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Cocktail Competitions - The Art of Storytelling.

Updated: Mar 29



Following last weeks teaser about the 7 basic plot lines of storytelling are based on essentially the early days of Shakespeare. Most old written stories were created on the basic plots outlined in the picture above & this can be used as the basis for learning how to craft a story whether for a competition, a cocktail in the bar or when developing a seminar about your venue. In this case we’re going to focus on creating a story with regards to a cocktail for a competition. So let us break down the ‘7 Basic Plot Lines’.

- Overcoming the Monster.

This type of story goes back through Beowulf to David and Goliath and surely a lot further than that. It's the classic underdog story. Ad examples include Apple's attack on Big Brother in "1984" and American Express's attempt to dent the dominance of Black Friday with Small Business Saturday. IN BARTENDING - Learning to work with a new ingredient, overcoming a Saturday night shift or mastering a new technique e.g.

- Rebirth.

A story of renewal. It's a Wonderful Life is a prime example from the movies. Brands telling stories of renewal include Gatorade, whose "Replay" campaign gave aging members of high-school sports teams a chance to recapture their youth through rematches against old foes; and Prudential, which is presenting retirement as the beginning of a new chapter, not the end of an old one.

IN BARTENDING - Trash Tiki & the sustainability movement.

- Quest.

A mission from point A to point B. The Lord of the Rings is the classic example. IBM and Lexus are among the marketers who are on self-professed quests—making a smarter planet and relentlessly pursuing perfection, respectively.

IN BARTENDING - The Bacardi Untameable campaign.

- Journey and Return.

A story about transformation through travel and homecoming. The Wizard of Oz and Where the Wild Things Are are both journey-and-return stories. Corona is one of the brands that also encourages a trip, urging you to "Find your beach" and return refreshed. And Expedia has built its whole new campaign around the idea of changing one's perception through journey and return.

IN BARTENDING - Attending a distillery or location & the teachings of that journey

- Rags to Riches. In literature: Charles Dickens and Cinderella. In the movies: Trading Places. In ads: Chrysler, which is rising from the ashes of Detroit.

IN BARTENDING - Johnny Walker, whose entire brand history is about a simple Scottish farmboy's rise to global prominence.

- Tragedy.

From the Greeks through Shakespeare, these are stories of the dark side of humanity and the futile nature of human experience. Advertising has little use for such stories, except in PSA work, where shock tactics and depressing tales can get people to care about an issue.

- Comedy.

The flipside of tragedy, and the last of the great storytelling tropes, it's perhaps the hardest to do well but is hugely popular in both popular art and advertising—with Old Spice and Geico among the brand leaders in the space.

Understanding these basic plot lines is one things but the next step is attempting to craft the story around the cocktail you’ve created & what inspired you in the first place. The key here is to identify patterns between the potential ingredients as well as what you’re going to say while attempting to link it to the brand specifics or the theme of the competition.

To give a a solid example is none other than Ran Van Ongevalle the Bacardi Legacy 2017 Global Champion with his cocktail the Clarita:


Every single ingredient was linked to the overall story of the drink & metaphorically linked back to the Bacardi brand in question. It matches the themes & rules of the competition with regards being accessible enough to be re-created all over the world.

So in theory you’ve found a plot line you want to go for, your drink is solid & you’ve linked everything back to the original themes of the competition. The next step is repetition, practice & ironing out the details. The more you practice the more likely you’re to develop the monologue finding ways to put emphasis on certain words & developing pauses as well emotional breaks within the speech.

DEVELOPMENT:

A cocktail competition is not quite like being behind the bar since none of the normal conditions of a bar environment & shouldn’t be treated as such. Essentially it is a choreographed play on a stage & you almost have to treat yourself like an ‘actor’.

Preparing for an audition can be nerve-wracking. We’ve found that when you work your scene with a friend or fellow actor who can provide constructive feedback and encouragement, your nerves will start to ease, and you’ll feel like you’re progressing and learning at a much faster clip. Using Kevin’s criteria for monologue choice, ask yourself these two questions:

Does it give you enough places to go?

Does it make you stand out from the crowd?

Memorizing the lines is never enough, but it’s necessary to begin the rehearsal process. Write your monologue out on note cards and make sure you know the words start to finish.


It’s a great idea to start working on your monologue with a partner. Often times another set of eyes and ears can read something completely different in the text, sending you in a more interesting direction. Try to dig deeper, raise the stakes, and attack the text in ways you haven’t before, try sitting down or rehearsing after sprinting for 100 metres. By changing positions or the environment around it allows you to focus on the emotion of the piece which raises the stakes of the entire piece. Most bartenders don’t want to ‘overdo it’, but when you allow yourself to experience the extreme edges of the emotion you’re portraying, you can find a new connection to the material.


Your audience wants you to show them that your story about your drink is genuine & not just something created for a brand to tick the box. Show them you have a heart! Remember that this is a rehearsal, experiment and explore as many feelings as possible.

This basic tutorial is just part of a bigger seminar curated by Cocktails For You to teach bartenders the art of storytelling & presentation. For more details on that don’t hesitate to get in touch.