Monkey Shoulder’s Ultimate Bartender Championship

Monkey Shoulder’s Ultimate Bartender Championship

Skilled bartending has become an intriguing, flashy trend, inspiring a plethora of competitions all over the world. From dazzling bar flare to unique cocktail recipes and speed bartending, these events are catching people’s eye and developing a strong following. But in this world of colorful drinks and innovative mixology, the art of basic service technique and bar knowledge falls by the wayside.

Together, Monkey Shoulder and the United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG) have created an innovative international competition that refocuses the art of bartending by challenging competitors to demonstrate their knowledge and service rather than just their flare. Labeled a “no b.s.” competition by the members of the Monkey Shoulder team, the event aimed to focus on “skills that pay the bills,” a no-nonsense, practical take on being a good bartender.

Lead by Dean Callan, Brand Ambassador at Monkey Shoulder, the event has traveled to four other U.S. cities including Milwaukee, Charleston (SC), Chicago and Philadelphia and internationally, in Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Poland, France, Germany, and Singapore. Bartenders from each city took part in the same 7-round competition and the overall point leader at the end of this year’s competition will be crowned the Ultimate Bartending Champion.

On Monday, November 18th, 2015, the Ultimate Bartender Championship came to Denver. Hosted by Punch Bowl, the competition featured 12 local bartenders, competing in 7 different rounds that tested their technique, insight, speed and skill behind the bar.

The Rounds

1. Quiz:
In the quiz round, contenders were read 100 multiple choice questions ranging from an array of bartending topics. From identifying recipe ingredients to naming various countries’ national beverage, Callan rapidly quizzed the opponents to test both their knowledge of beverages and their ability to think quickly on their feet.

2. Mixiodic Table:
For the competition, Callan and the Monkey Shoulder team created an ingenious bartender version of the periodic table. The table consists of various components to cocktail recipes, featuring ‘elements’ like sugars, juices, mixers, bitters, ices, liquors, glassware and garnishes. The goal for this round was to solve ‘equations’ by naming the cocktail. For instance, if Vm=vermouth and V=vodka, Ol=olive juice, Sh=shaken, Up=martini glass then V+Vm+Ol+Sh+Up = A vodka martini. Competitors had 10 minutes to solve 20 equations.

V+Vm+Ol+Sh+Up = A vodka martini


3. Nosing:
In this round, opponents had two minutes to identify ten different spirits in a blind nosing test correctly. 1/2 a point was awarded for knowing the spirit (i.e., vodka, bourbon, scotch, Irish whiskey) and a full point for naming the brand (42 Below vodka, Glenmorangie scotch, etc.).

4. Pouring:
This task included glasses listing specific pour quantities (1/3 oz, 1 oz) and the bartenders needed to measure out the exact pour for each. The goal here was to pour the right amount into each glass and be exact on as many as possible while being as quick and efficient as possible.

5. Tray Service:
This round required competitors to take drink orders for ten people, get the drinks from the bar and, in the correct order, serve the right drinks to each corresponding person. To do this, Callan printed off ten pictures of celebrities and recognizable people to serve as the ten places at the table. By doing this, it required the bartenders to remember who ordered which drink and place each drink down in the correct order (women first, than men). Each opponent had a different arrangement of pictures and needed to adapt to the right order. Again, this pushes the importance of service technique, efficiency and drink knowledge.

6. Stock Take:
A crucial part of being a bartender is inventory. This round featured the skills of taking stock of various liquors as if they were doing inventory. Competitors needed to eyeball measure the amount of liquor in 10 different bottles and output an accurate inventory sheet.

7. Building Challenge:
The final round required the competitors to produce eight cocktails in 5 minutes. These cocktails were taste-tested by the audience. If the audience decided that a cocktail was not adequate, they could send the drink back, therefore, docking points from the bartender. This last round was in place to showcase the skills and mixing techniques of the competitors and tested how they managed their time while optimizing taste and technique.

The competition was a captivating, enjoyable experience that drew a great deal of interest due to its uncommon, practical nature. While the notion of a service knowledge and recipe knowledge-based event may seem pedestrian, Callan and Monkey Shoulder did a phenomenal job with their innovative challenges, unique creations (like the Mixiodic Table) and focused on bartending functionalism and skill. Both competitors and spectators enjoyed this new format, and all benefited from the showcasing of no-nonsense bar knowledge and service technique.

