Competition 101 Part One

This is the first in a series of articles designed to help cocktail comp newbies get the best start possible to their competition careers…

Let me start by saying that while I have never won a major cocktail competition (it could be argued I have never won a minor cocktail competition either), over the last ten or so years I have judged dozens, and in the process tasted countless cocktails and marked hundreds of presentations. In this period I have seen some of the greatest and worst appearances and an equally varied array of drinks (lobster juice Martini anyone??).

I am not here to tell you how to make drinks, balance flavours or put an original stamp on your entry as there are far more qualified people around to do this.

I am, however, here to try and help with the much overlooked and neglected subject of presentation. Admittedly not all competitions give marks for presentation, however more and more of the briefs that judges are given award points for knowledge, interaction and showmanship.

Competition sign
Follow the for the signs, and comps aren't that scary

I know that a lot of first time competitors are reluctant to enter competitions for fear of standing up in front of peers, or worse have experienced a bad case of competition tremors and lost the confidence to continue.

If this is the case read on, follow these few simple rules and the experience you have will be both fun and ultimately very rewarding.

For those that have entered competitions before, it never hurts to hear what those with the pens and marking sheets are on the look out for!

Pick Your Battle Wisely

The two most time consuming parts to any cocktail competition entry are the drink and knowledge preparation. You will see certain names crop up time and time again in competitions, seemingly entering one every week. There is a good reason for this – they can.

They have almost all done their time in the lower leagues and have reached a point where their drinks knowledge and understanding of balancing cocktail is such that research and preparation time is significantly decreased. If you are starting out, be more selective and realistic.

Ideally your first competition should be something small and local to cut your teeth on; the experience of getting up in front of people and making a drink in a competition environment cannot be over stated. If you can’t find one, grab a few guys and girls from local bars and hold your own. Get a manager or two to judge you, and you’re off.

When you feel you are ready for the big leagues, pick your battles carefully. Don’t jump straight into the 42 Below CWC or World Class, instead find smaller regional events. If you have a passion for rum then keep an eye out for a rum comp, it is always a lot more fun researching something you are interested in, and that passion will come across in your presentation. [Keep an eye on the BarLifeUK events page and e-bulletins for competition updates – Ed].

Once you have found the right comp, next comes the preparation. More on that next time…..