Who's the Best Bartender in the World?

"The Best Drinks Didn't Make It Into The Finals"

The heats of the classic section were conducted on a stage in 13 rounds. Four barmen performed during each round with the winner of each round advancing to the finals. The system, used for the first time in Berlin, proved controversial.

"Imagine having Malta, the Faroe Islands, Luxembourg and Iceland in a round before the World Cup," complained Turkish bartender, Ugur Dervisoglu, whose drink was called "Berlin's Painkiller." "They're not the best teams but one of them must advance. And then you have a round with England, France, Germany and Brazil. Which means that the best drinks didn't make it into the finals."

Many of the competitors agreed with Dervisoglu -- but of course, they tended to be among the bartenders who didn't advance into the finals.

In the classic section contestants were given six minutes to prepare five similar cocktails. Recipes for the drinks and any decorations -- there are very strict rules for these -- had been submitted to the judging committee three months before the event. Once on stage, contestants were judged on the cleanliness of their work, their methods and whether they had used the right amount of alcohol. Once mixed, four waitresses took the drinks to a room on the second floor. There, 12 judges tasted each drink and, just like the haughtiest wine snobs, assessed it for aroma, appearance and taste.

"We take just small sips from each drink," said Australian judge Ben Davidson, "otherwise we'd all be drunk by noon."

The Champion's Secret Recipe

The eventual winner in the classic category was Vladimir Banak, a Slovakian bartender. His drink, "Sweet Road," was actually quite simple as was his garnish: a mixture of raspberry vodka, cherries in syrup, blackcurrant, cream and cocoa powder. Banak himself looked like a fairly minimalist sort of guy: no tattoos, piercings or earrings.

And in the flair section the winner was Gianluigi Bosco, of Great Britain, who wore an oversized felt hat and juggled vodka and apple juice to a rock'n'roll soundtrack. His fruity concoction, called "Absolutely Rocking," contained mango juice, apple juice, vodka, vanilla and lemon; the garnish was lime, apple and red currant.

On the morning of the finals, Christer Sjökvist from Sweden was drinking vodka again. It was just before 11 a.m. Asked what the secret recipe for the title of world champion might be, he said that the contest was similar to the Olympics or to the Eurovision Song Contest. Only here, he explained, competitors didn't have to rehearse. They just had to do what they did at work every day. Simple, he said, but with a twist of amazing.

And as for that vodka he was holding, his seventh so far? No, he didn't normally drink this early in the morning, he replied. "We just never stopped drinking last night."

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