Top tips for the IBA World Cocktail Championship 2016

3rd October, 2016 by Kristiane Sherry

The International Bartenders Association is gearing up for what look to be the biggest World Cocktail Championships in its 65-year history. SB offers up some top tips for success…


Hundreds are expected to gather at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo

The Majestic Imperial Hotel towers in Art Deco glory above the bustling streets of Tokyo. Elegant and imposing, the enormous structure is about to witness the making of cocktail history. Selected by host guild the Nippon Bartenders Association (NBA), one of the city’s most famous hotels is about to welcome hundreds of competing bartenders from all around the world for the International Bartenders Association’s 65th World Cocktail Championships.

Set to take place from 16-21 October 2016, the annual World Cocktail Championships – or WCC – is the pinnacle of the competitive bartending calendar. To decide which individuals will compete, guilds – the IBA member associations in each country – test their participants by way of preliminary heats. Those victorious – usually two from each guild – are then put through to the WCC, this year held in Tokyo.

Hundreds are expected to gather at the Imperial Hotel, from guilds as far flung as Argentina and Armenia, to South Africa and Taiwan, to compete in seven competitions: Flairtending and then six Classic Mixing contests – Before Dinner Cocktail, Sparkling Cocktail, Short Drink, Long Drink, Bartenders’ Choice, and After Dinner Cocktail. The winners of the Classic Mixing Competitions and the Flairtending Competition will compete in the WCC Super Final for the ‘IBA World Bartender of the Year’ award.

The IBA itself was formed in 1951, and today comprises 63 dedicated national bartender associations and guilds. And the Championships have developed too – the first International Cocktail Competition was held in 1955 in Amsterdam. The event continued to grow in size and stature and became known as the World Cocktail Competition in 1999, before adopting the World Cocktail Championships name in 2011.

Today, the event is not only an insular contest for members; this year the event will solidify its status as a spectator event. The Japan Cocktail Festival will take place in an adjacent hall, with visitors invited to come and watch the WCC finals. The flamboyant Flairing category is likely to be an audience favourite.

New for this year are the Short and Long Drink competitions, where, as with other contests, participants will need to hone their creativity and precision to meet some strict guidelines. Rules for the Short Drink competition permit cocktails in the style of Sours, Cobblers and Daisies, while Long Drinks must be served in a tall glass, and may be refreshing, sweet, sour or tropical.

As with all categories, panels of eagle-eyed technical judges and tasters will assess
every move. Penalties will be dished out for running over time, or if they fail to make the correct number of cocktails. Penalties will affect overall scores, with medals for each competition as well as a series of trophies, and of course the overall World Bartender of the Year title up for grabs.

For bartenders and their wider guild delegations there’s plenty to get involved in away from the show stage. Events will kick off with an evening programme on Saturday 15 October for early arrivals, followed by the Welcome Cocktail and Welcome party on the Sunday. Delegates and competitors have free time on the Monday, followed by a dinner cruise in Tokyo Bay – sure to be a treat for all.

The competition really gets underway on the Tuesday, with the WCC flairing competition. Get set for thrills – and hopefully no spills – as the world’s best flairtenders attempt to shake and shimmy their way into the finals, set to take place on Wednesday afternoon.

Before that however is the IBA Symposium, an opportunity for education and inspiration from IBA’s WCC partners, including Monin, Havana Club, Giffard, Marie Brizard, Teisserie, Grand Marnier, Beam Suntory and Libbey. At the same time, the NBA National Cocktail Competition for Elite and Senior participants gets under way.

Following the education sessions and the Flairtending Finals, participants can join host guild Nippon Bartenders Association for a special Japan Day Dinner. Then, into the small hours of the morning, the branded Hospitality Suites open to keep the entertainment flowing.

But don’t party too hard – the following day sees the start of the WCC Classic Mixing Competitions – leading on to the Super Final that afternoon. You won’t need to wait long to discover the winner – all will be revealed at the Cocktail Reception, Gala Dinner and Monin Cocktail Party that evening.

And then, on Friday 21 October, as the celebrations continue and the sense of accomplishment will solidify for so many, it’s time to head home with the WCC wrapped up for another year. Who will triumph in 2016? Keep your eyes on Tokyo this October to see.

Heading to Tokyo to compete in the World Cocktail Championships? Take note of these tips to help you shake your way to success…

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