On 18 September, the Italian final of Nikka Perfect Serve 2017 was held at the beautiful Bar Cavour in Torino. Competing against eight other talented italian bartenders Matteo Rebuffo of The Mad Dog Social Club was crowned the winner. It was also a treat to follow Nikka Whisky Hospitality Advocate Stanislav Vadrna's master class on customer experience.
It was my second time attending Nikka Perfect Serve, the original cocktail competition from the famous Japanese whisky producer Nikka. Instead of presenting standard drink recipes, the contestants were challenged to come up with recipes on the spot, well suited to the palates of everyday bar customers...
In reality, the customers were cocktail experts: the Italian winner of World Class Mirko Turconi (Piano35 Torino), whisky expert Davide Terziotti of Whisky Club Italia and Il Giornale's Marco Zucchetti. Mirko, Davide and Marco had to act as fictional bar customers, keeping the contestants on their toes with strange requests like shots of vodka and a whisky-based spritz. Velier assisted with the organization of the fun competition, coming up with improv situations like a wild bachelor party, a beach bar, and two italians friends interacting with a Latvian vodka aficionado.
The other Nikka Perfect Serve competitors included Alessandro Zampieri of Il Mercante (Venice), Andrea Lazzaretti of Cotton Club (Modena), Daniele Cancellara of Rasputin (Florence), Elisa Favaron of Palazzo delle Misture (Bassano del Grappa), Nicola Mangiacapra, Valerio Sordi of Q.bo Concept Store (Merate), Gabriele Fantino of Melia Hotel (Genova) and Luca Sette of Cafè Gorille (Milano)
Other than coming up with random Nikka-based drinks for their customers, competitors were asked to bring a secret ingredient, a few drops of which were used to enhance the flavor of the complex Nikka From the Barrel whisky, winner of the World Whisky Awards in 2007 and 2010. The secret ingredient was a new addition to this year's Nikka Perfect Serve, with Matteo's Halau bitter (cardamom, lavender, umeshu liqueur aged for a month in a rum barrel) impressing the demanding judges. Matteo also kept his composure during the fictional stag party up at the bar to edge out his strong competition.
Matteo will fly to NY in December to compete in the European final and the winner will be given an exclusive trip to Tokyo to visit Nikka's distillery. Congrats Matteo and to all the participants. Kanpai!