Host Your Own Cocktail Competition

Every summer, a swarm of bartenders and mixologists from around the country descends upon New Orleans for the Super Bowl of alcohol: Tales of the Cocktail, which crowns its MVP (in this case, most valuable potable) in a grand finale competition. But you don’t need to be a professional to throw down the gauntlet. Instead of a plain old party (boring), stage your own DIY cocktail competition. Here’s how.

The Barware

Your guests are responsible for bringing any obscure bitters or blue curaçao they might need, but as the host you should make sure everyone has access to the essentials. That means glasses (pint, highball, lowball, and martini) and hardware (muddler, shaker, strainer, jigger, and stirrer) for each team.

The Competition

To make things fair, organize early rounds around a basic cocktail, the ingredients of which you provide. To up the creativity factor later, choose one booze input and leave the rest up the competitors. Finally, progress to a wild-card round where each team can use a specialty liquor, garnish, or mixer they brought themselves—think ginger beer or blue cheese-stuffed olives (note: never together in the same drink). Or try it Iron Chef-style, where you reveal a secret ingredient that participants must incorporate into their final product. Moe Szyslak, for example, might suggest Krusty Brand cough syrup.

The Verdict

When mixology pride is on the line, tensions can run high. To prevent the scene from devolving in to a barroom brawl, make sure everyone comes away with a trophy. Present multiple awards, such as “best use of a brown spirit” and “most likely to induce a wicked hangover.” Either elect three impartial judges or force every competitor to vote for a cocktail besides their own in each round. Either way, make sure you appoint yourself a judge. Because the benefit to throwing a cocktail competition is not having to stumble home after testing all the entries.

Photo: Touchstone Pictures

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