Cocktail competitions have their root in the late 19th century, when Jerry “the professor” Thomas mixed an original cocktail called the Blue Blazer. The professor drew patrons who wanted to view them poor fiery streams of boiling water and flaming whiskey.
However, The 1st competition would have to wait until almost a half century later when the international bartenders Association, founded in 1951, initiated the World Classic Cocktail competition in 1955 and a World Flair Competition in 2000.
At the end of 1986, T.G.I. Friday hosted the 1st national flair bartending competition called the “Bar Olympics”. The winner of the competition, John JB Bandy, would go on to train Tom Cruise for the 1998 Touchstone Productions film, Cocktail.
Soon after, T.G.I. Friday would establish the The World Bartender Championship in 1991. This competition continues today with different divisions across the world. Las Vegas, to no one’s surprise, is the cocktail and flair competition Mecca of the world. In 1998, the Quest for the Best Bartender competition became the 1st open competition to have an exhibition round.
Different cocktail competitions highlight different styles and skills. For flair skills alone, one might want to check out the Roadhouse World Flair competition where only pure exhibition flair skills and the biggest and best moves matter. For those interested in flair and mixology, the Legends of Bartending World Bartender Championships is the ultimate venue. This competition challenges contestants on their bartending, accuracy, speed, working flair, and exhibition flair.
Some of the other biggest cocktail competitions include the Roadhouse World Flair, the Underground Flair League, Legends of Bartending, Qwest, and the Skyy Global Flair Challenge. There are also competitions throughout the year for some of the most popular drinks. For example, there is the Bloody Mary Day on January 1 or national Kahlúa Day on February 27.
As cocktail competitions have become more of a mainstream phenomenon, the number of competitions has grown tremendously. Nowadays, most drink companies hold their own competitions with specialized recipes. Cocktail competitions like these are aimed at highlighting the sponsoring company’s products, sometimes placing less emphasis on flavor and taste.