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ABV Bar’s Lester Ligon Rules As Diageo Worldclass PH’s 2018 Bartending Champ

There’s a new breed of bartending hotshots on the loose in Manila, and at this year’s Diageo Worldclass PH finals championship last May 28, Lester Ligon of ABV bar emerged victorious. 

At the Diageo national finals held at Agimat Bar in Makati, eight finalists presented their signature drinks to the judges at the counter. In the final round, an impromptu speed test, bartenders were challenged to achieve perfection and provide entertainment under time pressure.

Diageo Reserve WORLD CLASS is bringing elevated drinking experiences to the commercial market and to drinking leisure at home. The investment in the trade helps unveil local and international bartending talents at the forefront of—you said it—WORLD CLASS mixology.


Diageo International Scotch ambassador, Ervin Trykowski, sat front and center. He was also here a few months back for the Diageo Love Scotch celebration.


Not a contender, but Agimat Bar’s Liquid Chef, Kalel Demetrio, was at the helm doing what he does best in between challenges.


Davide Boncimino, Bar Manager, Shangri-La Fort; Cyrene Dela Rosa, ABS-CBN Lifestyle; TJ Antony, SEA Brand Ambassador, Giffard Liqueur and Syrups; AK Roxas, Diageo Reserve World Class Philippines 2013 Bartender of the Year; Ervin Trykowski, Global Brand Ambassador, The Singleton; Tim Philips Diageo Reserve World Class 2012 Global Winner


Lester’s winning drink, “Iridescene”, impressed judges with its unique flavor profile.  His introduction about a passion for baking and bartending—a collision of both of his worlds—piqued their interest and brought home the winning taste.  The addition of cacao nibs and salted blueberry cordial lent the baking flavor elements well to the overall taste of the drink.


Diageo Worldclass PH champion, Lester Ligon of ABV bar 


 Lester Ligon’s “Iridescene” consists of:

The Singleton of Dufftown 12

Don Julio Blanco Tequila

Salted Blueberry Cordial

Giffard Vanille de Madagascar & Oloroso Sherry Blend

Cacao nibs-infused Absinthe

lemon juice

heavy cream


“I was like really nervous the whole time!  The challenge was basically like serve something that says a lot about me.  There was a surprise challenge which was the speed challenge.  I tend to get a lot of ideas from past challenges,” Lester went on to describe his flavor style or preference in bartending, “I'm more on the "fruity" side and spicy—I play with spicy a lot.  I always want to have different layers in a drink but still focus on the classic approach.  It's all about the experience at the end of the day.  The drink in the glass, it's just a drink in a glass, but we can turn it to something wonderful, especially if you're add a really good experience for the guest.”  



Among the top four for the last round were: OTO’s David Abalayan, 5ynco’s Alyssa Lorenzo, Jhon Parraba from Yes Please, and ABV’s Lester Ligon.  For the speed test, all of them were provided a pre-determined set of classic cocktails and four minutes to execute them.

Davide Boncamino, bar manager at Shangri-La Fort, shared about what made Lester’s performance stand out, “Lester, I'd say, was the most confident out of the eight finalists, even in the speed challenge.  The way he engages with the guests is something that really reflects the way it should be [with bartenders] on everyday duty—the preparation as well.   We can tell he is a veteran of the competition, he's been joining in the past three editions if I’m not mistaken.  Every year he's been learning and growing and this is his achievement—three years of hard work.”



Lester was bestowed the title “Bartender of the Year 2018 – Philippines.” He will be flying to Berlin in September to join over 50 other country winners at the World Class Finals.  All of the national winners will be given access to exclusive World Class tools, topnotch mentoring, and supplementary workshops.  When asked about his upcoming trip to Berlin, Lester couldn’t contain himself “In October, for Berlin, I'm really looking forward to possibly winning the title of Global Bartender of the Year, the very least that I can aim for is Top 6.”