Preparing Yourself For Bartender Competitions (Part 1 of 2)

I have talked about the psychology that is involved in entering a mixology competition, now I want to take the next step of preparing yourself properly for one. It is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Standing in front of a crowd is some people’s biggest fear and it was mine for a long time. The hot bright lights beating down on you, beads of anticipation dribbling down your forward and the MC spewing any form of cheap “snake oil” sales pitch to the crowd. Its very daunting and only one of the many obstacles on the path to greatness.

Cocktail mixology competitions are a fantastic marketing tool for the alcohol companies, not only for bartenders, but also for the public. It is a chance for them to show their wares and give exposure this is one of their first flaws. The high-end cocktail bars are their best targets and they use them to their advantage. The downside to this is that the little person in the local pub sometimes is forgotten, so they are just using the ones that can sell their products.

The best way to find out about the upcoming competitions is to look on the internet. Your best tool is to Google it by looking on forums whether it is Drink boy, New York Bar Store or any myspace group. Keep your ears out and your eyes open for posts and you will find some of the best competitions in mid sized bar to cut your teeth on. Do not ever go to the big show without playing in the minors first. Some of the big competitions will chew up any newbie, instead of spitting you out they will excrete you then flush you away.

You have been mixing up cocktails for a couple of years and you have a group of beautiful women who enjoy your latest creations and your impressive moves. They give you some fantastic tips and the boss loves you for bringing in all this business. You have found your first competition; you can feel your heart start racing when the company rep gives you the entry form. Your head starts swimming with ideas, ingredients and methods to make this drink or routine stand out.

For the next four weeks up until the deadline, you live and breathe your creation or you are routine. You try and perfect the skills you already have while still trying to break the mould and be better than everyone else. You make, taste, modify and then do it all again. You are looking for that perfect balance of flavors, that meshing of sweet, sour, strong and weak. However, remember the principle of KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. When you get in the finals and are up on stage, keeping it simple is all you want. The last thing you want to be doing is dashes and excessive muddling when you have four minutes to make five drinks.

You have your drink; it is a winner in your eyes, your customers and your bosses. They tell you it is the next Cosmopolitan or Margarita, the next big thing. You are ready to show the judges what you have come up with, ready to unleash it on the world. You send off your entry and wait with baited breath for a finals spot. It feels like an eternity waiting for an email or a letter telling you that you have made it to the big show. You are now the master of your own cocktail making destiny.

I do not know how I can stress this enough; the 6P’s are your best friend. Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. You have had to work hard to get to this point; do not screw it up now. Always go into any competition as if you were walking into a new shift behind the wood. You would not jump behind the wood on a Friday night without your tools, why would you do it now. When I say that you need to be prepared, I am saying bring everything. Everything down to a vegetable peeler, anything you may or may not need. At the most stressful point of your night, you may need the weirdest of things. Make a list of everything you need to make the drink on the night then do a Santa Clause on it, check it twice.

Check with the conditions of the competition and find out what you need to bring in the form of mixers, extra alcohol and garnishes. Some competitions will supply everything, some do not. Take whatever you need and box it up and again check it again. Now you are ready to go to the big show baby, be pumped, be psyched, and get ready to rumble. See you up on stage.

Shawn Soole
March 8, 2007

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