4 of the Best International Cocktail Competitions

4 of the Best International Cocktail Competitions

Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition

Since 2008, Bacardi has held an international cocktail competition with the dual aim of showcasing bartending’s emerging superstars while discovering the next generation of classic cocktails. Inspired by the enduring legacy of the Bacardi family, the concept of “legacy” lies at the heart of the competition, as bartenders strive to create drinks that are impressive in taste and appearance, but simple enough to be recreated and enjoyed for decades to come.

The annual contest circuit begins with several months of preliminary rounds, during which bartenders in 34 nations compete for the chance to represent their countries on the world stage. The global finalists then gather in a selected host city, where they take part in a week of special events hosted by various leaders in bartending and mixology. These events range from presentations on emerging trends in cocktail culture to flair bartending workshops with such prominent bartenders as Nicolas St. Jean.

After the 34 competitors showcase their skills in the semifinal round, eight move on to the Grand Final. They then recreate their signature “legacy” cocktail before a panel of expert judges that has included members of the Bacardi family, Maestros de Ron BACARDÍ, top bartenders from around the world, and even former Bacardi Legacy champions.

At the 2015 Grand Final in Sydney, Australia, Frank Dedieu of the Redwood bar in Lyon, France, took home the top honors with a cocktail that paid homage to Latin culture. Named “Le Latin,” Dedieu’s legacy cocktail is a combination of BACARDÍ Carta Blanca, Viognier wine, olive brine, lemon juice, and sugar. Dedieu and past Bacardi Legacy winners have earned far more than the title of “champion”: Bacardi works closely with each winner for a full year, funding their travels around the world as they promote their winning cocktail and advance their careers.

Bacardi will hold the 2016 finals of the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition in San Francisco, a city whose vibrant and diverse culture has lent itself to a thriving mixology scene.

Diageo Reserve World Class

Diageo Reserve offers an impressive portfolio of top shelf alcohol like Johnnie Walker Super Deluxe, Cîroc, and Ketel One. The brand prides itself on delivering a fine drinking experience, and this sophistication is at the heart of its annual search for the best bartender in the world. Since its inception in 2009, Diageo Reserve World Class has emerged to become one of the industry’s most renowned bartending competitions, with over 25,000 participants taking part to date. The competition tests bartenders’ knowledge of spirits, ingredients, and mixology techniques, and even those who fall short of the grand prize benefit from a rigorous training program designed to elevate the skills of even the most talented mixologists.

The competition kicks off with two preliminary phases held in November and the following March, during which bartenders submit their recipes for consideration. The winners of these phases advance to the Country Finals in May, and the national winners hone their skills at a multi-day bartending boot camp ahead of the Global Finals in the fall.

This year, the Diageo Reserve World Class finals will be held in September in Miami, Florida. The most recent Global Final took place in Cape Town, South Africa, and tested competitors with several themed challenges that culminated in the task of creating a themed pop-up bar—complete with service, décor, and a signature cocktail—within 24 hours.

IBA World Cocktail Championship

Each year, the International Bartenders Association comes together for the IBA Congress. In addition to providing a chance for members to network and elect their leadership, the annual IBA Congress is also an opportunity for the organization to crown its top bartender. Like most other bartending competitions, the IBA World Cocktail Championship begins with preliminary rounds to determine representatives from each participating country. During the finals at the IBA Congress, approximately 500 bartenders compete in six categories that represent six types of cocktails: Before Dinner, Sparkling Cocktail, Long Drink, After Dinner, Flair Competition, and Bartenders’ Choice. Judges crown a winner in each category, then select a World Champion from this pool of accomplished professionals. The World Cocktail Championship also awards additional accolades for the best cocktail name and garnish, as well for the best technical performance.

Bombay Sapphire World’s Most Imaginative Bartender

Much of Bombay Sapphire’s heritage is closely tied to the creative spirit, from the careful curation of its 10 exotic botanical ingredients to its instantly recognizable blue bottle. The company seeks to honor this creativity—and the creativity inherent in the bartending profession—with the World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition. Bombay Sapphire has hosted regional iterations of the competition for nearly a decade and held its first global competition in May 2012. Out of thousands of competitors, the brand selected eight finalists for a four-day cultural experience in Morocco, where Bombay Sapphire sources its coriander. The competing bartenders created drinks inspired by their time there, reflecting the spirit and culture of Morocco in exquisitely crafted cocktails.

The Bombay Sapphire World’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition has followed this pattern each year since, whisking competitors away to a new location to spark their creativity. In addition to earning a place in the company’s Cocktail Hall of Fame, the winning bartenders earn £10,000, a commemorative sapphire stone pin, the opportunity to attend top industry trade shows around the world, and the chance to create signature cocktails for companies such as Virgin Atlantic.