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Time Please Bournemouth Bartenders

© Matt Pollard

What a year it has been for the birth year of the Bournemouth Bartenders League.

We owe this phenomenally organised year to two passionate industry geniuses who have made sure each competition has run smoothly, that the sponsors have reached us well with the spirit of the day, and that we pushed ourselves to the limits to produce the best drinks we could.

Salvatore Damiano, the bar manager at the Captains Club Hotel, and James Fowler, the owner of The Larderhouse and The Library, have devoted their time extremely well to make this year a success and market the competitions to get more and more people interested in what we do best.

I wish right now I had you as a live audience with a rolling display of this year’s photographs, all taken and edited by our league photographer Matt Pollard, and an array of this year’s drinks to hand out as I take you through the whole thing. For this piece though I will run down my top 3 defining league moments followed by the revealing of this year’s winner.

At 3 it had to be ‘Bloody Marys in The Square’. This was basically like cocktail boot camp; there was nowhere to prepare our drinks that had to be on a live stage within a couple of minutes, so 7 of us resorted to huddling in a cold and wet gazebo at the Bournemouth Food Festival. Our bar became the jagged floor of the square, but given the circumstances there spawned some fantastically balanced Bloody Marys, from which Tom King of The Larderhouse took the title of Bournemouth’s Best Bloody Mary.

At 2 it is ‘Larry the Pirate’. Throughout the year we saw some great twists in character for cocktail themes; we had ‘Max of the Opera’, ‘Franco the Mexican’ and ‘Hot Toddy Skelator’ (which was actually me), but when the Pirate theme for Appleton Estate was announced, we knew who would win before we even started. Larry Haxby of The Greenhouse took the days win with a story of his abandonment from his ship during his cocktail presentation, with each ingredient having a part to play. There was grenadine blood, a crab shell for his drink and he set fire to 1812’s main bar, all with a main backdrop of a pirate flag reading ‘time flies when you’re having rum’.

Finally it is technology that is taking the defining moment. Competition 16, the Bartenders Quiz, had a special 20 questions asked via Facetime by an industry expert known as Tristan Stephenson, the author of The Curious Bartender. This shed a defining end to the year as we all scratched our noggins over how vast the industry knowledge stretches, and just how much more there is to learn. It proves that there is a science and movement in what we do and that it is more than just a job; it is a lifestyle to live by and excel in. We are craftsmen, socialites, psychologists, entertainers, scientists and above all respected in our trade; if you think any job with these qualities is not interesting, then you need a stiff drink.

To round off this year, the winner was…Joel Whitmore of The Library in Southbourne. I can’t mention enough about this guy so I suggest you get down to his joint and congratulate him yourselves; say Hi to Kane and Franco while you are there as well, who finished 4th and 5th. Our Tommo of the Captains Club finished 2nd after leading going into the last round, and I followed in 3rd.

This was all announced at a fantastic closing night at Smokin’ Aces, where it all began way back in January.

The league is set for bigger and better things in 2014, so keep your eyes peeled for when and where to be to catch the counties finest bartenders in the best craft around.