As a member of the food and beverage community, I believe that this innovative, practical-knowledge-based event is exactly what the industry needs. Yes, bar flare is fun and captivating, but the importance of service is what keeps the industry alive. Callan did an extraordinary job of incorporating functional, pragmatic bartending skills into a competitive, unique event. His focus on “skills that pay the bills,” I believe, will inspire more bartenders to pay closer attention to the importance of the basics; knowledge, efficiency, preciseness and good service. I admire Callan’s ingenuity and creativeness in bringing service into the forefront through useful yet fun skill challenges.

While this is the first year of this competition, Callan and Monkey Shoulder look to expand the event throughout the globe, creating new innovative challenges along the way and spreading the focus of service and technique. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for next year and the years to come.


Research Shows Excessive Drinking Cost US Economy $249 billion

Research Shows Excessive Drinking Cost US Economy $249 billion

The research, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed that over-consumption of alcohol cost the US economy approximately $2.05 per drink in 2010, a marked increase from $1.90 in 2006.

Equating to $249 billion overall, the majority of these costs were incurred through reduced workplace productivity, crime, and the cost of treating people for health problems caused by excessive drinking.

While the federal governement paid for just over 40% of these costs, the median cost per state was $3.5 billion, ranging from $488 million in North Dakota to $35 billion in California.

Furthermore, the study determined that excessive alcohol consumption causes approximately 88,000 deaths each year, including 1 in 10 deaths among working-age Americans aged 20-64.

Robert Brewer, head of CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the study’s authors, shared his thoughts on the study’s findings:

“What surprised us in this study was the extent to which that public health impact was focused on working age adults.”

He also noted that “effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are under used.” This includes increasing alcohol taxes and limiting alcohol outlet density, among others.

The researchers compiled their cost estimates based on changes in the occurrence of alcohol-related problems and the cost of paying for them since 2006. However, the authors believe these costs have been underestimated because information on alcohol is frequently underreported or unavailable.

For the study’s full text, click here.

Alcohol Goes Rogue: The New Era Of Drinking

Alcohol Goes Rogue: The New Era Of Drinking

The relationship between alcohol and consumers is not straightforward. In fact, it’s highly complex, dependent on variables upon variables many of which can’t be controlled. But what is straightforward is that the relationship is changing.

‘The Drinking Code’

The recently published report produced by media agency Maxus, investigates why, how and when people drink and what these changing patterns of behavior mean for the alcohol industry. It analyzed attitudes from 6,500 adults across Australia, China, Germany, India, the UK and the US, and the conclusions are pretty cool!

The Rules of Consumption are breaking

Although Maxus found that only 39% of consumers enjoy experimenting with different drinks compared to the 62% that stick to what they know, the alcohol industry as a whole is breaking away from its categorized nature.

Thanks to the rise of craft vendors, the inventiveness of mixologists, and the “new rituals and occasions” of consumers, the industry is diversifying on all fronts.

And Technology is giving a helping hand

As Maxus explains, “consumers are social,” often making drink choices based on social media experiences and what’s “trending” instead of the brand or alcohol type.

It’s easier than ever to share drinking experiences, access recipes and discover ingredients that bring alcohol consumption to a whole new level. Today, “drinks can truly act local and speak global.”

So what?

According to Maxus, it’s the start of something big:

“This is a new golden and cultural age for drink, a new world for liquor not seen since that pioneering time 150-200 years ago when all our now established brands formed, when Johnnie started walking, Dewar started rambling and Jack began filtering.”

And we love it!

How does alcohol affect you? Find out here →

Finish off SeptemBEER at Avanti F&B

Finish off SeptemBEER at Avanti F&B

September in Denver is all about beer, with a calendar packed full of events all staring Hops, culminating in the behemoth beer festival that is The Great American Beer Festival.

As a lead-up (and down) to GABF, Avanti Food & Beverage in LoHi will be hosting a series of ticketless events throughout the week of September 23-27.

  • It all starts with a Kickoff Party on September 23rd featuring Odell Brewing. From 8pm until close, look forward to keg tappings (mmm … ‘Myrcenary‘), more beer, and giveaways!

