Back with a bang for the third year, Monkey Shoulder’s Ultimate Bartender Championship has launched its 2016 search for the country’s most ‘kick-ass’ bartending talent. With a final at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and the enviable prize of a fully-stocked pop-up bar at London Cocktail Week for the winner, it sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? We just might enter ourselves…

What are they looking for?

Monkey Shoulder are after ‘the skills that pay the bills’ – and these are no easy, run-of-the-mill bartending requirements. Challenges include rounds on Knowledge, Mixing, Pouring and Nosing. There’s even a Stock Take round set to test back-of-house organisational skills, and a tricky Tray Service challenge for the final competitors.

Last year over 150 bartenders took part, with the Dead Parrot team from West Sussex taking both the crown and almost £13,000 in takings from London Cocktail Week. This year there’s a twist – each contestant will compete as an individual rather than a team, so it’s every man and woman for themselves. Yikes.

Grant Neave is Monkey Shoulder’s brand amBADASSador (a title we suspect he gave himself) and he thinks UBC is best described as ‘a mash up of Tough Mudder, Britain’s Got Talent, The Apprentice and Eurovision for the bartending community’. Dramatic reality TV analogies aside, the competition also nurtures and supports the next generation of bartenders, and will help launch the careers of some super talented and dedicated people. Cheers, Grant!

What’s the prize?

Ok, we’re officially jealous now. The lucky top five will get an all-expenses-paid trip to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail festival in July 2016, where they’ll compete in the final and hope to become UK Champion. Then the Champion gets to come back home to run a fully stocked bar at London Cocktail Week, which doesn’t sound too shabby.

When does it start?

The competition kicks off with UK regional heats in April and May, starting with Aberdeen on April 17th. Registration is open now on the UBC website following their official launch on Tuesday night – and of course, the unconventional Monkey Shoulder team couldn’t resist making that launch as epic as possible. Take a look at the bonkers promotional video they’ve made:

So how do you enter?

Head on over to to register and find out more.

You can also check out the Facebook pageTwitter and Monkey Shoulder website.

Our fingers are crossed, our passports are ready and our intensive training programme for the Nosing round is well under way. Good luck!

By Miranda Langford

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