Five bartenders are off to New Orleans for the UK final of Monkey Shoulder’s Ultimate Bartender Championship (UBC) after proving they have the “skills that pay the bills”.
Over 300 bartenders from across the UK – more than double previous years – entered the annual competition run for the whisky brand, vying for the prize of their own pop-up bar at London Cocktail Week.
For 2016, entrants had to demonstrate bartending expertise through challenges including ingredient knowledge, mixing, pouring, nosing, tray service and round building as well as back-of-house organisational skills such as stock-taking.
After heats in 15 locations around the UK, five made it to the top of the leader board. Three are from Aberdeen: Nick Gordon and Jonathan Arthur from Orchid and Cameron Woodger from Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen.
The other two were Dave White, part of last year’s winning team, from The Dead Parrot in Horsham, West Sussex, and Bristol-based bartender Chelsie Bailey.
All five will be taken by Monkey Shoulder to the Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans in July where they will go head to head in a “cocktail-making extravaganza like no other”.
The overall winner will get their own pop-up bar at London Cocktail Week this October, promoted and stocked by Monkey Shoulder. They will take home all the takings made during the week which, last year, totalled over £13,000 for The Dead Parrot team.
Monkey Shoulder brand “amBADASSador” Grant Neave said: “This year’s UBC has been epic so far and we’re not even done yet. It’s been bigger and better than ever before, with over double the number of entrants we’ve seen in previous years.
“It’s fantastic to see three out of the top five bartenders coming from Aberdeen which is testament to the thriving cocktail scene in the city. I can’t wait to see Nick, Cameron and Jonathan at the showdown of all showdowns and see who comes out on top.”
As defending champion, Dave commented: “The competition is a lot tougher this year but I’m determined to win again. I’m happy that I scored the fastest time on the global leader board for the speed round and I’m really looking forward to New Orleans and bringing the UBC crown back to The Dead Parrot bar for the second year running.”
William Grant & Sons UK, which distributes Monkey Shoulder, billed the competition – now in its third year – as a mash-up of Tough Mudder, Britain’s Got Talent, The Apprentice and Eurovision.
Nick from Orchid said: “I’ve been working in hospitality for over six years and cocktail bars for two and to be representing the city in a national competition is awesome. The heats were tough and I have no idea what to expect from the final but I’m in it to win it.”
Cameron from Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen added: “The nosing is where I really fell down in the heats so I’ve been doing my homework to make sure I’m full prepared for the finals.
“I think it’s great that there are three finalists from Aberdeen. The whole cocktail community is so close-knit here and the camaraderie between the bars is probably the reason why we’ve done so well in the competition. If I win, I’d put it towards starting my own bar.”