Here at Time Out Dubai, we talk all the time about the incredible skill and finesse of the chefs who work in the city’s restaurants. But equally impressive is the creativity and dedication found behind the counter at so many of the city’s bars.
“People come to Dubai to experience the bars, and there are passionate people from around the world working in them who have put their whole lives into making beverages and ensuring great service and entertainment,” says Jason Clark, the luxury brand ambassador for African + Eastern, which is running this year’s World Class UAE bartending competition.
Every year, bartenders from around the country compete in challenges, with the overall winner going on to represent the country in the World Class Global Final.
Here in Dubai, each challenge begins with a workshop. “We do a masterclass where bartenders can come along to learn and take inspiration, before entering the challenge,” says Clark. “For the first one we looked at the science of coffee and then the challenge was for them to create a unique mixed beverage.”
The drinks were then sold in the bars for two months and mystery shopped before three winners were selected. It’s about trying to find the world’s best bartender, Clark says, but, more than that, it’s about opening people’s eyes to the creativity and skill to be found in the country and delivering brilliant, inventive experiences that everyone can enjoy.
“Our main focus is to educate, inspire and help lift careers,” says Clark. “And that’s passed on to the community as well. It rubs off on consumers and they get great experiences.”
As part of the third and final challenge, a series of exciting pop-up bars will be launching at venues around the city, starting with Billionaire Mansion on Tuesday February 28. Two of the world’s most respected bartenders, Kevin Haddad and Refaat Ghostine, will be in town to kick everything off with a unique pop-up of their own. Lebanon’s World Class national champions for two years running, both Haddad and Ghostine work at Central Station Boutique Bar in Beirut’s trendy Mar Mikhael area, and will be showcasing the art of Lebanese beverages. Further pop-ups are still to be announced.
The pop-up series runs alongside the third World Class UAE challenge, which is also to create a pop-up bar experience. A grand final will be held at Lucky Voice on Monday May 15, and the public will be able to get involved by coming along to sample the creations of bartenders from venues such as Zuma, Coya and Weslodge Saloon.
“It’s about creating cool events,” Clark says. “And for consumers, they get to come and sample some beverages that wouldn’t normally be on the menu, that are a new style that they haven’t seen or tried.”
Free. Feb 28 and Mar 1, 7pm-10pm. Billionaire Mansion, Taj Dubai, Business Bay, www.facebook.com/worldclassuae (04 510 3100).