Inside the Ropes: TGI Fridays World Bartending Championship in Dallas last week
Press, roll, twist, box, dash — this isn’t bobsledding or speed skating terminology. No, I’m talking about that other global competition that just wrapped up — the World Bartending Championship.
TGI Fridays hosted the 23rd annual World Bartending Championship at the House of Blues Dallas last Thursday night, and the Hatch was there to take it all in. The bottles were spinning and the booze was flowing as competing bartenders strutted their stuff up on stage like service industry rock stars. Think Cocktail mixed with something on ESPN7*.
To make it to the showdown, the 12 finalists had to prove they were the best of the best by beating out over 8,000 bartenders from 900 TGI Fridays restaurants in 60 countries. In Thursday’s final competition, each bartender was judged on product, ingredient and recipe expertise through a series of tests followed by a timed freestyle performance, where a panel of judges assessed the bartenders’ ability to make innovative drinks while displaying an engaging style of service and flawless mixology techniques.
In other words, flair mattered in this competition. It mattered a lot.
Jon Taffer, host of Spike TV’s reality series Bar Rescue, served as emcee and brought a contagious energy that kept the crowd engaged and the event moving along at a lively pace.
There was a local favorite, Katie Livezey from Plano, who enjoyed a large following of friends and family cheering her on. The home bar advantage was not enough, though; Katy submitted a solid, professional performance but came up short.
The night ultimately belonged to Andy Hool of Canton, Michigan, who was crowned World’s Greatest Bartender.
I’m new to this competition, but even I could recognize that Andy’s skillset was a cut above the rest. His behind-the-back bottle flipping was clearly superior — his bottles consistently got more air than any other competitors.
There was no wasted movement in his performance — even a final touch of garnish to a perfectly mixed margarita was done with dramatic aplomb.
In the end, there could only be one champion. But speaking for everyone involved, I can say we were all the night’s big winners.
*This channel does not actually exist. Yet.