Be at One's Bartenders Challenge shakes up a storm

Ricardas Znamenskas - Be At One Bartender Challenge 2017 - Hi-res

Ten of the UK’s best bartenders descended on Birmingham for a day of shaking, stirring and friendly competition which spilled over well into the night…

For the first time, the grand final of Be At One’s Bartender Challenge took place outside London, at Be At One Birmingham, coinciding with the opening of the location’s brand new cocktail lounge.

After a series of heats which saw hopeful candidates from all 33 of Be At One’s national locations show what they’ve got, a shortlist of 10 made it to the final on Tuesday 5th September. The discerning judges included Be At One founders Steve Locke, Leigh Miller and Rhys Oldfield, who met in the 90s while working as bartenders. The panel was rounded out by Pernod Ricard’s Charlotte Mason and Megs DeMeulenaere.

In addition to showing off their in-depth expert knowledge and mixing skills, each contender brought something unique to the competition; Fabio Ferrari (from the Spitalfields bar) wowed the judges and spectators with a card trick while pouring, while Denisa Niculae (Greek Street) ended her 12 minute showcase by performing her very own spoken word ode to Be At One.

Ultimately, though, there can only be one winner. Ricardas Znamenskas from the Piccadilly Circus bar was crowned the champion and recipient of the £2,000 cash prize, reclaiming his 2013 title with his mixological magic and beatboxing skills, serving up five distinct drinks including a Cuban Zombie and Straight Up Daiquiri. “I’m so proud to have won the Bartender Challenge for a second time,” he says. “Each year the competition gets tougher as everyone behind a Be At One bar wants to win and has great passion for serving fantastic cocktails and providing a unique guest experience.”

Ricardas Znamenskas

Additional titles granted in the competition included Best Original Cocktail (Jan Horak), Best Newcomer (Giorgia Valentini), Fastest Bartender (Carola Urru) and Best Bar (Piccadilly, London).