The Roundup: The top bartending competitions to enter in 2018

There’s never been more bartending competitions on the calendar. They offer you a great way to hone your skills, meet like-minded professionals, and often a way to see the world. Here’s our guide to some of the top competitions coming down the pipeline this year.

Sailor Jerry Pins & Pin-Ups Bowling Competition

Sailor Jerry’s Pins & Pin-Ups bowling competition is a bartender competition with a difference: it involves zero bartending ability.
All you need to know to enter is how to a) have a good time and, b) be able to knock down a few pins on the lanes.

The action starts in March with the state heat in Queensland, followed by heats in the ACT in April, NSW in May, Victoria in June, South Australia in July, the NT and WA in August, and Tasmania in September.

Hit the lanes and get your practice in, because this comp is always a great event with great trips on offer as the prize.


The biennial MONIN Cup returns in 2018. The MONIN Cup is a competition which searches for seriously talented bartenders across the nation. Open to entrants from across all states and territories, bartenders must enter and create two signature serves using minimally 10ml of any MONIN product.
Below, MONIN’s Tomas Vikario tells us about the competition this year.

“This year’s judging criteria will be similar to the previous competition (no age constraint this year!) and remains focused on creativity, originality/innovation, appearance and flavour. This year we will be looking for entrants to submit cocktails in two categories: alcoholic, and low ABV/Mocktail. All competitors are encouraged to implement sustainability and no-waste [practices], and native and foraged produce-infused MONIN product concepts. Extra bonus points will be added to these two new concepts.

“It will also see entrants judged on their paper submission as well as at state semi-finals, before five national finalists will be flown to Sydney to compete for the Australian title of the MONIN Cup in July 2018.

“The national competition previously ran in 2014 with winner James Irvine of the Swillhouse Group going on to represent Australia at the Asian Finals of the MONIN Cup in Kuala Lumpur, following 2016 competition with Pelicano’s very own Matthias Aso taking the national win. The same prize will be awarded to the final victor from this year’s competition and if they win there, they can say ‘bonjour’ to Paris when they compete against a pool of top international bartending talent at the 2018 Global Finals. This year’s prize will include a $1,000 fund as well.

“We are looking forward to unearthing some serious talent throughout the country via the MONIN Cup this year and taking someone truly inspirational to Kuala Lumpur (and hopefully Paris this year) to represent us on the global stage,” Vikario says.

Entries open in May.

The Woodford Reserve Cocktail Challenge

2018 also sees the return of Woodford Reserve’s flagship cocktail competition, The Woodford Reserve Cocktail Challenge. 2017 saw Black Pearl’s Matt Linklater take the top spot at the national final, against some pretty tough opposition, and you can expect to see an even higher standard of competition in 2018.

The Woodford Reserve Cocktail Challenge entries will open in August with the state finals taking place in October, and the national final in November.

The major prize will be attending the Manhattan Experience competition in New York and visiting the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky.

Bartender Magazine Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDÍ & De Kuyper

The toughest test of bartending ability is back again in 2018.

Bartenders can to register to compete in the Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDÍ & De Kuyper; up for grabs is a trip to New Orleans to check out Tales of the Cocktail, and the chance to join the most exclusive bartending club in the country as the Bartender of the Year number one.

Previous winners of the competition read like a who’s who of bartending royalty: last year’s winner, Daniel Gregory, joined Michael Chiem, Lee Potter Cavanagh, Nathan Beasley, Sean Chow, Greg Sanderson, Tim Philips, Jason Williams, Chris Hysted-Adams, Sebastian Reaburn, Charlie Ainsbury, Oliver Stuart, Ben Davidson, George Nemec, and Marco Faraone in the Bartenders of the Year club.

Is 2018 your year? Stay tuned to in March when entries open.

Monkey Shoulder’s ‘On Like Donkey Kong’

Monkey Shoulder always do their bartending competitions with a difference, and this year is no different. Here’s what Monkey Shoulder brand ambassador Mikey Lowe says: “Dust off those wrist protectors. Crank out your finger weights. Monkey Shoulder is launching arcade-style rivalry in 2018.”

It’ll be bar versus bar action, when teams of two bartenders compete in a round robin style until, ultimately, a winner emerges by putting away their opponents.

State finals will run from April through September with Monkey Shoulder sponsoring training camps prior to this to whip you into shape. The state finalists will be transported to the National Finals to compete in front of an audience for the title, the prestige, and the prize.

William Grant and Sons – Masters of Whisky

Starting in May 2018, this is for the whisky nerds. Here’s what they say: “We are using the expertise of our whisky teams in Scotland to go to the next level. Chemical compounds, tasting (the lab versions), tasting (the never to be seen again versions), malt masters and a teaser of full educational trips to the capital of Scotch whisky, Dufftown.”
It’s a competition only in the sense that the program is open to the best of the best — contact The Balvenie ambassador, Ross Blainey, to get involved on

Southern Comfort is back for bartenders

Southern Comfort is well and truly back on bartenders’ radars these days thanks to their new recipe, which brings whiskey back into the bottle much like it was when it was first created. They’ve also got a competition for bartenders which is back this year, with an international bent to things, with entries now and finishing on the 21st of March to commence the state finals and national finals.

BACARDÍ Legacy Global Cocktail Competition

BACARDÍ Legacy was established to challenge the best contemporary bartenders in the world to create their own cocktail Legacy – that will stand the test of time and ensure that both bartender and beverage are remembered like the illustrious classic cocktails of the past.

The global cocktail competition from Bacardi is a regular fixture now not just on the Australian scene, but globally. The current Australian final wraps up this month — check out our next issue for an update on the winning bartender and recipe — and start preparing your own Legacy for when the competition opens, usually around August each year.

The winner of the Australian final goes on to compete against the best the world has to offer and the standard is always high: previous Australian winners have been Dave Kerr (2016), Andrew Bennet (2015), Fred Siggins (2014), and Alissa Gabriel — whom you can read more about in our manager profile in this issue, — who won in 2013, and this year’s winner James Irvine.

Opihr World Adventure Cocktail Competition

Here’s a competition to keep an eye out for this year. The Opihr World Adventure Cocktail Competition enters its fifth year this year, and the gin brand’s compeition has has become something of a global competition: last year some 13 countries took part in the global final in Marrakesh.

Talk to your SouthTrade representative for more information.

The Perfect Blend

The Prefect Blend is the cocktail competition from Beam-Suntory that challenges you to craft a signature drink from their outstanding range of whiskeys, and offers two categories for entries: one for professionals, that is, those with experience in this kind of competition, and one for apprentices, who are still learning their craft.

In each category, however, the standard is always high so you’ll want to bring your best game to the table.

The current competition wraps up in a couple of months, with entries for the next instalment opening in September this year.

Winners in each category for the current competition win a trip across the globe to the home of Bourbon, Kentucky visiting the distilleries Maker’s Mark and Jim beam —receiving the VIP treatment along the way, then heading to New Orleans with 15,000 other likeminded industry folk to party like a Rockstar and rub shoulders with the industry elite.

Patron Perfectionists

2017 Australian winner of the Patron Perfectionists made it all the way to the top six at the global finals last month in Mexico — can you build upon that and take out the global crown?

The Patron Perfectionists is back again this year — keep an eye out for entries opening in May.

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