In a few hours Rambla’s Michael Tubiera will be competing against the world’s best when it comes to creating craft cocktails.

Watch the livestream telecast of the Miami Diageo Reserve World Class 2016 Global Final

The World Class 2016 finalists in Miami during the first day of the competition
The World Class 2016 finalists in Miami during the first day of the competition. Photo courtesy by World Class Facebook page

“It’s very nerve racking,” Michael tells me during his send off party last September 15. “I’m very stressed right now with all my preparation. I haven’t actually perfected my spiel yet, I just hope I get to do what I need to do there.” 

Michael in Miami facing the judges after he presented his atchara inspired cocktail, “Mana”. Screengrab from the livestream telecast of World Class 2016

Fairly new to the bartending industry, the hotel and restaurant management graduate picked up some bartending skills in college and during his internship at Marriot Hotel in the U.S. But he only started making craft cocktails three years ago when he worked at Las Flores under Giancarlo Mancino, maker of Mancino Vermouth. “I learned everything from our company and from my mentor Giancarlo Mancino,” he shares. “I learned bar techniques. I learned how to balance the drink. I also did my own research and read a lot of books and trends in the bar industry. I used all those tools to enhance my technique and skills. And of course, I also learned a lot from Diageo,” he adds.

I met Michael last May when I was part of the judging panel for the second challenge of Diageo Reserve World Class 2016. During that competition he stood out among 18 local bartending hopefuls because he seemed confident and sure of himself. Best of all, his drink was something you couldn’t forget–Punto de Partido cocktail made with Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, sherry wine, homemade tomato apple soda, and vermouth mixed with various ingredients such as vanilla, rhubarb, cinnamon, and caramel. I found out later after we announced him as one of the top contestants that it was actually his second time to join the competition.

Last year’s Global Final representative Ken Bandivas and Michael Tubiera

“Last year was my first time to meet bartenders around Manila,” shares Michael. “I didn’t know how they worked and I didn’t know if I could actually compete with them during that time, so I just did my style, my simple style in bartending, and I was lucky. I was actually surprised that I did well during the competition.”

From left: Ken Bandivas, Diageo Reserve Philippines brand ambassador Rian Asiddao, Michael Tubiera, Diageo Philippines marketing director Cesar Gangoso, and Rambla co-owner Uri Singla

For the Global Final in Miami, competitors will face three challenges: Speed Challenge, Whisky Identification Challenge, and a Pool Party Challenge where they will prepare a cocktail based on a celebrity. “There is no surprise challenge this year, but the surprise part is that we won’t know the challenge during the pool party,” says Michael. “I prepared eight cocktails for the challenge, but I will only bring out two depending on the chosen celebrity. I have to prepare on the spot.” They were tasked to prepare drinks inspired by celebrities Jay Z and Beyoncé, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino, or Barack and Michelle Obama.

During his sendoff party, the guests got to sample the cocktails that he planned to serve in Miami. My personal favorite was the white Negroni, an ampalaya cocktail called Gabriela. It was made with Tanqueray No. TEN, ampalaya shrub, Mancino Secco, and a dash of orange bitters. It was surprisingly palatable, and as well-balanced as its Italian relative Negroni. But the crowd favorite was Sibu (Ketel One, pork demi-glace, lemon juice, roasted pineapple shrub, peppercorn syrup, and salt bitters), the lechon-inspired cocktail that he plans to serve for the 24-hour pop-up bar challenge if he makes it to the top six.


“I served Sibu in the regional finals in Bali last July in Southeast Asia. They really like that one. If I will be lucky enough to be in the top six, I will be using that for my pop-up bar. I will be representing the Philippines, so I have to make a cocktail that will represent the Philippines,” he says. The secret to his drink is the pork demi-glace. Just half a bar spoon of this tasty ingredient is enough to create a savory finish to the sour cocktail. “I don’t want it to be like you’re eating lechon and like it’s a flavored lechon drink,” he explains.


The other cocktails he prepared were Mana, a digestif style cocktail based on atchara (pickled green papaya), and Borderless (Don Julio Reposado, salted beer agave syrup, pili nut falernum, lime juice, and beer foam), Borderless (Don Julio Reposado, salted beer agave syrup, pili nut falernum, lime juice, and beer foam), one of the eight cocktails he prepared for the Pool Party Challenge. Michael says Borderless was inspired by Barack Obama, one of the celebrity listed for the challenge. Obama apparently has a penchant for drinking beer and once even brought a home brewing kit to the White House.

Borderless, Mana, Gabriela, and Sibu
Borderless, Mana, Gabriela, and Sibu

His Rambla and Diageo families have seen him grow through the years of his short bartending career and are confident that he will make it to the top. “I think we possibly have the next global World Class winner on our hands,” says Diageo Philippines’ Jon Good. “I’ve always believed that the Filipinos are the best bartenders in the world and we just need to prove it to everyone else.”

Signature cocktails: “I always go with the simple whisky sour. You can simply play with it. And I’m really proud of Sibu, my lechon drink.”

“I’m still on the classic cocktails and I just add a twist and make it my own. Everyone knows how to make classics, but customers and guests want something new and different. That’s the challenge for us bartenders: to make something different, to make something that they will remember. We are also experimenting on molecular, using sphericals, foams, and gelatins but still staying on the classic side.”

Favorite drink: “I go for the first cocktail that I learned, which is the classic Negroni. And sometimes beer. For non-alcoholic I like lemon juice.”

Favorite bar: “I’m a big fan of Night Jar in London. They are really good with garnishing and fun serve. They use unique ingredients. I met them during a seminar in Thailand and in the Philippines. For the local [bars], I love my company Rambla and Las Flores, and I also like ABV.

A publishing industry veteran who is the former creative director of PeopleAsia magazine and former lifestyle editor of The Standard newspaper. She was introduced to the wonderful world of spirits during her stint as executive creative director of digital agency DigitalFCB, where she led a team that created campaigns for some of the biggest liquor brands in the country. A lover of scotch and a curious spirit who is obsessed with the colorful world of mixology, she directs DrinkManila’s overall editorial content.

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