The competition in the 2017 Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDÍ & De Kuyper was closer than it’s ever been this year. At the end of three gruelling rounds of competition, one new entrant joins the Bartender of the Year club — this year it was Daniel Gregory.
Next in our series of tips and advice from this year’s stellar Top 8 (we’ve already heard from Jonothan Carr and James Irvine) comes former Eau de Vie bartender Thomas Loosli, who moved overseas to the UK after the competition.
Below, he gives some solid advice for competing on stage and keeping calm, and given that he knocked his Bartender of the Year performance out of the park this year, it’s advice worth paying attention to.
What’s it like getting on stage in front of 600 of your peers?
Pretty exhilarating! I have to admit that I let myself get a bit nervous in the hours leading up to the presentation, seeing the room fill up with the movers and shakers of the industry. I’d never stood on stage in front of that many people, let alone to make drinks in front of 600 experts!
You had one of the strongest presentations we’ve seen up on stage — how did you prepare for it?
Finding out I was in the Top 8 induced a pretty mad scramble to get everything ready in 24 hours. I hadn’t prepared for anything beyond the exam round, and only really started to put my speech together a couple of hours before the presentation.
However, my secret weapon was a lesson that I’ve learnt from studying at uni, which is to “work smart, not hard.” I basically pulled all the relevant information together that I needed and formed a strategy based on that.
Getting out of the competitor’s room and blowing off some steam was a great idea too. I caught up with some mates for a beer or two, and even chatted to some former winners who gave invaluable advice.
What advice do you have for keeping calm and on track on stage?
Stick to what you know, play to your strengths, and don’t try anything you’ve never done before. Keep it loose and go for an off-the-cuff delivery (I never wrote out my whole speech, only some cues that I had tucked under the bar). Don’t be afraid to throw in an unplanned quip or two, but stay on message. Five minutes is a very short time.
Remember that the main point of the presentation is to sell your drinks! You should make the judges think that you’ve made the best damn drinks of the night before they even taste them.
Know that you’ve done all that you can before you step on stage, and just bloody enjoy yourself! The audience and judges can tell if you’re having fun or not, and a bit of confidence (pretend or otherwise) can go a long way.
Finally, one thing that I always try to keep in the back of my mind when I’m getting stressed, is that at the end of the day our job is to just get people pissed!