Part three of a series of articles designed to help you get the most out of cocktail competitions…
The next couple of points might sound a bit ‘dad like’ but I have seen them ruin the best in the business, so please take heed: DO NOT have a spanker the night before. This is especially prevalent with competitors away from home – if you really want to see all the bars on offer, stay the night after the comp don’t do it the night before.
Also, find out the earliest you can get to the venue to set up and get there then check out the bar, check out the equipment and get a feel for the venue. Don’t turn up 2 minutes before you are due on, only to find there is no crushed ice and you’re first up.
The next piece of advice is the hardest to follow but give it a go – enjoy yourself and be yourself. If you have done your prep, take a couple of deep breaths and try your best to have fun.
When you walk behind the bar, take a moment to set everything up and ensure you have everything you need. Whilst you are doing this acknowledge the judges – a simple ‘hello how are you?’ is preferable to hug and kiss, although when I was once judging with a certain high profile model I didn’t blame one competitor for breaking this particular rule, the tongue however might have been a smidge unnecessary (Yeah, yeah, that was you, wasn’t it Si. Do the words ‘restraining order’ ring any bells? – Ed). Whilst you finish the setup and start your drink, explain the idea behind your cocktail, its name and the key ingredients.
Over the next 2-5 minutes of presentation the chances are something will go wrong, and whatever it is I can promise you it has happened to someone before. If you lose your place in your monologue, fall back on your knowledge and adlib for a minute, you will remember it again soon enough.
I saw one bartender, who is now considered one of the best, in his first competition get the shakes so badly he couldn’t pour the spirit into the jigger – he just couldn’t hold either still enough. But he didn’t panic, instead he made a quick joke about it and invited someone from the crowd up to pour it for him – the marks he lost were more than made up in the entertainment criteria.
99 times out of 100 the judges are on your side, and they know how unnatural it is to do a comp so don’t be scared to acknowledge a mistake as long as you correct it, keep going and keep smiling.
Also don’t forget the basics you know from being behind a bar – keep your station tidy and always taste your drink as you go. I have seen the most experienced of competitors leave out the main spirit from their cocktail. It’s your drink, you know how it tastes so try it and check you have the balance right (and all the ingredients in there!).
As you present the drink, remind the judges of its name and ingredients, then thank them for their time. Follow these simple steps and it is up to the taste of your cocktail, and that my friends is your area.
There is one more lesson to be had and that is up next time….