Two days ago, bartender Bannie Kang posted a picture of the SWG3 event space in Glasgow, Scotland, which had been painted with a brightly colored sign for World Class Glasgow, the world's biggest cocktail competition. "Two more days to go. I can do this!" she wrote, punctuating her caption with the flexed bicep emoji, a rabbit, and Singapore's flag.
Kang, who works her behind-the-bar magic at Anti:Dote, a bar inside Swissôtel The Stamford in Singapore, has been in Scotland this week competing for bartending's top prize. And, when the results were revealed on Thursday night, Kang's self-affirmation came true: she was named the best bartender in the world for 2019.
She and 52 other expert bartenders had been invited to take part in the final rounds of the World Class competition, after excelling at national events in their respective countries. Earlier in the week, the participants were given a couple of difficult assignments at distilleries in the Netherlands and on Scotland's Isle of Skye and asked to do their thing for the judges.
At the Ketel One distillery, they were tasked with—in the organizers' words—"creating cocktails that had a positive environmental impact and a sense of community at their core." A day later, they traveled to the Talisker Scotch distillery, where they were handed a mystery box of bar tools and ingredients and told to mix a "masterpiece." After those results were tallied, the group of 53 was cut down to a high-pressure party of eight. In addition to Kang, the World Class finalists included Hiroki Yoshida, Cameron Attfield, Tony Lin, Won Woo Choi, Shelley Tai, Alex Remoundos, and Jeff Savage.
A post shared by ANTI:DOTE (@antidotebar.sg) on Sep 26, 2019 at 4:14pm PDT
For the last round—which was held in the same spot that Kang shared on her Insta account—all eight bartenders were given several more chances to wow the judges, including by creating a cocktail that would best compliment The Singleton single malt Scotch, and by fashioning a three-drink flight that showcased the flavors of Tanqueray No. Ten gin. (This competition is sponsored by multinational beverage producer Diageo, so the featured spirits are, of course, from its massive portfolio of brands.)
"At first glance, Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year is all about inviting the planet's finest bartenders to take part in a huge competition using the very best spirits available," Simon Earley, Head of Diageo World Class, said in a statement. "But it's also about getting all these incredible talents working and learning together, so they can inspire each other and spark ideas off each other that will elevate drinks culture globally, for everybody's benefit."
Kang will now spend the next 12 months as a Diageo Reserve global ambassador, judging national competitions for next year's World Class competition, and making guest appearances at some of the world's best bars. That's not to say that her 'regular' gig isn't a solid one: Anti:Dote has been nominated for the Bar Awards' Best Hotel Bar award, which will be presented next month. (And Kang herself is up for a pair of individual honors: Hospitality Ambassador of the Year and Bartender of the Year.)
She hasn't posted on Instagram since her big win, but we sure hope the caption includes at least a dozen of those bicep emojis. She's earned 'em.