And let the good times keep on rolling…

  • On September 24 at 10pm, Avanti is throwing the GABF After Party featuring Dogfish Head to celebrate the brewery’s 20 off-centered years with the first nationwide tapping of their 20th Anniversary Beer ‘Higher Math’. Also enjoy beers from Dogfish Founder Sam Calagione’s personal stash, including limited bottled beers: 2006 120 Minute IPA, 2006 Fort, 2006 Raison D’Extra, 2007 Immort Ale. And, as a bonus, get a Dogfish signature glasses with any “vintage beer” purchased!
  • Friday happy hour! On the 25th, Avanti is hosting an extended happy hour from 1-4pm with Ratio Beerworks brewers on hand to discuss their beers.
  • And, to finish off the week of festivities, enjoy the calm after the storm at Avanti on Sunday, September 26 with a Hungover Sunday Funday. Enjoy “BroMosas” (craft beer mimosas) specials plus creative beer Bloody Mary offerings that will satisfy the hair of YOUR dog!

Happy hopping!


July in Colorado: The #HitList

July in Colorado: The #HitList

What to hit up in Colorado during July. You won’t want to miss anything on our #HitList.

Cherry Creek Arts Festival


When: July 3-5, starting at 10 am.
Where: Cherry Creek North, from 2nd to 3rd Avenues between Columbine St. and Steele St.
What: The signature festival is a cultural celebration of the visual, performing and culinary arts. It’s a great experience for the whole family with the Artivity Avenue, a full block of interactive activity for youngsters, the Cultural Pavilion, where performing arts come to life, and the Culinary Avenue, featuring some tasty snacks and live cooking demonstrations from popular eateries around Denver. Free for all who wish to attend.

Street Arts Festival @ Breckenridge


When: Friday, July 3, 4-8 pm.
Where: Ridge Street Arts Square, Breckenridge, CO.
What: A celebration of street, pavements and graffiti arts featuring guest artists specializing in each media. Also on the schedule is live music (starting at 8 pm), a chalk art contest, and stenciling workshops including kid’s graffiti. No admission fee.

Independence Eve Celebration


When: Friday, July 3, beginning at 8 pm.
Where: Civic Center Park (Colfax & Broadway).
What: Start your 4th of July early at the 6th annual FREE community celebration featuring a concert, light show, and fireworks. The concert will feature Funkiphino and 101st Army Concert Band from Buckley Air Force Base. Lawn seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis so get there early! Attendees are welcome to bring their own picnics, but concessions will be available as well.

Park Hill 4th of July Parade


When: Saturday, July 4, kicking off at 1:30 pm.
Where: Along 23rd Avenue, from Dexter St. to Krameria St. View route here.
What: Celebrate Independence Day with family and friends by watching the 6th annual Park Hill parade featuring more than 50 groups including floats, marching bands, costumed characters, classic cars and more! The parade will run along 23rd Ave., with viewing areas available along both the north and south sides of 23rd. Get there early to set up blankets and chairs, then relax and enjoy the fun!

The Outlaws and Fireworks!


When: Saturday, July 4, starting at 7 pm.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
What: Watch the Outlaws, Denver’s professional lacrosse team, face-off against the Boston Cannons this 4th of July. Then after we take home the big W, enjoy the fireworks show- pyrotechnics paired with visuals on a 220-foot wide, HD screen! Tickets start at $28 available for purchase here.

Biergarten Festival


When: July 10-12; Friday 4- 10 pm, Saturday 11 am- 10 pm, Sunday 10 am- 5 pm.
Where: TEV Edelweiss festival grounds in Morrison, CO.
What: Celebrate traditional German culture with food, entertainment, music, dance and beer! There will be activities for children and a real German all-you-can-eat Frühschoppen (brunch) for $15 on Sunday morning from 10 am- 2 pm. Price of admission: Friday & Saturday $5, Sunday $3 (or $1 before noon); children 12 & under are free.

Colorado Irish Festival


When: July 10-12; Friday 5- 10 pm, Saturday 10 am- 10 pm, Sunday 10 am- 7 pm.
Where: Clement Park, Littleton, CO.
What: Experience the largest Irish celebration in the Rocky Mountains  with traditional Irish music performances and dancing, Irish drama and storytelling, crafts, games and food and drinks. Known throughout the west for its display of kilts, bagpipes and Irish step dancing, this year’s Irish Festival promises to be a memorable weekend. Price of admission: Friday $10 (or free before 6 pm), Saturday & Sunday $13; children 12 & under are free. Tickets are available online here, King Soopers/Ticket West outlets, and at the event gates.

