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volante: new zealand

Band camp goes to Queenstown
Band camp goes to Queenstown

42 Below’s Cocktail World Cup shows New Zealand in a great light, as Karen Loftus recalls the 2006 competition

Expanded from 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 attitude.

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.

‘OK …’

‘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 any better.)

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 judges.

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

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