So, you’ve decided that you’re going to jump into the world of bartending competitions? The next step is knowing how to prepare yourself for what’s about to come. Deep breath.

Everyone likes a good cocktail

Start with what you know

Start with what you know works as a drink and then build it up from there. Don’t try things that might appear unconventional straight away like using a pickled doughnut as a flavour enhancer just because you want to try something unique. Cocktails need to taste good. That’s the first and most important thing. Everything else will follow.


Do your research

A lot of brands and competitions require you to have a bit of knowledge about the spirit you will be using (almost every competition is sponsored), and you will be awarded points depending on the  level of your brand knowledge.

Look at past events

If you can find a competition that is similar on the internet, watch how the bartenders in those events presented themselves and their drinks. You may find a similar style that you can build upon.

Practice your competition speech everywhere you go

nervous bartender

You might be great at improvising, but having a foundation you can start from and build upon is invaluable and could improve your performance (you don’t want to be stood in front of room full of people stuttering because your nerves made you forget the word “cocktail”).

Sometimes it’s good to refresh your skills, especially for cocktail competitions our advanced bartending course could give you that bit extra.

Make sure you have everything you need

bartender equipment

Do you have a great glass you want to use for your drink? Take two of them. Need a certain bitters for your drink? Take the whole bottle instead of just the amount you need. The venue hosting the competition might not have everything your bar does, so take everything you’ll need and you’ll never come unstuck.

Flair competitions. They’re a whole new world

You need to know what type of flair competition you are entering

What are the rules for that specific one? What will you lose points for? What will you gain points for? What are the restrictions on the bottles you can use? Do you have to make a certain amount of drinks? Every competition’s rules vary, so make sure you know them inside out before the day.

Practice, practice, practice

practice flair bottle

Good flair routines look so slick and free flowing because the bartender has practiced their routine over and over again. They’ve perfected their moves and they know their routine like the back of their hand. They could probably flair in their sleep.

If you want to get even more preparation in for your flair competition, check out our working flair course.

Your music is your friend

If you’re throwing bottles around to a dubstep song (which is perfectly acceptable) that you’ve only listened to once, then your timing will never be great and you’ll look awkward. Know your music. Feel your music. Be your music.

Listen to the experts

“Preparing for a flair competition is different for everyone. The key is to plan what you are going to practice. There is no point just going to the training room and throwing anything around, you need to set time aside for different types of practice. For example: creating new moves, working with different types of music, going over and over your routine until you have it perfect.” – Tom Dyer, Multiple Flair World Champion and EBS Board of Education Member.

The need for speed

bartender with two shakers

Go! Go! Go!

Speed challenges are aptly named because it’s all about speed. Don’t. Waste. Any. Movements. Time = Money, points and prizes.

Practice time and time again with your bottle placement

Are you going to place the bottles directly next to each other? Will they be touching? Will there be some distance between them? Knowing the best places to put your bottles will help you shave off precious seconds.

Check the rules of the competition

Be sure you know what you can and cannot do. In speed challenges, you are deducted points in the form of time penalties. No one wants to lose those precious points.

Preparing for competitions can seem like a daunting prospect, but if you manage your time correctly and dedicate your time to different aspects of practice it needn’t overwhelm you. Research your spirit, observe other competitions, prepare thoroughly and practice what you’re doing.

The more competitions you do, the better you’ll be able to prepare as you discover the best methods that work for you. From there, the only way is up!