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Orlando Marzo
Interviews

World’s Best Bartender Orlando Marzo On Cocktail Pairing

Orlando was awarded the title in 2018.

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Orlando Marzo, the reigning global winner of the World Class Bartender of the Year competition, is known for his gorgeous cocktails.

Beginning his hospitality career in Italy, Orlando then moved on to the Rushmore group in London and Lûmé in Melbourne. Beating out competition from all over the world, Orlando was crowned World’s Best Bartender 2018 at Diageo’s World Class Bartender of the Year event in Berlin last year.

Since winning the title of World’s Best Bartender, Orlando has joined Worksmith as Beverage Director, which allows him to provide training and educational programs to others in the hospitality industry.

Orlando was recently at Taste of Dublin, where he hosted cocktail masterclasses in the Ketel One Kitchen, as well as joining Diageo Global Gastronomer Mark Moriarty at The NEFF Taste Kitchen to demonstrate the art of pairing food with cocktails. Here, we find out more about Orlando's career, cocktail pairings and the World Class Bartender Competition.

READ MORE: Australian Chef Josh Niland On His Fish Revolution

What inspired you to enter the World Class Bartender Competition? 

"I first attended World Class Studios when I was living in London and I soon realised that World Class was more than just a cocktail competition; it was a way to become a better bartender. The challenges, for example, are more like a project. It’s about discovering new techniques and flavours, as well as building relationships with bartenders across the world."

How do you inspire other bartenders through your role as Beverage Director?

"The role is an incredibly rewarding way to inspire and influence a new generation of bartenders. I love sharing my passion and message with the hospitality industry. For me, it’s about having a long career in hospitality and bartending, which is achieved through caring about and kindness in how you work and operate. I always remind new bartenders to look beyond the bar for inspiration, even beyond chefs, go to gardens or visit an art gallery. Go find inspiration and always keep your mind open.

World Class is a great example. Yes, it was incredibly challenging and it was great to be recognised, but it is about more than just that. You compete alongside 10,000 of the world’s best bartenders, working across new projects with new ideas and rubbing shoulders with new people. It's such a great opportunity to learn."

How has winning the competition impacted your career?

"Yes, it was incredibly challenging and it was great to be recognised, but it is about more than just that. You compete alongside 10,000 of the world’s best bartenders, working across new projects with new ideas and rubbing shoulders with new people. It's such a great opportunity to learn.

Since winning World Class I’ve enjoyed opportunities that I had only ever dreamed of. Entering the competition was one of the best decisions of my life. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be travelling the world, visiting the planet’s coolest venues and helping others achieve their goals of becoming a top bartender."

READ MORE: My Life in Plates: Grainne O’Keefe

Do you think that we will see more options to pair cocktails with food, instead of wine, in the future?

"Absolutely. With cocktails, there is so much possibility and bartenders have the responsibility to create new flavours. You start with a completely clean canvas and if you explore this with care, there is the possibility is there to create something incredible. We can contrast and match flavours with cocktails, whereas with wine, even though the music is different, the note will always be the same. I believe cocktails are so varied and dynamic, the possibilities are really endless. Instead of white wine with dinner and a dessert wine to finish, you could have a Johnnie Walker Highball throughout the dinner and finish with a Zacapa digestif cocktail, and the depth of flavour you will experience simply can’t be compared to wine."

What are the key things that people should think about when they are pairing cocktails for food?

Firstly, know your guest and find out what they like. What is the occasion? Lunch, dinner, or are they celebrating? Then, take the time to plan your evening. If you are hosting a dinner party, start with something light such as a Tanqueray Tom Collins and finish your meal with something along the lines of a Bulleit Bourbon Old Fashioned. A top tip is that heavy cocktails should always be served near the end of a meal so as to avoid any overpowering flavours.

I always say you need to invest in quality ice. Ice is one of the ingredients that people generally pay the least attention to, but it can make such a huge difference to your drink. Make your own at home using some good bottled still water and cut it yourself to set your cocktail apart. If you really want to impress, pick up a nice ice mould from a shop for interesting and unique shapes.

Lastly, don’t overcomplicate your cocktail. Recipes are great but don’t feel like you have to follow them exactly. For example, if you are making a daiquiri, recipes will generally call for a white rum, but if you have a fantastic dark rum in your cupboard, like Zacapa, this will also work incredibly well. Don’t be afraid to adapt your recipes and experiment!"

READ MORE: Pork And Chive Dumplings Recipe

Keep up with Orlando's adventures on his Instagram page.