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Chivas Regal’s International Brand Ambassador Max Warner takes us behind the scenes of the Chivas Masters 2017.

The Chivas Masters returned for its fourth edition in the mesmerising city of Tokyo, and boy, did we all share the glories of success. As the International Brand Ambassador of Chivas Regal, it was always my ambition to take the Chivas Masters to Tokyo. Honest, kind and consistent hospitality is at the heart of Japanese traditions and culture – and the same values are essential to the bartending craft.

This year saw 15 bartenders from all over the world make it to the final in Tokyo. Unlike most other global cocktail competitions that focus on the cocktail itself and how it is served, the Chivas Masters celebrates the fundamental creativity and craftsmanship of bartending with the Chivas values of brotherhood, collaboration and generosity at its core. Every one of our 15 contestants had demonstrated these attributes during the local competitions, and they all share a positive attitude along with kindness for others around them. It is my firm belief that true talent cannot reach its full potential if there’s no team work, and the Chivas Masters is unique in inspiring this attitude amongst its participants and judges alike.

After an action-packed few days of exploring Tokyo, attending masterclasses and completing challenges, the global finalists competed for the winning title at the MIXX Bar & Lounge on the 36th floor of the ANA InterContinental Hotel. We couldn’t have found more inspiring views over the metropolis, even if we’d tried, and the influences of Japan were inherent in our contestants’ cocktails.

Our esteemed panel of judges were an extraordinary group of award-winning mixologists, renowned bar consultants, and leaders in the hospitality and drinks industries. Joining us were Iain Griffiths, hospitality industry pioneer and co-founder of Lyan Ltd; Micah Melton, beverage director at the Alinea Group and renowned ‘ice chef’; Chris Lowder, ‘New York’s Rising Star Bartender’ in 2015; Dré Masso, ex-director of bars for the Potato Head Group in Bali, Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong; and Rogerio Igarashi Vaz, owner of Tokyo’s Tram & Trench. The judges pushed our 15 bartenders to rethink and enhance their current bartending style, as well as understand what they can offer to strengthen a team.

Atsushi Suzuki
Atsushi Suzuki, the winner of the Chivas Masters 2017

Much like the Chivas blend itself, our bartenders demonstrated the power of collaborating and complementing each other’s unique talents. Throughout several individual and team challenges, our contestants bonded and came together to form a bartending force to be reckoned with – and one that I’d love to see behind any bar. I did not envy the judges’ task of selecting a winner, as the competition truly demonstrated the Chivas ethos that success tastes better when shared.

Our winner mastered the Chivas qualities of collaboration, generosity and brotherhood from the get-go. Asides from marvellous bartending skills, of course, Atsushi Suzuki showed an ability to earn respect from everyone around him, and proved himself to be the best at interpreting the tasks at hand. Atsushi also helped us truly understand “Omotenashi,” which defines the art of Japanese hospitality, where the bartender considers every aspect of the customer’s experience, ensuring they leave in a better state than when they arrived.

"The Double Talk" by this year's Chivas Masters winner, Atsushi Suzuki

Atsushi’s winning cocktail “The Double Talk” was the perfect conclusion to the journey. Inspired by the whole event, Atsushi’s modern take on classic cocktail “The Boulevardier” highlighted its adaptability to different countries and flavours. Time to try your hand at making an award-winning cocktail…

The Double Talk
40ml Chivas Regal 12
20ml Italian Bitters
20 ml Bianco Vermouth
Garnished with Matcha Tea Salt – or customised to your country
Stirred and served over block ice in a rocks glass, with a side serve for sharing

Max Warner is the International Brand Ambassador of Chivas Regal and the creator of the Chivas Masters cocktail competition. Having worked across most aspects of the drinks world for 23 years, Max joined Chivas Brothers in 2004.

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