Behind the Bar The Business of the Bar

Everything You Need to Know About Prepping for Your First Bartending Competition

Gn Chan was something of an outlier at this year’s USBG Legacy Cocktail Showcase (a.k.a. Bacardí Legacy) global cocktail competition. More often than not, the event pits seasoned high-stakes competition veterans against one another—those who are well-versed in the trial and error of wowing a panel of judges with their drinks and accompanying presentations. Usually, you start with smaller competitions and work your way up. Chan, though? He was a natural. Bacardí Legacy was his first competition ever. And he won with flying colors.

A bartender at beloved East Village speakeasy Angel’s Share, Chan took the stage and impressed the judges at one of the most prestigious—and competitive—events of its kind in the world not only with his drink, the Venceremos (a twist on a classic Piña Colada) but his overall commitment to presentation and detail.

venceremos cocktail
Gn Chan's winning Venceremos cocktail.

“Making sure that you know information about the sponsor brand, its history and other notable information,” says Nick Detrich of New Orleans’ Cane & Table. Detrich is a veteran of multiple cocktail competitions and was a 2016 U.S. finalist for Bacardí Legacy. “Don’t try to ‘fake it’ because the people judging will know.”

And, of course, showmanship is key. “Like acting a scene, make sure you know your lines and actions so that nothing comes across as staggered or stilted,” says Detrich. “Be a good storyteller, because every bartender should be.”

Below, Chan shares his tips for first-time competitors, including tapping into some extreme multitasking to be the most prepared bartender possible when the pressure is on.

Gn Chan.

1. Do your homework.

“Research and check out all of the previous presentation videos [from the competition] to see which [presentation style] is best for you. That way, you’ll get an idea of what to say and how to act.”

2. Practice makes perfect.

“Try to repeat your speech in different situations—while you’re jogging, while you’re doing laundry, etc. For the presentation, you have to make any tiny moves become muscle memory. Nothing can be missed.”

3. Plan for everything—the good, the bad and the ugly.

“Anything could happened. Try to prevent all unwanted situations but also prepare for them: Keep a spare glass and spare ingredients to the side.”

4. Stay positive.

“Smile and breath. That’s the only way to make yourself stay calm and focused.”