5 former Bartenders of the Year share their tips on how to win

Australian Bartender’s 2019 Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDÍ & De Kuyper is nearly upon us.

It’s the toughest  and longest-running test of bartending ability, with the list of previous winners reading like a Hall of Fame of Australian bartending royalty.

It all begins with the famously tough exam, taking place on Monday 16 September at Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern during Sydney Bar Week; it cranks up a notch with the Mystery Box round following the exam, and culminates in the pressure cooker environment of the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards, where the Top 8 — the best the country has to offer — will showcase their skills in front of some 650 of the industry’s best and brightest.

If you’ve thrown your cap in the ring, kudos to you. You’ll soon receive an email with further details about the competition. If you haven’t, it’s not too late to enter the Bartender of the Year sponsored by BACARDÍ & De Kuyper. Just send your details to competition organiser Sam Bygrave at sam@spantonmedia.com.

But how should you about preparing for the comp?

Each year after the Bartender of the Year is crowned, we ask them for a little advice on what to do to come out on top — here’s a taste of their experience.

The 2018 Bartender of the Year, Jenna Hemsworth. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Jenna Hemsworth
2018 Bartender of the Year

“One: start studying early. Treat each magazine like lecture notes and write up any pieces of info to re-read later. If your job is super demanding (like most of ours are) start studying little bits at a time earlier — I started in June (not to brag or anything but it totally worked for me).”

Daniel Gregory, 2017 Bartender of the Year. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Daniel Gregory
2017 Bartender of the Year

“Even if you don’t study or think you are not good enough, that is all bullshit. Please give it a go, that’s where I started and I promise you that you will grow from it. But three words of advice would be: Study, have your drinks ready even if you don’t make Top 8 and enjoy yourself and learn from it.”

2016 Bartender of the Year, Michael Chiem

Michael Chiem
2016 Bartender of the Year

“Losing has taught me that the people who prepare well often win. Also, don’t psyche yourself out if you make the Top 8 round, just be your charming self at your own bar and make two solid drinks. Do what is comfortable for you.”

2015 Bartender of the Year, Lee Potter Cavanagh.

Lee Potter Cavanagh
2015 Bartender of the Year

“Don’t be intimidated! Give it your all and keep trying, this was my fifth time in the final stage. Also be prepared for every round, particularly if you’re from interstate you’re probably going to need to organise glassware, ingredients, titty sprinkles, etc. with your mates in Sydney. If you don’t have mates in Sydney, then you should probably be better behaved at Bar Week. You can’t really prepare for the tasting and speed round so you just need to study for the test and make two tasty drinks.”

2014 Bartender of the Year, Nathan Beasley.

Nathan Beasley
2014 Bartender of the Year

“As my good mate and former Bartender of the Year Chris Hysted-Adams taught me, I picked apart the judging criteria for each section of the competition, focusing on trying to get the very most out of each point, as well as studying as much as I could.”