It’s hot in Miami. Even now, as autumn settles over the United States. The humidity makes it feel even hotter.

1 Hotel, South Beach, sits so close to the Atlantic that waves practically lick its doorstep. It is a hive of activity, full of bartenders vying for the title of world’s best as the World Class 2016 global bartending finals get underway.

Melbourne-based World Class Australia Ambassador Chris Hysted is in Miami supporting Charlie Ainsbury (from Sydney’s This Must Be The Place), who is here representing Australia following his win at the World Class Australia 2016 Bartender of the Year Awards in April.

Ainsbury was knocked out on Day Two of the competition, but it wasn’t from lack of expertise. Hysted says this year’s competition is fiercer than he’s ever seen it. “The level of bartending globally has risen significantly in the last year,” he says. “It’s a much tougher fight to make it into the top 12 finalists.”

“Charlie did have a great first day,” says Hysted, who on Monday watched Ainsbury compete in front of prior competition winners, international distillers, and celebrity chefs such as Thailand’s Gaggan Anand. Ainsbury faced four challenges in the first round of competition: Before and After; The Shape of Things to Come; Pool Party; and the Blending Room.

The Before and After challenge required competitors to design menus for aperitif and digestif cocktails, then mix to order for the judges. For his aperitif, Ainsbury made a cocktail inspired by the Australian coastline – a mix of coconut green-tea-infused Tanqueray no. TEN gin, elderflower and lemon. His digestif, inspired by the Australian bush, used miso paste, dark chocolate and chai tea.

With the pool of 56 competitors now whittled down to 12 for the final round, two challenges remain: one will test contestants’ knowledge of classic American cocktails, and following that elimination, the final challenge requires the remaining six to design and run their own pop-up bars.

For up-to-date coverage, visit @worldclassdrinking on Instagram. To view the live stream, go to https://www.theworldclassclub.com/livestream