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Pete Marshall, voted TGI Friday's Best World Bartender

29 March 2006
Pete Marshall, voted TGI Friday's Best World Bartender

At just 25 years old, Pete Marshall has beaten off bartending hopefuls from 55 countries to win the coveted title of TGI Friday's Best World Bartender in Las Vegas. Back behind his TGI bar in Bluewater, Kent, he talks to Emily Manson

How did it feel to win? It's not sunk in properly yet, but it was amazing receiving an award in Las Vegas and in front of all the people at the conference.

What were you tested on? First was the technical side, from pour testing and recipe knowledge to fruit cutting, and a speed round. I took just over two minutes to make five drinks but had to remake one as it accidentally got contaminated. I was in sixth place by the end of the first day and was quite disappointed. I'm not being arrogant, but I always aim for the top three in these competitions.

How did you win? It was my "freestyle" performance. You need to be entertaining and charismatic and make drinks with flair. The judges said I was a natural bartender, and they were impressed I hadn't pretended but I'd just done everything as I normally would for customers. I wanted to do more tricks, but I did balance two glasses on top of each other on my wrist and pour vodka into them with the other hand.

What was your winning cocktail? The Uncle Vanya, a vodka-based cocktail with blackberry brandy and sweet and sour citrus mix, and a Margarita, both balanced on a tower of José Cuervo bottles.

What did you think of Vegas? It's the home of showmanship, and it's mind-blowing seeing some of the best talents in the world out there.

What is your favourite drink? A bottle of beer. After six years of tasting cocktails all night, what you really want is a beer. If I had to have a cocktail, though, it would be a Manhattan.

What's the worst cocktail to make? A Raspberry Mojito in the middle of a busy Saturday night. It's a beautiful drink, but you want to spend time making it perfect. A Cuba Libra has to be the most naff drink. I don't see the point of it; it's just a rum and Coke with a squeeze of lime - it makes me laugh.

Why is the cocktail scene experiencing such a revival? There's so much more flair behind the bar today. Bar professionals are really taking skills to the next level, which has led to the scene becoming much more noticeable worldwide.

How would you counter critics who say you are encouraging binge-drinking? Binge-drinking comes more from lagers and shots than cocktail drinking. Cocktails are generally for people who want to appreciate flavours, rather than those just out to get drunk.

How many bottles have you dropped in your career? Thousands. And any bartender that says different is lying.

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