Orlando Marzo: ‘Education is so important for bartenders’

5th April, 2019 by Owen Bellwood

Australia-based Italian Orlando Marzo beat bartenders from across the globe in the Diageo World Class cocktail competition. SB chats to the 2018 victor.

*This feature was originally published in the January 2018 issue of The Spirits Business

Melbourne-­based bartender Orlando Marzo first entered Diageo World Class in 2017. After fighting his way into Australia’s regional competition, he finished in second place. “That was a hard result to swallow,” he says. “I knew that the next year I needed to become stronger, as there was only one way – and that was up.”

Marzo, who was born in Italy and lived in London for three years before making the move Down Under, now works at Restaurant Lûmé in Melbourne. He returned to World Class last year and was crowned World Class Bartender of the Year after triumphing at the global final in Berlin, Germany.

“The moment I won went so quickly. There were the flashes from lots of photographers and the first thing I thought was just ‘wow’,” he recalls.

At the start of 2017, Marzo was one of 507 bartenders in Australia to enter the competition. “It was early January when Diageo started to do the World Class Studio and all the training that comes at the start of the competition. They launched the first challenge and that was to create a drink around the theme of scent,” he explains.

The pack was whittled down to 100, and after creating a drink around the theme of ‘wanderlust’ Marzo earned himself a place in the Australian final. “The top 20 is when the real business starts,” he says.

The final took place in Sydney and the competing bartenders faced four challenges, including a speed round and a sustainability-focused problem to solve.

“The other task was set out a bit like a TV show,” says Marzo. “There was a pretend TV studio set and we had a pantry to choose ingredients from. Each of us was given five minutes to look at the list of ingredients. Then, we had 10 minutes to grab everything we would use to make the cocktail, which we had to do ‘on TV’ in five minutes.”

The judges for the challenge were in another room, watching a feed of each competitor on a screen. The challenge was designed to encourage the bartenders to create cocktails that could be easily replicated at home, while also showing off each bartender’s individuality and talents.

“Creating replicable cocktails is the biggest challenge for bartenders,” explains Marzo. “Because we have so many people that sit in our bars on a daily basis and enjoy these beautiful drinks, I think people should be able to deliver those recipes at home. Bartenders should be prepared to share their ideas.” Marzo says he is never afraid to share his recipes with drinkers, and believes bartenders should offer advice to customers who want to create cocktails at home without all the “fancy copper equipment that you will have behind the bar”.

Marzo’s Tanqueray Ten cocktail

Marzo’s Tanqueray Ten cocktail

SHARING RECIPES

His openness to sharing recipes clearly paid off, as victory in this challenge earned Marzo a place in the global final of World Class. The final took place over four days in Berlin and saw 56 bartenders from around the world come together for a number of challenges.

“The moment I won in Australia was massive, I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I was really excited to meet another 56 people from around the world. Not everyone got the chance to be there in Berlin, and I was really humbled and felt very lucky to be there.”

Over the course of the competition, Marzo faced a Ketel One ‘Better Drinking’ challenge and a ‘Flavours of a Nation’ round – in which he impressed the judges with his “innovative twist” on a Johnnie Walker Black Label Highball. Through the challenges, the 56 bartenders that started out were whittled down to four finalists – including Marzo, Daniel Warren of the UK, Laura Newman of the US, and Gökhan Kuşoğlu of Turkey.

“The pressure did pile on a little bit, but everyone, particularly previous winners, gave me so much help and told me to make sure that I enjoyed the moment,” Marzo says. “I went in with a mentality that I wanted to meet everybody and I wanted to have the opportunity to talk to people from places that I have never visited; that was my main goal.”

Marzo says the world’s biggest cocktail competitions, such as World Class and Bacardi Legacy, bring out the very best in cocktail culture. “In Berlin in the prep room you could see everyone preparing their ingredients and you could smell all these flavours. It was like you were walking through all these countries, and you could really sense the flavours.”

According to Marzo, this was one of his highlights of the whole experience. Another climax came when he was tasked with impressing hospitality experts with a wealth of experience between them.

Lift off: Marzo was victorious

Lift off: Marzo was victorious

“I remember the Tanqueray Ten challenge,” says Marzo. “I had Dave Broom, Alex Kratena, Jeffrey Morgenthaler and essentially 100 years of hospitality knowledge in front of me. So I thought that no matter what the result could have been I knew I would have been very happy to have had the chance to be there and present my drink to them.”

When he found out that he had won the contest, Marzo said he was in shock and described the whole experience as a “once-in-­a-­lifetime opportunity”.

Having been crowned the winner of the annual cocktail competition, Marzo will have the chance to travel the world as a Diageo representative, judging cocktail competitions and serving drinks in locations worldwide. He also has several ambitions of his own for his coming years in the on­-trade. “I would like to collaborate with more chefs in the future and see what other things can be made in hospitality. I would also love to open my own bar by the end of next year.”

FOCUS ON EDUCATION

After spending his years in hospitality making the most of every training opportunity he was presented with, Marzo says that any venue he opens will feature a “lab that will focus on making drinks for venues that might need a little help”.

“I have always wanted to be a better hospitalitarian and learn more about the beverage industry,” he explains. “I want to focus on education, and collaborate with other people, so I would like to create a co-­working space for beverage professionals that want to learn more about spirits.”

Marzo explains that as an increasing number of bartenders move up the ranks and become bar operators, he is hopeful that education can boost the industry in the years to come. “Education is so important for bartenders, and the World Class team do a fantastic job of educating and spreading knowledge,” he says. “I cannot wait to be back next year to see what the new up and coming bartenders will be doing – it’s going to be incredible.”

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