar.
Considering these people spend a lot of time behind the stick, I thought this would be snap. But nervous contestants were doing what seemed like bartender tai chi in preparation, silently miming out imaginary cocktails while waiting for their turn. And already early in the game, one of the finalist was cut just as he started so a first aid pause was in order. There was a slight tremble in his hands as he resumed the challenge. But it wasn’t just unexpected mishaps that could cause a case of the nerves. Nearly all of the finalists were slightly shaky and anxious. These jitters were due to more than just the multiple cameras in the room and the possibility of being star-struck by the formidable judges. It reflects on just how much each of these contestants is invested in the final prize.
Even with the same five drinks, each of the fifteen brought something slightly different to their round with personal methods of cutting corners to save time or additional touches they thought worth adding. While, only one finalist took a few precious seconds to taste their floral martini – something they presumable would have done on a normal night in a bar – a few took the extra time to top up shorter G&T’s (made with smaller tonic bottles) with ice to bring both drinks to the same level. One bartender served his G&T’s with the tonic bottle along side. Some made their drinks focused on one cocktail at a time, while others focused on one spirit at a time in multiple drinks. Most brought their own music, ranging from opera to hard and heavy. Many brought their own tools, whether for luck or practical reasons. Some were messier, some cleaner. But whether it was tools, tunes, or tidiness, they each brought their own professional approach to the event – including one framed photo of Mr Miyagi to set on the bar.
It can’t be easy to work quickly in a bar where you’re dealing with stock that’s not conducive to fluid and flawless movement: heavy bottles, glassware, ice and liquids. And any slight unexpected turn of events – a spilled drink, a broken bottle, a bleeding hand, a forgotten ingredient – clearly shook some confidence. Initially I wasn’t sure this event would be consuming enough to watch from beginning to end. But, with each fresh finalist I found something new and interesting and was actually on the edge of my seat at times rooting for them to brush off a small mishap and carry on to win.
Fifteen rounds, 75 cocktails and a few hours later, Franky Marshall, of the Tippler, New York emerged as the fastest finalist with five cocktais in 272 seconds. Francesc Galera of Slow in Barcelona came out top for technique. But hats off to all who brought their best and proved just why they were each selected for the finals in the first place.