Top of the class

05. 823NEWS

• Classroom co-owners Andy Bennett and Daniel Sterpini. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

THE Classroom’s bartender Andy Bennett has been labelled best in town.

A co-owner of the Charles Street small bar, he says the Shaken and Stirred local competition is “by bartenders, for bartenders”.

“With so many more bars and bartenders flocking to Perth, competition in the industry is getting more intense,” he says. “We’re an industry that isn’t completely without egos. Everyone loves the one-upmanship and trying to come up with the best ideas and newest trends.”

To take out the top gong he had to devise a twist on a classic, and create an original. For the classic he took a margarita with silver tequila, and “I put a little bit of aloe vera juice to freshen it up.

“Aloe and tequila are great bedfellows, each coming from various forms of cactus… it’s super-refreshing.”

For his original he took inspiration from one of his favourite authors, Ernest Hemingway, known for creating a few drinks of his own: “He had so much to give the world of literature and the world of bartending, everything from the Hemingway Daiquiri to the Death in the Afternoon.

“I chose five of the most popular drinks he’d either invented himself or had a hand in, and I took an ingredient from each one.”

With rum from Hemingway’s beloved mojitos, absinthe from Death in the Afternoon, coconut water from his green Isaac, luxardo from the daiquiri and orgeat to sweeten (Hemingway had a lifelong fear of diabetes and abhorred sugar), Mr Bennett presented it in a hollowed-out book filled with Cuban cigar tobacco. It won over the judges, and he beat out bartenders from bars like El Publico, Varnish and the Mechanic’s Institute.

Meanwhile co-owner Daniel Sterpini was also honoured with a 40 under 40 business award, picked up for his work growing Cocktail Gastronomy and the Classroom, awarded a gold plate for best small bar in 2012. A year shy of the 40 age limit now, at 25 he was the youngest executive chef in WA, working at Chifley on the Terrace.

“I was the only person representing hospitality, so it was good that someone from hospitality got into the top 40.”

He says the night is a razzle dazzle affair, and he was so taken aback when he won he couldn’t remember all the nice things the announcer said about him.
“It’s quite overwhelming when you rock up,” he says.

by DAVID BELL

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