Last week top bartenders from 58 countries gathered in Prague to compete in 6 individual cocktail competitions, the winner of each going on to compete in the Grand Final at the Gala Dinner and this year, for the first time, women won 4 of 6 the categories. Each heat was intense, the pressure and concentration showed on the faces and occasional trembling fingers of the competitors, as they raced against the clock to create the perfect mix of flavours and aromas and then present their cocktail in the most compelling way.
Drinking cocktails, prepared by the world’s greatest bartenders at 9:00am in the morning may seem a little surreal to most of us. Indeed, even being awake at that time in the morning may have been an unfamiliar and long forgotten experience for many of the bartenders for whom 9:00am had held no particular significance since their last days at school, but the twilight zone existence and low level of lighting in the Prague Hilton’s Casino delivered a near perfect atmosphere for the pursuit of ultimate cocktails.
Heat after heat of hopeful barkeepers went up on stage and round after round of fantastic cocktails was whisked off to the judges for instant assessment, no one knowing their fate until dinner that evening. Among the many hopefuls was Panagiotis Gkovatsos from Greece. Earlier this year Panagiotis won at the Horeca Exhibition, in Athens, with his Skyfall cocktail and the experience stood him in good stead as his Skyfall 2 won the Long Drink Competition in Prague. Joining him in the Grand Final were Naomi Takahashi of Japan, Greta Grönholm of Finland, Deirdre Byrne of Ireland and Irina Stefanidi of Cyprus. Not only did women dominate the finals but Greta Grönholm went on to become the IBA World Champion 2013. Congratulations to her and all the finalists at the best Championships yet.