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Get a taste of the best spirits in the world

Bar experts judge and shine a spotlight on the best spirits from around the world at the Bartender Spirits Awards.

When they are ready to get out again in 2021, Americans will be bar hopping across cities, enjoying their favorite spirits and cocktails. The simple joy of enjoying a glass of whiskey or a drink of choice with friends, family and colleagues will be back. 

While enjoying such a wonderful time with friends and family, it is essential to make the right choice of drink. Which brand will elevate your meal from good to great, make your celebrations more memorable? Bartenders are of great help here, but what if you had prior knowledge of which drink to have? 

If you are looking to find hidden gems, drinks worth looking out for and more, the Bartender Spirits Awards is the best place to begin. The annual competition that judges spirits from all over the world will set you up nicely with many excellent options. This year the competition will be held in San Francisco on May 17 with the winners announced at the end of the same month. Here’s what you need to know about the Bartender Spirits Awards

What comprises the awards judging process?

The spirits are judged on the five broad categories of mixability, balance and versatility, taste, value and packaging. The judges consider two key aspects while judging spirits from around the world at the competition, whether they will add great value to a bar’s existing spirits inventory and become an integral part of a mixologist’s everyday life behind the table. In essence, the focus of the Bartender Spirits Awards is to find and reward spirits that we will enjoy drinking on the rocks or as a part of the cocktail and bartenders will love pouring at their establishments. 

How do the five categories come into the picture while making these choices? Mixability determines how well the product is blended or combined for your cocktail. Balance and versatility bring in the flavor and aroma aspect of the spirit. Whether it is well-rounded and balanced to make for a desirable option at the back bar. The sensory impact of the spirit on the nose and mouth is judged under taste. Packaging determines how well a spirit will be received by a consumer based on its look. Everything from its shape to its branding, all aspects are judged to score a bottle on its packaging. Value helps understand how well the spirit is priced compared to the value it offers. Only those bottles that score well on all five of these categories get the top awards. 

How are the spirits judged?

All the spirits are judged in a blind tasting by the judges. This helps judges evaluate all spirits fairly based on their mixability, balance, taste and quality. They rate each spirit out of 100 for each of these categories. This gets an unbiased score for every entrant from the top influencers within the industry. Post the blind tasting, the judges consider the pricing of the bottle. How well a spirit fares against its peers is a very important point. Relative value is an important point of consideration in today’s market. The final assessment the judges undertake is the packaging. The bottles creative design, functionality and more are rated by the judges.

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All of the judges give individual scores. While the judges may discuss the spirits, all of their scores are impartial. The average of each of their scores becomes the final score for a spirit. 

What are the categories to look out for?

All the spirits are rated out of 100 with those scoring 96 and more getting conferred with a Double Gold Medal. Those that score 90 or over are gold medallists, silver to those between 80 and 89 and bronze to those between 70 and 79. The double gold medal is the highest award of all and there are a select few that take home this honor. 

Along with the medals, there are significant categories that spirits are categorized in. from whiskies, rum, gin and brandy, the top-scoring spirit in each of these type are awarded with the Whisky of the Year award and so on. The distillery that impresses the judges most is also recognized with Producer of the Year awards at America’s premier spirits judging competition. 

Who are the Judges?

The judging panel consists entirely of top bartenders at U.S restaurants, bars, clubs and pubs. In certain cases, these bartenders can also be cocktail consultants for on-premise establishments or play an important buying role for the establishment. Among the judges is Zachary Faden, a trained historian turned bartender with an envious resume. His honors include being the winner at the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail Official Cocktail Competition and a Top 100 selection in Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition in 2018 and 2019. 

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This year’s stellar line-up also includes Eryn Reece- head bartender at Banzarbar, New York, William Tsui- Bar Director and Co-Owner of Viridian, Oakland, California, Nora Frust who is a partner at West Beverage Consulting and Beverage Director at Uma Fasa, San Francisco. 

The judges for the Bartender Spirits Awards are drawn from across the USA, with years of experience and qualifications behind them. This ensures that spirits become relevant across the diverse cultures of the country and in bars and restaurants that lead the line in every city. 

Where do entrants come from?

The leading countries in spirits production are represented at the Bartender Spirits Awards. From whiskey producing heavyweights like Germany, Australia and Japan to gin masters like Spain, Ireland and more are all competing with each other to take home the awards. The competition is home to brands from all over the world. 

Awards are handed out to ‘Whisky Producer of the Year’ and other spirits. If you are biased towards a spirit, you can bank on the judgements of the judges to choose your next brand to sip. 

The next time you are at a bar, make a great choice with one of the winners at the 2020 Bartender Spirits Awards.

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