Exclusive: Adrián Michalčik Shares How The Global Bartending Community Is Evolving

In conversation with Adrián Michalčik from Norway, the recently-crowned world’s best bartender at Diageo World Class.

Published On Dec 14, 2022 | Updated On Mar 07, 2024


Braving timezones and crazy schedules, we finally managed to catch Adrián Michalčik, on a very early morning in Norway, for this insider chat. Adrián was crowned the best bartender at the recently concluded Diageo World Class, bartender of the year. The global finals of the competition were held in Sydney. This event is often considered the Oscars of the mixology world.

In a freewheeling chat, about global alcohol trends, the rise of sustainability in mixology and the increased focus on ingredient-led cocktails, Adrián tells ZeeZest what to look out for in the cocktail world.

Edited excerpts:

There are a couple of trends I’d like to highlight. In my opinion, the main one is that people drink less than in the past but they would like to drink something better. Something well crafted. 

Another trend that I see is sustainable drinks and low-alcohol drinks. This is something that I have been implementing in my bar in Norway. I think while it’s great to give people a chance to eat or to drink alcohol, it’s also nice to give options to people who might want to take in little or no alcohol. People are definitely drinking less because they want to have a healthy lifestyle and it’s become trendy to talk about sustainable cocktails.

In Europe, dark spirits are becoming increasingly popular. People are slowly finding out that these spirits have a lot of character and they work well with cocktails. It has taken time for people to get comfortable with, say, whisky in cocktails. But the truth is, you can make a very delicious cocktail based on a dark spirit.

For the longest time, people have loved margaritas, but now they are experimenting with tequila in other cocktails, as they enjoy the beautiful spiciness that can be showcased.

Absolutely, this is part of my community engagement project. Whenever I forage for ingredients, I find some nice local herbs, fruits and spices. This instantly makes it a sustainable cocktail, because we are reducing the carbon footprint by sourcing locally. I often go into the beautiful forests of Norway and discover stuff that I can put into my next cocktail. I recently found this beautiful ingredient adds a nice pineapple flavour to cocktails; it is a great substitute since we don’t really grow the actual fruit in Norway.

As part of the challenge, I was supposed to work with surplus ingredients. I got inspired by the continental breakfast that you see at hotels. I picked up a block of ingredients from the continental breakfast and turned them into a cordial to go perfectly with a cocktail that I made using Johnnie Walker Black Label. The idea is to respect the ingredient and the whisky in the flank product. That’s extremely important.

The challenge was quite interesting. I had to create three impromptu cocktails, celebrating community craft. I was also asked to make a modern classic cocktail based on Singleton whisky. To this, I added strawberry lemon maple syrup along with Angostura bitters.  

We were asked to rate a modern classic based on Singleton whisky. In another cocktail, I used green tea and green apples for a very different twist. It was such a fun, but challenging experience.

I was at the World Class Finals in Miami in 2016 and from then to now, I’ve seen such a major difference. The way the global community of bartenders is coming together to represent their countries is amazing. I love how ingredients have become the centre of discussion. For example, some bartenders from far-off countries actually carried their local ingredients with them to Australia. The competition is getting stronger as everyone is really pushing the limits. The world's cocktail trends are truly changing fast and we need to keep up with it. 

Photo: Diageo