What Cocktail Competitions Can Teach Home Bartenders

Cocktail competitions like Diageo’s World Class may be for professional bartenders but there’s still a lot that home bartenders can learn.

By: Tiff Christie|July 11,2019

Gather around home bartenders and let me tell you tales from a cocktail competition.

Shrouded in mystery, these competitions take place several times a year and are put on by various alcohol companies. They gather the best bartenders in all the land, to duel it out with jigger and bar spoon.

Now, these are seasoned bartenders that are entering these events. They are wise. They are sage. They are experts in their field, who are basically testing their skills. They are pushing the limits of their ability to mix flavours, as well as test their speed and their capacity to create an experience through atmosphere, music, glassware and garnishes.

Now while the sight of that many bartenders all gathered around during daylight hours can be frightening, there are definitely lessons that home bartenders can learn from such events.

Of course, the recipes that win the events, if they are not too complicated, are a great way to show off to your friends. You mix them up a little something, and as you push the drink towards them, you can proudly point out that this was the drink that won as if the recipe had been created especially for you.

But more than just recipes, the competitions share techniques, the latest trends (both in terms of flavour and social responsibility) and should provide ideas to better ensure that your home cocktails have a sense of balance, refinement and complexity.

Diageo’s World Class that was held earlier this week is the perfect example of a competition that provides plenty of ‘food for thought’ for anyone shaking it up at home. The event was divided into four sections, and each offered something the not only represents the key issues in modern bartending but also aspects of the craft you can bring into your own entertaining.


Ketel One

The Ketel One Vodka part of the competition was all about community. After all, no bar (home or commercial) is an island.

When you are putting your own spin on a classic cocktail, why not looks to those in your own locality who are putting a spin on sustainability, charity and the positive impact of community

Whether your community has market gardens, urban beekeepers, or those micro farming herbs, why not support those who are trying to make a change and incorporate their efforts into the changing flavour you can achieve for your drinks.


It is said that Single Malt Whiskies are the most accurate representation of place and time. Add that to the escapist nature of Tiki and this challenge is intended to make you think about the experience you’re offering your friends.

The thing to remember about a drink is that it is more than just the liquid on the glass. The experience of a fantastic cocktail comes down to the atmosphere, garnish, glassware. These are all things that every home bartender needs to take into consideration when making drinks at home,

Sure, the way a drink taste is essential to both you and your friends but creating the right experience, demands more than the right libation.



Trust Tanqueray to be all about the presentation. And we’re not just talking about how a drink looks but also how you present that drink to your friends.

Especially when you are pairing drinks with food, the way that you explain the reasons behind your choices can make all the difference to the night.

No matter what food you are preparing, the right cocktail can enhance a dining experience, while the wrong one can ruin an entire meal.

The complexity of cocktails can sometimes make successful pairings a little complicated. But if you take time with it and have a bit of fun with the flavours, the possibilities are nearly endless and can produce some fantastic results.

The Showdown (or speed challenge)

One of the best and most effective ways to test your skill is with speed. No-one is expecting you to stay behind your home bar and spend the evening churning out drink after drink, but in your own time, speed can really test your abilities.

This is not an invitation to cut corners or skimp in any way but merely a test of what you can do under a little pressure and demonstrate impeccable technique and bartending prowess.

Aside from giving you a better appreciation of what the bartender at you local watering holes goes through for ten + hours at a stretch, it will make you better at what you do.

It teaches you about the value of preparation, the importance of your tools and the value of having everything at hand. It will test presentation, dilution and the fluidity of your technique.

Sure it’s easy to assume that competitions have nothing to do with those of us that ply the craft at home, but look more closely and realize that they are not just a chance to gain new recipes but also an opportunity for you to take stock.


In the same way that the bartenders that compete have to ask themselves what is the best way to do this, we challenge you to do the same.

Ask yourself ‘Am I present the best experience to my guests?’ Or even ‘Am I using my resources as sustainably as I could?’ Or even do I really understand the building blocks of this craft well enough to adapt it?

If competitions can teach us all anything, it’s not to make a drink just for the sake of making a drink but instead taking the time to think about how to raise them to the next level.

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What Cocktail Competitions Can Teach Home Bartenders

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