Over 800 bartenders from 52 countries competed in two categories: “classic” where taste is king, and “flair” where competitors pull off jaw-dropping routines, hurling bottles in the air, spinning shakers on their heads, all backed by thumping music and wildly cheering crowds.
“Give it up for Indiana Jones,” shouted the announcer as the first “flair” participant – resplendent in Fedora hat – burst onto the stage to the theme tune of the blockbuster film, twirling bottles at astonishing speed.
But do not let the pounding music, baying crowds and razzmatazz fool you: it’s a serious business and the connoisseurs and judges are every bit as exacting as the most snobbish wine critic.
Ever competitive, the Germans left nothing to chance this year and borrowed a trainer from the World Athletics Championships – due to start on August 15 in Berlin – for “fitness training.”
“They warmed them up and got them fit for the Championships. I don’t quite know how,” Bernhard Stoehr, President of the German Bartenders Association, told AFP.
And the Germans were especially glad of their physical trainer after their own “flair” participant, Levent Yilmaz, sustained a career-threatening shoulder injury in the preliminary rounds.
“We think he hurt his shoulder throwing up a bottle yesterday and this morning he couldn’t move his arm,” said Stoehr.
“He had had eight injections in his arm,” he said, adding he was glad there are no doping checks in the Cocktail World Championships.
But the drugs and the doctors worked their magic and the crowd saved their loudest cheer of the night for two-time world “flairtending” champion Yilmaz who wowed them by juggling four bottles and a shaker, at one point catching a rum bottle on the bridge of his nose, to ecstatic applause.
However, like the ice in his cocktail, the home favourite’s dreams of a third world title were crushed by the British contender, Gianluigi Bosco, with his “Absolutely Rocking” concoction.
Shaking a potent mix of vodka, apple liqueur, mango juice, vanilla, lemon juice, lime, a slice of apple and red currants, Bosco impressed the jury with his complex juggling routine, at one point keeping four bottles in the air before catching them behind his back.
Proudly waving a Union Jack flag, Bosco, 25, who speaks fluent French, Spanish and Italian as well as English, told AFP: “I still can’t believe I’m World Champion.”
“When I arrived, I thought I would be happy just to get to the final,” he said.
Vladimir Banak, from the Slovak Republic, carried off the “classic” trophy with his “Sweet Road,” a mix of raspberry vodka, black currant, vanilla and cream, garnished with cacao powder.
Banak’s newly-crowned “cocktail of the year” will be served at the opening of the World Championships 2010, due to held in Singapore, announced Derek Lee, President of the International Bartenders Association, as he kicked off what promised to be one hell of a party.