A dropped bottle or slipped martini olive can jeopardize a bartender’s chance of being crowned the world’s best. It’s all on the line at the 21st annual World Bartender Championship (WBC) taking place on Feb. 26, 2012, where the top T.G.I. Friday’s bartenders from across the globe have more reason than ever to step up their game.
Mixology authors, TV personalities and internationally renowned bartenders will judge the skill and showmanship of each of the nine finalists as they take center stage at the Glass Cactus in Dallas. Among the celebrity guest judges are Kim Haasarud, Charlotte Voisey and Phil Wills.
The WBC hosts 8,000 bartenders from around the world in a series of local and regional events leading up to the final showdown. The nine global finalists competing in Dallas were selected based on their knowledge of the bar, the flavor of their drinks and their ‘flairtending’ skills.[ Also Read: Kate Upton on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover ]
As they travel down the road to the Finals, the finalists are also vying for the honor of being named the fans’ Favorite Bartender. This online-only competition invites fans to get to know each bartender’s personality and vote for their favorite.
This year’s competition features five finalists from the United States and four international finalists:
Santiago Emeric (Orlando, Fla.): Representing Friday’s Sea World location at the WBC for the third year in a row, Emeric’s signature elbow pour proves that sea creatures aren’t the only attraction for fans flocking to Orlando.
Bradley Kaplan (Thornton, Colo.): Last year Kaplan was crowned Favorite Bartender, and he is back in action this year for the sixth time, which is sure to please his faithful fans.
Kristian Mihailin (Las Vegas): In addition to possibly being named WBC champ, Kristian may win for most locations worked. To date, Mihailin has worked at 28 different Friday’s restaurants.
Lisa Montero (Virginia Beach, Va.): Taking her training seriously by setting up an at-home bar – complete with a worn through table top – to squeeze in more practice time, Montero will be making her debut at the Finals with some fun tricks up her sleeve.
Jason Ochoa (Glenview, Ill.): Competing for 12 years, Ochoa is seeking to bring the title back to the Midwest – and the U.S. – since it was won by Brian Zachau in 2009.
Charlie “Chuck” Bailey (London): London is home to this year’s Summer Games, and possibly the top bartender in the world, who despite being English, considers himself like a White Russian cocktail – strong and classic.
Paul Gil (Santiago, Dominican Republic): Representing Latin America, Gil has the enviable job of keeping the Friday feeling alive in the Dominican Republic.
David Kringlund (Stureplan, Sweden): Returning to the competition for a second year in a row, Kringlund is two for two at the WBC since starting at Friday’s.
Sir Raminad “Ram” Ong (Manila, Philippines): Traveling the farthest to Dallas from the Robinson’s Place location in the Philippines, Ong is competing in the Finals for the first time after four years with Friday’s.
“Our bartenders embody Friday’s passion for delivering a full experience for guests that includes innovative cocktails, flairtending know-how and a savvy bartender,” said Shannon Gewinner, vice president, brand marketing for T.G.I. Friday’s. “Having special guest judges, who are some of the best in the business, as a part of the 21st WBC gives us an added reason to celebrate talented mixologists, including those who are friends of the Friday’s family.”
In the picture above: 2010 World Bartender Champion Attila Farmasi from Budapest, Hungary, will join the nine international finalists as they battle it out for the title of T.G.I. Friday’s best bartender.