Meet Jennifer Le Nechet, the World’s Best Bartender of 2016

Photo courtesy Reuters

This year, France’s Jennifer Le Nechet was crowned World’s Best Bartender of 2016 in Diageo’s annual World Class Competition, beating out nearly 10,000 other bartenders from around the world. While the title alone is impressive, Le Nechet also happens to be the first woman ever to win a global bartending competition. When not competing globally, Le Nechet works as a bartender in Paris’s Steampunk-themed bar Café Moderne—her first craft bartending gig—where she’s been behind the stick for about a year and a half.

Le Nechet, along with her fellow competitors, was judged not only on her drink-making skills, but also on her technique, knowledge of spirits, creativity and performance under pressure throughout the final competition, which included a blind scotch tasting and multiple cocktail-making challenges.

“Jen really showed her personality and determination,” says Mido Ahmed Yani, co-owner of Café Moderne and a 2014 World Class finalist. Yani encouraged Le Nechet to enter the competition and provided support throughout the process. “Hard work always pays off. Jen is the real image of that,” he says.

We caught up with the busy champion to talk about her recent win.

Supercall: What do you think about being the first woman to win a global bartending competition?
Jennifer Le Nechet: Finally! It’s about time. It’s something quite special to be a woman in this industry and to win such a big competition such as World Class. I really hope that I will inspire ladies to enter this competition and to work behind the bar. I would like to help give them the courage to express themselves through cocktails.

SC: What was it like to compete in World Class?
JLN: I learned a lot about myself by competing—I had to push my own limits and I feel like I’ve grown up since entering this competition. It’s the most complete and complex competition in the world—I’m really happy to have been crowned the global competition winner. This was a life-changing experience.

SC: How did you prepare for the competition?
JLN: I rehearsed every day and worked for about eight months and thought about all of the details. World Class is not the kind of competition you win alone. I had a lot of help from the French bartending industry and the brand ambassadors in France, who are doing an amazing job. I received help and feedback from family and friends in the industry and made them try drinks that I had created. You need to have somebody behind you to prepare you.

SC: What was the most nerve-racking challenge?
JLN: The most challenging part for me was the Johnnie Walker Blending Room challenge. We had to try eight different scotches in a blind tasting, then we had to figure out which was which. For me that was really, really hard because this was something you have to work at to develop your palate to be able to identify those scotches.

Le Nechet's El Taco Rojo cocktail. | Photo courtesy Reuters

SC: Which cocktail was your biggest accomplishment?
JLN: It was one that I had to prepare during the cocktail Superstar Pool Party challenge [in which competitors had to create two cocktails and one punch for a famous mystery couple]. I made a punch called El Taco Rojo for Barack and Michelle Obama. I was inspired by Latin American food and drink culture, so I infused Don Julio Blanco with grilled corn followed with a red bell pepper shrub and a house soda with fresh herbs. The whole drink was about creating the taste of a taco.

SC: What are you looking forward to as the new Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador?
JLN: I’m looking forward to traveling and working closely with Diageo to go meet new bartenders around the world and share my experience with World Class and my knowledge with everybody I meet.

Note: This interview was conducted with the help of a translator.