It all started with those famous last words: “put your money where your mouth is”.
Well, neither my mouth nor I had ever considered actually competing in Rematch Beeyatch.
Just like every other bartender in London I had taken the night off to watch the gunslingers with balls of steel go head-to-head in this infamous clash of the Titans, and I have to say I was damned excited.
Who wouldn’t be? Some of the best of the best in one of the greatest cities in the world hammering out tiki drinks at the speed of light in the London tiki bar. I was glad that all I had to do was watch.
Fate, it seems, had other plans… All it took was several rounds of tequila on an otherwise quiet Tuesday a couple of weeks before the event.
An Australian gentleman and I were indulging in some tasty drinks in Camden, when suddenly the conversation became an eager discussion about Remtach. And then, like the last nail being hammered into a coffin: “put your money where your mouth is” and I was at the bar asking for £50 cash-back in the form of a crisp, crimson note.
I handed this to the Australian next me and I was in. This was confirmed by Twitter moments later. It felt like I had been possessed for a short few moments and I woke up the following morning with that timeless sense of regret which we have all felt after a rather heavy night.
I would never blame the man who coerced me into parting with my money and entering Rematch, nor would I name him. I will only say that it was Stuart Hudson.
In the weeks that followed vague excitement seemed to turn slowly into confusion, fear and then finally dread. Then I manned up, ordered some rum and resurrected my arts and crafts and DIY skills to construct a rudimentary speed rail in my kitchen.
It was a set of chairs, some wood and a couple of bungee cords. And yes, I spilled lots. The floor still smells like pineapple and Plantation. A few days before the comp and I began telling myself: “ hey it’s just some drinks.” And I finally started to become excited once more. Or course the competition is fundamentally based on speed, but the amount of planning and prep which has to go into creating an entire tiki drinks arsenal in one pop is the really hard part.
Everything can be planned perfectly, and then suddenly you’re wearing your free white T-shirt with 100 people yelling at you, banging the walls and all you do is stand there with five bottles of rum in your hand and no idea what goes where.
For while I have been organising bar competitions in north London and I understand the amount of work which has to go into a project in order for it to work on the day, I couldn’t fathom the amount of time that went into Global Rematch Beeyatch.
It was more than just a competition; it brought the borders of our industry that little bit closer in a way that other global comps never seem to get close to doing. As a world-wide industry and community we grow from events like this tenfold; names are exchanged, techniques, styles, stories change hands and probably even bartenders. We can always learn from someone out there.
I take my hat off to everyone who took part in the London comp. I was blown away by the level of dedication to our craft. See you next time.