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Johnnie Walker names contest winners

Diageo-owned Johnnie Walker has revealed the four winners of its 2023 Black Label Global Bartender Challenge.

Johnnie Walker cocktail
Anna Postnikova from Czech Republic won for her Johnnie, Wine & Fruits entry

Bartenders from around the world were invited to enter by publishing a public Instagram post of their own signature Johnnie Walker Black Label cocktail, with the explanation as to why the Scotch works perfectly in the serve.

More than 200 bartenders across 47 countries entered the competition.

The four winners were selected by a judging panel including Tim Philips-Johansson, Johnnie Walker global brand ambassador; Adrián Michalčík, World Class Global Bartender of the Year 2022; and Nick Tesar, the 2022 Australia World Class winner and winner of the World Class Johnnie Walker challenge.

Entries were shortlisted and recreated by the judges during a tasting session in Oslo.

Winning recipes

South Africa’s Thabisó Molonyama was named winner of the African region for his serve Nimbus Moon.

The cocktail is composed of Johnnie Walker Black Label, Aperol, orange bitters, lemon yuzu and cranberry juice, shaken and fine strained into a Martini glass over a large ice cube, and garnished with candied ginger and soaked pepper.

Molonyama said: “I still can’t believe I won – I’m still waiting for someone to tell me it’s a prank. As for the cocktail, I was hoping to capture exactly how the judging panel described the drink, which makes me glad. The aim was to showcase the versatility of Johnnie Walker Black Label; keeping it simple and yet complex in experience.”

Johnnie Walker cocktail
Ariel Todeschini da Motta’s A Foot in Brasil

Sampath Rathnayake from Dubai was named the second winner with his cocktail Signatures Collector, which he explained in his entry post is made with “a healthy jigger of Johnnie Walker Black Label” alongside lemongrass, raspberry, and freshly squeezed lemon, topped with quinine soda and Angostura Bitter.

Anna Postnikova from Czech Republic was named the winner of the European region for her Johnnie, Wine & Fruits entry, which combines Johnnie Walker Black Label with a cordial made from leftover dry white wine, bananas, star anise, coconut oil fat-wash, sugar, and malic acid, topped with dry sparkling wine.

She explained in her entry post that “Johnnie Walker Black Label is an amazing blended Scotch to pair with [the] fruity notes in the cordial, as it is full-bodied, lightly peated and a well recognisable whisky. [The] coconut oil adds silky structure, and sparkling wine adds a nice fizzy touch.”

Finally, Ariel Todeschini da Motta from Brazil won for his cocktail, A Foot in Brasil, which combines three ingredients.

“First, we have Johnnie Walker Black Label, the epitome of a maritime expression,” the entry post said. “This blend showcases dark fruit and spices, with a rich and smoky cloak that envelops your senses. Next, we have oloroso Sherry, which is the perfect companion to the ‘striding man’. It highlights the peat and dried fruits to bring out the full flavour profile of Johnnie Walker Black Label.

“Finally, we have the addition of jabuticaba and tangerine peel cordial. Jabuticaba berries are both sweet and acidic, with tart skin and a pale and fleshy centre that’s incredibly sweet and [reminiscent of] lychee. Both fruits adds a touch of sweet, citrusy and fruitiness to the cocktail, wrapped by the smoky cloak of the whisky.”

Exclusive experience

The four bartenders have won an exclusive three-night immersive Black Label experience in Scotland.

The trip, which is due to take place in May 2023, will include a behind-the-scenes distillery tour; a visit to the Diageo Archives; experiences at Johnnie Walker Princes Street including the venue’s most premium offering: the Whisky Makers’ Cellar tour; and a deconstructed tasting of Black Label with Dr Emma Walker, Johnnie Walker’s first female master blender.

Philips-Johansson added: “It has been amazing to see the variety of submissions we’ve received, each playing on different flavours within the whisky, which is what this challenge has really shone a light on.

“From short serves to long serves, fruit-forward flavours to spicy and sweet undertones, it really has been the most enjoyable task working through these creations with the judging panel.

“It’s a real testament to the creativity and inspiration that underpins the bartender community; I can’t wait to meet the winners and take them on an in-depth exploration of Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh.”

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