Band camp goes to Queenstown
42 Belows Cocktail World Cup shows
New Zealand in a great light, as Karen Loftus recalls the
issue 22 of Lucire
MIDSUMMER, my friend Elyse sent me
a random email about a media trip to New Zealand. I assumed when
heading to the Southern Hemisphere I would make the obvious stop
off in Australia. But as luck and fate would have it, I was headed
to New Zealand.
Flying home from my last international trip,
I was enjoying the conversation as much as my port with my new best
friend in flight. As he recounted his leisurely trip with his older
hip parents and the many meals they had at all the best restaurants
in the Italian islands, I couldn’t help but think, that maybe my
play was more work than it’s worth.
As he put it, ‘It was pure pleasure, great meals,
lazy days on a beach or on a boat. It was a true holiday, with none
of that cultural bullshit.’ Suddenly more embarrassed than accomplished,
I tucked my many museum brochures aside and ordered another port.
I realized my ambition and my need to achieve went wherever I went.
Next trip: bliss!
I didn’t know much about my trip other than I
was going to New Zealand to the renowned Kiwi country to cover the
Cocktail World Cup. 42 Below, the New Zealand vodka company, was
having its third annual Cocktail World Cup in Queenstown, in the
South Island, the adventure capital of the world and New Zealand’s
most visited city.
Forty-two of the world’s top bartenders from
the best bars around the globe were gathering for a week of extreme
cocktailing. They, along with 18 or 20 international journalists,
a few judges and the 20 or so über-cool Kiwis from 42 Below
were about to embark on a week-long adventure together. It was outward
bound with a bar or as I later discovered, band camp with booze.
After a night’s lay over and a couple of cocktails
in Tahiti, I was off to a good start. Jumping on our next flight
with several of the competing bartenders, a few journalists and
a judge, the camp connections kicked in mid-flight. Finally landing
in Queenstown, it was the first of many picturesque views. For one
week, no matter where I looked, my eye was forever inspired.
The 42 Belowers were a force. No matter what
your job, it was as Ian, our driver and the IT
of the company said, ‘It’s one for all and all for one for the week.’
Geoff Ross, the genius behind the Kiwi company, and his crew, the
camp counsellors for the week, looked after our every need, handling
each and every detail with genuine friendliness and their Kiwi can-do
After being bullied over breakfast to bungy jump
by Gareth and Réné, two of the 42 Belowers, I, to
my surprise, jumped off a bridge my first day in. The bartenders
embarking on their first leg of the competition had to successfully
shake and serve a cosmo while bungy jumping. I just had to survive.
Barely back on solid ground, crawling up the
hill, giddy and wobbly, I was already being wrangled by the ever-lovely
Angela, our appointed 42 Belower, ‘Come on. We’ve got a car waiting.
We’re off to parapeunte.’ Who are these people? Within minutes
I was being lifted in to the heavens in a gondola, with views that
silenced us all. With "pilots" on deck, we were assigned
a partner and before I knew it I was told to walk straight ahead,
off the mountain. Seems normal.
‘The wind will pick up and we’ll lift off.’
I was airborne twice within the hour. (Parapeunting or paragliding
is a cross between a kite and an airborne spoon. It doesn’t get
The bungy wasn’t enjoyable, it was exhilarating,
enlightening and a shake-up that I didn’t know I needed. But the
parapeunte was pure crazy, blissful joy! I didn’t want to land:
I wanted to live up there and have every one I know and love meet
me there. I totally trusted my pilot whose name I can’t remember,
yet he had my life in his hands for a full 15 minutes. Tip to the
thrill-seekers: if your pilot asks, ‘Are you up for some fun?’ say,
‘Yes!’ Like an airborne roller-coaster he had us flipping and spinning.
I was screaming, in all the right ways!
That was the day that we, the journalists in
an attempt to articulate the trip, coined that the week was like
high school. ‘They’ll be clicks, a crush, some one’s feeling will
get hurt, etc. …’ A few awkward moments later, we realized the bartenders
were the sexy cheerleaders and athletes and we were band camp.
The band marched on through the week’s many activities.
While the bartenders competed, we carried our tubas and clarinets
and tipped back, testing the many cocktails made. In
the Southern Alps, we were helicoptered to the top of the world,
overlooking the Remarkables, a mountain range, where an ice bar
was set up for the bartenders who were given random and odd ingredients
and a few minutes to whip up a drink, name it and serve it to the
Later in the week, we hopped in to Shotover Jets
in the river. They are boats that carry approximately 10 to 12 people.
At top speed, we spun in 360-degree turns while barely skimming
through gorges. We only had to absorb the experience and possibly
the cocktail made by the bartender who had to mix, garnish and serve
successfully while spinning.
Aside from the cocktail activities, the band
took full advantage of the incredible culinary options in town.
With clear skies, crystal blue green water, picturesque views at
every turn and air that is edible, it’s no wonder the Kiwis make
42 Below. The fresh produce, oysters, beef, lamb and venison, their
cheeses and growing olive industry made for fine wining and dining
wherever we went.
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That was the day that we, the journalists in an
attempt to articulate the trip, coined that the week was like high
school. ‘They’ll be clicks, a crush, some one’s feeling will get
hurt, etc. …’ A few awkward moments later, we realized the bartenders
were the sexy cheerleaders and athletes and we were band camp