We Chat With World Class SA 2019 Winner, Owen O’Reilly

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am from a small town called Standerton, I moved to Pretoria / Johannesburg when I just turned 18 and started working in the industry as a chico in Spur and shortly after became a waiter where I also pulled some shifts in the bar… later moved to Margate near Durban where I started bartending and fell in love with the bar scene. Went back to Pretoria, opened a bar at a skate park and then joined a bar called Odds, eventually moved on to the Rhapsody’s franchise and then moved to Cape Town in 2008 where I started working for Cubanna and the Bartenders Workshop. Here I met mentors like Kurt and Etienne Schlechter and Travis Kuhn, our previous winner. I later opened a branch in Mauritius for the Bartenders Workshop and ran it for two years before returned to Cape Town and started tending bar again. Later joined Barcode Mobile as the regional training officer in the Western Cape. Worked for them for 3 years until the end of 2014 and then opened SIP Exclusive to bring a different flair to the events industry.

Why bartending?

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photo credit: Leah van Deventer

Started bartending because it was cooler than being a waiter… lol. I needed a change of scenery and bartending was the obvious answer. At the time flair was really big and I was very interested in learning. Also, I saw potential in the trade and knew that bartenders will become celebrities at a stage. It’s also a very connected industry and it can open a lot of doors. People will never stop drinking and eating so why not deliver the best quality drinks and food. This job is my artistic outlet and the sky is the limit. Also the money is good and the networking opportunities are great.

Who inspires you?

I was first inspired by my first boss at the nightclub I started and then later saw a guy called Lombardo, an ex-bartender at TGIF, and later Derrick aka Decks who now works with me. My mentors and inspirations currently are most definitely my girlfriend Cassandra Eichhoff, my business partner Cecilia Van Wyk, my entire team and I think everyone in the bar industry that still cares about it and puts in the hard work, people like Travis Kuhn, Pieter Oosthuizen, Kurt Schlechter, Bradley Jacobs, Julian short, Brent Perimore, Jody Rahm, Denzel Heath, Dom Walsh and many more, love and look up to everyone working in the bar industry currently. Also, our judges at World Class are very inspiring. Tess Posthumus, Chef David Higgs, Mike Stephenson and Neo Nontso … all amazing people.

Why World Class and what do you love about the competition?

I have been entering World Class for the last 3 years but never really had the time to focus on it while building and running SIP Exclusive. I have also entered numerous other competitions over the last 12 years but World Class is by far my favourite and absolutely the best-organised competition. It is very inspiring and diverse, as there are multiple challenges, and I think the competition test the full spectrum of bartending. It really challenges you in every way and shows your week points and strong points. Like other competitions, it is a great learning and networking platform. You are a winner just being in the top ten of this prestigious competition, as you can learn so much from everyone else as well as making friends for life. Also super well organised and they really treat the competitors like kings and queens. It is also very consistent on a global platform. 

If your cocktail was called “The World Class Cocktail” what would be in it?

Actually the cocktail I made for Tess in the speed round called Dutch Tea. It is strange as I am not a vodka guy, but it had Ketel One Vodka, cumin-infused triple sec, lemon infused white vermouth, matcha tea and basil oil.

Favourite food and cocktail pairing?

I don’t think I ever had a serious aha moment with a food and cocktail pairing but really enjoy having a braai with Bulleit old fashioneds.

When Bourbon meets braai the party is saved

bourboun sauce We Chat With World Class SA 2019 Winner, Owen OReilly

It may not be warm enough to fire up the grill just yet, but we have spring fever and it’s never too early to start perfecting your barbecue sauce.

If you could have one cocktail for the rest of your life, which one do you love enough?

I think a really well made bloody mary with fresh ingredients will also be my favourite, I love savoury stuff and it is very nourishing as well. 

Bloody Mary Cocktail

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Mix your own Bloody Mary Cocktail.

Which cocktail describes who you are, best?

I think it has to be a boulevardier, really tasty, sweet and well balanced but a bit rough with a bitter edge. 

Boulevardier Cocktail

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Mix your own Boulevardier Cocktail.


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