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World Bartender Championships

by James Joyner on 14 August 2009

The world’s top bartenders met in Berlin for the 35th World Cocktail Championships. Did you know there was such a thing? I sure didn’t.


Anyhow, Spiegel has an interesting feature on the competition. A taste.

Around 100 bartenders from 52 countries were competing in the annual contest, organized by the International Bartender’s Association. It consists of two sections — flair and classic. In the classic category, bartenders spend most of their time working with ingredients to make the best tasting cocktail they can. In the flair category, they show off their mixing skills with a routine that could involve anything from juggling bottles and shakers and a precarious balancing of glassware to strange and interesting ways of incorporating fruit or other cocktail garnishes.


Bartenders are supposed to prepare three drinks during an acrobatic performance — their final score is based two-thirds on the act, and one-third on the taste of the resulting drinks. So Rodoman’s year of practice was all for nothing. But during his act, he was surrounded by a cheering, half-drunk audience (an average of 300 a night come to the contest), their admiring eyes on him while their hips shook to dance music.


The heats of the classic section were conducted on a stage in 13 rounds. Four barmen performed during each round with the winner of each round advancing to the finals. The system, used for the first time in Berlin, proved controversial.

“Imagine having Malta, the Faroe Islands, Luxembourg and Iceland in a round before the World Cup,” complained Turkish bartender, Ugur Dervisoglu, whose drink was called “Berlin’s Painkiller.” “They’re not the best teams but one of them must advance. And then you have a round with England, France, Germany and Brazil. Which means that the best drinks didn’t make it into the finals.”

Many of the competitors agreed with Dervisoglu — but of course, they tended to be among the bartenders who didn’t advance into the finals.

In the classic section contestants were given six minutes to prepare five similar cocktails. Recipes for the drinks and any decorations — there are very strict rules for these — had been submitted to the judging committee three months before the event. Once on stage, contestants were judged on the cleanliness of their work, their methods and whether they had used the right amount of alcohol. Once mixed, four waitresses took the drinks to a room on the second floor. There, 12 judges tasted each drink and, just like the haughtiest wine snobs, assessed it for aroma, appearance and taste.

All very amusing, like something out of the old Tom Cruise flick, “Cocktail.”  Frankly, though, I just want my bartender to mix my drinks properly — hold the dancing.

About James Joyner

James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway and the managing editor of a DC think tank. He's a former Army officer, Desert Storm vet, and college professor. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama.

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