Russ Ward (pictured), who works at TGI Friday’s in Sheffield, has won the UK grand final of the company’s 2014 UK Bartender Championship.
The 32-year-old saw off fierce competition from over 300 other bartenders – winning the UK grand final for the third year in a row.
Russ will now represent the UK against other TGI Friday’s bartenders from around the world at the World Bartender Championships in the US early next year. It will be the culmination of a competition that has been entered by 8,000 bartenders from 60 countries across the globe.
The final took place in Liverpool’s Rum Warehouse in front of a crowd of thousands of supporters, bartenders and cocktail fans.
Russ earned his place in the final after putting in perfect performances in the local and regional rounds. He was put through hours of testing which included demonstrating the ability to free-pour perfect measures every time – without being even a millilitre out.
Russ also had to ensure he knew every single one of the 700-plus cocktails available at Friday’s, making a selection of 30 to perfection.
In his performance, Russ distinguished himself from the other finalists with his incredible timing and skill and won over the crowd with a number of signature moves including a gravity-defying bottle spin on top of a Boston shaker perched on his elbow.
Russ led the other finalists on the marking criteria which included showmanship, innovation, drink quality and presentation.
Russ said: “I’m delighted to have won again – a hat-trick for me. Winning the UK final three years in a row is very special and I want to thank everyone for all their support. I loved every minute of being on stage and felt that I was in my element.
“There’s no time to sit down and reflect just yet though and I need to get practising for the world final at the start of 2015. I now have the opportunity to lay to rest the ghosts from last year at the World Champs where I lost out by just one second in the ‘speed test’ section of the competition.
“The UK final was incredibly competitive and the world’s final will be a massive step up, so I need to ensure I can rise to the challenge and, who knows, perhaps bring the World Championship back to the UK.”
To see videos and pictures from the UK final of the TGI Friday’s World Bartender Championship 2014, visit www.facebook.com/tgifridaysUK.