Bartender of the Year study time! Last year’s exam and magazine links

Last year’s winner, Priscilla Leong

THE BIG CHANGE – yes, this year marks a big change to the comp, with the whole event taking place over one EPIC day – Monday, 11 September. The timetable of the rounds is below but be prepared for a big day of activities if you make it to the pointy end of the comp!

There is also a huge prize on offer thanks to Monkey Shoulder Whisky & Hendrick’s Gin with a trip to Scotland in 2024 to visit the homes of these amazing products. You will also have the honour of being the Australian Bartender Magazine Bartender of the Year.

There is still time to register your interest to compete by simply emailing with your name, email address and phone number.

Jono Carr is on board to help facilitate the competition this year. Jono is working for Etymon Projects and is a former runner-up in this competition, so has a fair chunk of experience. He is cc’d on this email and will be available to answer any of your more technical questions as we get closer to competition time. We also have our other Drinks Writer Cara Devine pitching in to help with the written exam and judging on the day of the competition.

To help you get started on your study and prep, here are a few links to the last year of magazines as well as last year’s exam paper.

#259 Bartender
#260 Bartender
#261 Bartender
#262 Bartender
#263 Bartender
#264 Bartender
#265 Bartender
#266 Bartender
#267 Bartender
#268 Bartender
#269 Bartender


So, to give you a bit more of an idea about how it will all work, here is a breakdown of each round of the competition, as well as information on what you’re going to win should you come out on top.



Round 1 — The Exam

Worth 30% of overall mark

Location: Lil Sis at The Abercrombie (entry on Abercrombie Street)

Time: 10am for 10.15am start

Round 1 involves a one-hour written exam based on general cocktail and spirit knowledge and a lot of stuff that has been in the mag.

The exam will commence at 10:15am. It is your responsibility to make sure that you are there on time.

You are required to bring a pen, and having a spare doesn’t hurt.

After the exam is finished, you are invited to hang out at Lil Sis, refreshments and drinks will be provided.

The Top 8 will be announced following the marking at Lil Sis. They will also be announced on our social media. All competitors need to stay for the announcement, as Round 2 commences straight afterwards.

Round 2 — The Top 8 Round

Worth 30% of overall mark

Location: Lil Sis at The Abercrombie (entry on Abercrombie Street)

Time: 1pm (approx.) 

Part one of Round 2 is the blind-tasting round. You will be asked to identify a number of spirits, with marks given for the category, its style, its geographical origin, and the product’s name.

If you have any doubt about how to fill out each section for the spirit, always provide as much information about the spirit as you can.

There is a time limit of 20 minutes for the blind tasting.

Part two of Round 2 consists of the mystery box bartending challenge. You will need to make two drinks: one, a drink on the fly based on ingredients in the box; the other a classic cocktail specified by the judges on the spot.

Competing two at a time, you will have 1 minute to look at and taste the ingredients in the mystery box, followed by 2 minutes with which to make both drinks. The drinks are scored purely on taste and appearance. You are not marked on working clean. This is a speed, memory, and invention challenge.

The Top 3 will be announced at Lil Sis and online at approximately 4pm

Following the announcement, the Top 3 will be assigned times for the night with the finals kicking off at 7pm


Rules & Guidelines for The Top 3 (Round 3)

Worth 40% of overall mark

Location: Ground Floor of The Abercrombie, 100 Broadway

Time: 7pm to 8pm (prior to the House of William Grant Party)

Each of the Top 3 will compete on stage at The Abercrombie

There will be a supply of William Grant & Sons products on the backbar. Please note that competitors are required to bring all other ingredients they wish to use for their drinks. If you prefer your own kit, please bring it.

Regular, standard, non-bespoke, non-Hoshizaki non-Kold-Draft ice will be available. It won’t be great. You are welcome to bring your own ice, but it very well may melt. There is no refrigeration nor freezers available. There will be a secure space to put all your gear.

We will have a team on hand to help out the Top 3 with any special requirements to help them get ready for the final presentation.

You must make two (2) drinks. One Hendrick’s Gin drink with a minimum of 30ml Hendrick’s Gin. One Monkey Shoulder drink with a minimum of 30ml Monkey Shoulder.

You have a total time of 5 minutes on stage in which to prepare the two drinks. Timing will be crucial. There will be no time extensions permitted. If a drink is unfinished at the end of the 5-minute period, it will be submitted to the judges as is.

The JUDGES: The judging panel is formidable and includes:

*the legendary Ivy Mix, American bar owner of Leyenda and founder of Speed Rack,

*David Spanton, Founder of Australian Bartender magazine, Sydney Bar Week and bar owner,

*Ross Blainey, Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich & The Balvenie,

*Priscilla Leong, Bartender of the Year 2022 and

*Cara Devine, Drinks expert, writer and acclaimed author.

The Top 3 round will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Cocktail name
  • Drink appearance
  • Aroma
  • Taste (flavour, balance, finish)
  • Creativity & originality
  • Bar presentation (chat, engagement, technique, etc)

The Bartender of the Year, 2nd place, and 3rd place will be decided based upon the cumulative points received from each round.

The Bartender of the Year will be announced on the night and again at the Bar Awards on Wednesday, 13 September.


Visit Hendrick’s Gin & Monkey Shoulder in 2024

This year’s winner will be crowned Australian Bartender Magazine Bartender of the Year, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to head over to Scotland in early 2024 (tbc), hosted by one of the William Grant & Sons BAs. This winner will visit both distillery sites and have the opportunity to present their winning cocktail to both Master Distiller Lesley Gracie, and Malt Master Brian Kinsman face to face.

If you have any further questions please get in touch with Jono at or Amy Spanton on