By James Atkinson

Australia has the best bar culture in the world, according to renowned international bartender Philip Duff, who spoke exclusively to TheShout ahead of the announcement of the global finalists for the G'Vine Gin Connoisseur Program (GCP) 2013.

Fifteen of the world's best gin bartenders have been named GCP finalists following an extensive global search that has seen G'Vine host preliminary competitions in twelve cities across the world, from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

Duff, who was one of the world's first global brand ambassadors and now acts as GCP mentor, told TheShout that in its fifth year, the program has confirmed its status as "the toughest contest, the fairest contest, and the most innovative".

"It's so fairly and transparently judged, largely by me and the team, that the big names never win because they don't get any additional points," he said.

"If you want to win, you've got to do the work, and if you do the work, the sky's the limit. Everyone who's become a world finalist, within two to three years they're head bartenders, bar managers, or they open their own bar."

Last year, Australia's two wild card entries impressed at the global finals and Duff predicted another strong showing this year from Gorge Comorra and Michael Tomasic, who won the first preliminary competitions to be held in Australia, organised by local distributor SouthTrade International.

"Australia's got a terrific record in this contest," said Duff. "We've been saying for years that Australia's got the best bar culture in the world." [continues below]

L-R: Philip Duff, Euro Wine Gate export manager Simon Davies, bars&clubs editor Sacha Delfosse and SouthTrade International's Tony Lau

He said the Sydney contestants made "the most consistently yummy drinks" as compared with their Melbourne counterparts, who were more about pushing the boundaries with cocktails that were overly bitter and powerful.

"In that sense they were bang on trend because that's something that bartenders are doing in other cities as well," said Duff.

"They're bartenders, they make the drink, try it out and let other bartenders taste and everyone says that's lovely – except the punters."

The 15 bartenders that have been invited to compete in the world finals in France are:

• Francesc Caira from House in Barcelona, Spain (preliminary competition winner)
• Ivan Villegas, from O’Clock in Madrid, Spain (preliminary competition winner)
• Jamie Jones, from The Liquorists, Manchester, UK (preliminary competition winner)
• Hannah Lanfear, from Boisdale, London, UK (preliminary competition winner)
• Cari Hah, from Coles Red Car Bar, Los Angeles, USA (preliminary competition winner)
• Kellie Thord, from Empire State South, Atlanta, USA (preliminary competition winner)
• Meeghan Dorman, from Raines Law Room, New York, USA (preliminary competition winner)
• Michael Tomasic, from Wild Rover, Sydney, Australia (preliminary competition winner)
• Gorge Camorra, from Cloud9 Bar, Melbourne, Australia (preliminary competition winner)
• Irwan Majid, from Cut By Wolfgang Puck, Singapore (preliminary competition winner)
• Mari Nakano, from The Peninsular Tokyo Peter Bar, Tokyo, Japan (preliminary competition winner)
• Katrin Reitz, from Le Dee Da, Berlin, Germany (preliminary competition winner)
• Mathieu Le Feuvrier, from Le Quarante Trois Cocktail Bar, Paris, France (wildcard entry winner)
• Denzel Heath, from Soho Molecular Lounge, Port Elizabeth, South Africa (wildcard entry winner)
• Antonio Lai, from Quinary, Hong Kong (wildcard entry winner)

They will be flown to Cognac, France in June for a week of unforgettable experiences and challenges with Philip Duff and fellow bartender Gaz Regan in G’Vine's birthplace. 

The week builds up to the annual G'Vine Summer Ball, where the overall winner of the GCP 2013 will be announced. 

The winner receives $3,000, a personal and tailor-made training program from Philip Duff, an elite presenting & media-training course, and the chance to present seminars at both Tales of the Cocktail 2013 and Bar Convent Berlin 2013.

Click here for further information.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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