The Tinder Party + Stephanie Maxwell’s Birthday Celebration


When: Friday, July 10, starting at 9 pm.
Where: VIE Nightclub Denver.
What: Meet the person you’ve been stalking on Tinder! Or find your match among Denver’s hottest singles. Show your Tinder app at the door to skip line/cover. And join us as we celebrate Stephanie (a.k.a Sirvo’s fearless leader) turning 27 with bottles galore and beats provided by DJ GARMAN!

West End Tavern’s Jul-IPA Festival


When: Saturday, July 11, 12- 4 pm.
Where: Millenium Harvest House in Boulder CO.
What: Third annual celebration of the best & baddest IPAs organized by The West End Tavern. Try IPA’s from 30+ breweries, enjoy live music from The Goonies & Sixty Minute Men, and food from The West End Tavern. Tickets are $35; 100% of proceeds to benefit Safehouse.

303 Magazine Day Pool Party


When: Sunday, July 12, 11 am- 6 pm
Where: The Breakers Resort Denver
What: To celebrate the opening of the Riviera at the Breakers Resort, a lounge and internet cafe, 303 Magazine is throwing a series of  pool parties throughout the summer. The next one is just around the corner, and will be featuring DJ Kate Elsworth on the 1’s and 2’s. Tickets are $26 and only available online. Get them here ASAP because they’re going fast.

Pairsine “Taste of Elegance Beer”


When: Wednesday, July 15, 6- 9 pm.
Where: The Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, CO.
What: Ten beer-savvy chefs from around the town will compete to create up to 20 dishes to be paired with one of 20 award-winning beers. On the day of the event, chefs will be preparing then serving their dishes alongside samples of each beer. A panel of food and wine experts will name the winners for “Best Chef” and “Most Creative Chef”, and attendees will also get to cast their votes to decide the winner of the “People’s Choice Chef”. Tickets are on sale here for $75.

Denver Beta Inaugural Event


When: Thursday, July 16, starting at 6:30 pm.
Where: Galvanize Platte in Denver, CO.
What: Colorado’s premiere startup party where members of the Galvanize community, local startup scene and all who are interested come together to enjoy conversation, cocktails, giveaways, and interactive demos from presenting startups including yours truly. We’ll be showing off Sirvo and giving away some free shwag, so come and support us! Tickets are available for $15 here.

Global Dance Festival


When: July 17-19, starting at 5 pm.
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO.
What: If you like electronic music, this concert is definitely for you. The greatest EDM artists from around the globe travel to Colorado to play for thousands of enthusiasts under the open sky at Red Rocks. The lineup includes Tiesto, Kaskade, Above & Beyond, Benny Benassi and many more. Get your tickets here before they sell out!

The Big Eat


When: Thursday, July 23, 6- 10 pm.
Where: The Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
What: Enjoy bites from over 40 of Denver’s best independent restaurants, then wash them down with cocktails from Denver’s top mixologists and craft beer from our favorite breweries. And like every BigEat, expect surprises and countless fun to benefit EatDenver. Tickets are available online for $55 here.

Denver Summer Brew Fest


When: July 25-26, 7- 10 pm.
Where: The Mile High Station in Denver, CO.
What: The Summer Brew Fest at Mile High Station will celebrate craft beverages from around Colorado and beyond, not to mention live local music, food, and other vendors. Tickets are available online for $35 here, or on the day of for $45. Proceeds benefit Swallow Hill Music Association.

Yoga on the Rocks


When: July 25, 7- 8 am.
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO.
What: Get your yoga on in one of the most awe-inspiring venues in the world. After the event, visit the Top Plaza for goodies from participating sponsors. Tickets are $12, available online here; $1 per admission will go to the Whole Planet Foundation.

Film On The Rocks- ‘Pretty Woman’


When: July 31, starting at 7 pm.
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO.
What: Gather your friends and family and head up to Red Rocks to enjoy this classic. Tickets are $12, available online here.