IBA World Flair Bartending Competition 2018- Dennis Gray

What an amazing experience representing Australia in Tallinn Estonia for the International Bartending Association World Bartending Championships. The Qualifiers were held in Sydney in July were I competed against Australia’s best creating a unique cocktail using sponsors products and pairing it with an original 5 min flair bartending routine choreographed to music with a theme of my choice , this year was James Bond.

In September 2018 I was lucky enough to fly to Estonia to represent Australia for the World Flair Bartending Championships. This was a first for me, I was nervous but ready, with no expectations I set off for Estonia.

Greeted by one of the worlds great from Uruguay Daniello Orobe at the airport in Estonia was a great start, as I reached the hotel I walked into the lobby and stood just watching the other Flair Bartenders arrive. It was everyone I had conversed with online in the flair world but in person, 65 countries under one roof to battle it out for the title and prestige of being the Number One Flair Bartender in the world.

The first few days were filled with meet and greets and black tie dinners, the food and drinks were delicious paired with fantastic company.

With the whining and dining out of the way things got serious as the first day of briefing began. The competition was beyond what I had ever experienced in regards to organisation and standards, the rules were strict, with a few last minute changes (that affected my routine) I was a bit shaken but ready for the challenge.

It was the day of the competition and I had drawn 11 place on stage so I woke up early and headed to the venue to practice and prepare for my round. After a solid practise, lighting check, bottles prepared and garnish ready I was good to go.

The stage was huge cameras everywhere, I never realised how big this competition really was. It was like the olympics for bartending and I was representing Australia, what a blessing. I was the next up, waiting behind the stage with the bar setup and ready to go, the crowd was screaming and the nerves were kicking in, it was time. I smiled to the crowd and was counted in to start 3 2 1 go! It was a surreal experience, I was not nervous, it actually felt as if I was watching myself from a first person view, it was amazing.

In the blink of an eye it was over, I was done. I had wowed the judges and other competitors with my unique style and creativity which ultimately was my main objective, the judges of over 15 years saying “ Eighty percent of what they had just seen they had never seen before”.

Unfortunately I did not make the top 5 but I learnt so much and was honoured to be part of such and amazing event. Meeting other people and being under the same roof of other professionals who share the same passion was beautiful. This year the International Bartending Guild Competition will be held in Japan, I can not wait to hopefully represent Australia a second time and bring home the gold.