To compete or not to compete 2

My name is Michael and I don’t compete in cocktail competitions.

Before we get started, let me say that this isn’t a persuasive article on entering cocktail competitions or not, nor is it a pros and cons of either camp. I merely hope to open a channel on why it is we choose compete at tending bar – or to not.

What does it mean to enter a cocktail competition?  Why is it that both young and old industry professionals (or amateur enthusiasts in some cases) choose to compete? Is it a chance to exercise some unique individualism or creative force that is otherwise being squandered night after night at your local workplace or is it something else?

Undoubtedly bars and bartenders more than ever in recent years have become a world wide commodity and the trend only seems to be growing. From global brand ambassadors talking shop and product all over the world to jet setting bartenders mixing drinks at fancy guest spots for the rich and famous miles and miles from their bars back in their humble hometowns.

Every year more and more competitors are looking beyond their local scene to a world stage to promote themselves, a brand, an ideology or a lifestyle. Do said bartenders owe these opportunities and grand ideas to branded global comps such as Bacardi Legacy or Diageo World Class? Or is it a case of the tried and true values of hard work, grassroots networking and diligence at a base level?

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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a fence sitter when it comes to the issue of comp vs no comp. Though I for personal reasons choose not to compete I don’t deny that preparing for and running serious game at these and other global level competitions is tough. The creative process, product knowledge, speech training, rehearsals and the preparation I’m told are akin writing your final dissertation or repeated 13 + hour shifts behind the bar.

Traditionally bartending is a working class profession, fraught with long hours, meager wages, potential life long physical aliments and brushes with alcoholism. More often than not I run into folks that have been behind the stick and around the bend long enough to contemplate that they perhaps wont be able to tend bar forever. So whos to blame the guy who wants a shot at the big time? (Whatever that may be). Eventually leading to a cushy job as a brand rep, perhaps? More often than not something that involves a full nights sleep and a decent reliable salary. Using that creative muscle to further develop a product or an image or a lifestyle – apposed to slinging endless sours and highballs on someone else’s menu in someone else’s bar night after night. Hurriedly counting the cash half drunk at the end of the night so you can rendezvous with your Tinder date – but realising its 5 am and she probably hit comatose round about the same time you were calling last round.

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Pro-comp guys and gals often sight the broadening of their professional network as an advantage. Building relationships with other bars and bartenders and Indulging in the styles and habits of those in the industry outside your scene that might just do things a little different, (for better or worse) that you can herald to your mates upon your triumphant return home. Makes sense right?

However, this all so much speculation. As I mentioned earlier, I am a non-competitor – at least in the international recognition, ‘star-tendery’, corporate brand hand-shaking sense. And as I continue to draw breath in this industry I meet more and more fervent non-competitors – champions of industry, some with big opinions about the state of things and some without. Guys that have toiled in obscurity for years and still travel the world kicking ass and taking names on their own ticket.

So, to compete or not to compete – that is the question.
Is it an accessible professional tool in gaining ground, developing skills and widening your network in the service world or merely a marketing strategy of corporate booze merchants?

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