The heady worlds of drink mixology and haute cuisine collided in Neil Perry's Rockpool restaurant this week as the search for Australia's best bartender took a decidedly foodie turn.
Sydney bartender Tim Philips from Ivy Level 6, bagged the national title with the help of a unique winter punch creation of tea and whisky that was served warm and topped with chilled honey-water foam.
“I wanted to come up with something really new and innovative for the competition,” he said.
The national World Class final took place over two days in Sydney, with one of the key events at Rockpool, where the participants were asked to match cocktails to a five-course degustation menu created by head chef Phil Wood.
Bartenders from around Australia took part in the event, and each had to devise a signature cocktail specifically created to complement a portion of the menu. The cocktails were then judged on concept, wow factor, appearance, taste and most importantly – their match to the dish.
Guests at the event were asked judged the cocktails along with an expert bar industry panel.
While originality and artistry were key elements of the competition, Philips said it was his deft hand and deep knowledge of cocktail history that helped him nail victory after he excelled in both the Classic Cocktail and Gentleman's Cocktail segments of the competition.
“I've done bartending at Milk & Honey in London and New York, and they are two of the best classic cocktail bars,” he said.
Even so, he remains sceptical that his exotic creations are about to become an established part of the fine dining experience.
"I don’t think there is really a cocktail out there that I would choose over a glass of wine [with a meal], " he said.
In spite of “a bit of a sore head” after celebrating his win with other competitors, Philips said he was delighted to win the national title.
“But after three days of thinking only about cocktails, I couldn't wait to get out and have a beer and a shot,” he said.
Philips will fly to New Delhi next month to compete in the World Class title.
Organisers said the winner could become a globally recognised name, publishing his or her own cocktail book.
Adam Brewer from Sling Lounge in Brisbane represented Australia last year in Athens, but did not win a place.