The Bartender of the Year judges are…

The Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDI and De Kuyper is almost upon us — you’ve got one week to finish up your study and think about the drinks you want to make should get through to the final Top 8 round in front of 500 of your peers at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards.

(By now you should have you RSVP to compete in to — if not, then it’s not too late, so get them in now.)

And we’re pleased to announce the esteemed judges who will be scoring the Top 8 bartenders in the country when the big night rolls around. They’ve all sipped more than their fair share of cocktails in their time, and will be looking for the most outstanding drinks and performances from the best bartending talent this country has to offer.

Our special international guest this year is the one and only Raj Nagra, global brand ambassador for the Bombay Spirits Company. Raj is something of an Aussie success story, having begun his career bartending in and managing some of Australia’s top bars, before becoming Bacardi’s first Australian ambassador. He won the inaugural Brand Ambassador of the Year title at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards in 2006, has been named in the top 10 in the world in recent years at Tales of the Cocktail, and has travelled and imbibed across the globe.

Marco Faraone has had a longer career in the bar business than most can manage, and throughout it all he’s been at the top of his game; he’s been awarded the honour of Bartender of the Year three times, opened the legendary Hello Sailor, and helmed the seminal Sydney cocktail bar, Lotus, the training ground for many a top-flight bartender. He’ll be bringing his considerable palate and experience with him when he joins the judging panel this year.


Amy Cooper of the Sun Herald is a welcome return to the judging panel this year. Having judged a number of cocktail competitions — including this one, many times — Amy brings with her the perspective of the people, and 25 years’ experience as a journalist working in the food, drink, entertainment and travel space.

Lee Potter Cavanagh is the reigning Bartender of the Year, and will return this year as part of the judging panel. Having been through the competition a number of times, Lee will have a particularly keen knowledge of what the competitors are going through on the night, and it’s a fitting salute to his achievements that he’s part of the panel who will eventually decide who goes on to take his crown.

Bonnie Shearston is the co-owner of Brisbane venues Red Hook and Coppa, and a former owner of Brisbane cocktail bar Canvas. She joins the judging panel this year bringing with her a keen palate and a wealth of experience, including formative stints with the Match Bar Group in the UK, a group noted for their intensive training and high expectations.

David Spanton has judged each and every instalment of the Bartender of the Year competition since its inception, and is the founder of Sydney Bar Week and publisher of Australian Bartender magazine since its beginning days in 1999. There are few people better able to judge where the industry has been and where it’s going.

The Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDI and De Kuyper kicks off at 10:30am on Monday the 19th of September — that’s just one week away. If you’re yet to RSVP for the exam, email competition organiser Sam Bygrave on and tell him, “I’m in!”

We’ll see you Monday — good luck!

This is just one of the great events in store during Sydney Bar Week (17-20 September) — take look at the full schedule here and get your RSVPs and tickets now.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.