Cocktail competition rules

Words by Simon Difford

Cocktail competition rules image 1

Organisers of cocktail competitions, usually drinks brands, have their own ideas and goals so rules vary enormously with their length and terms usually proportionate to the size of drinks company and number of retained corporate lawyers. Inevitably this leads to rules written in legalise with more terms covering copyright, image rights, trademarks and judging than recipe stipulations.

Such organisers and their teams of lawyers rightly have to cover themselves as they are exposing themselves to more than just criticism over how the competition is conducted.

It's not only big corporates that organise cocktail competitions and great recipes have emerged from boutique brands and even groups of bars organising relatively low-key competitions. Hence, for those without retained corporate lawyers wanting a simple broad template, I offer these competition rules to amend or build upon.

Difford's Standard 2022 Competition Rules


1. One entry per person / per bar.

2. Entries must be in the form of a long or short drink (not a shot) and be a minimum of 120ml (4oz) liquid volume.

3. Entries should be submitted by email to the organisers but are not officially accepted until email notice of acceptance is sent by the organisers.


4. Drinks must not contain more than seven ingredients, including fruit juices, syrups, drops or dashes. Solid garnishes are not considered ingredients. It is acceptable to additionally spray a citrus fruit zest over the drink if specified as a garnish.

5. Hot ingredients, premixes of any kind, or home preparations are forbidden without advanced written authorisation by the competition organisers. Competitors wishing to use these should submit their request at least 10 days before the day of competition but are advised to seek permission as soon as possible.

6. Recipes that can be easily replicated are preferred so unless judges give advanced written authority (rule 5 above) ingredients must be readily/widely available proprietary products, fruit and commonly found bar products.

7. Recipes must contain a minimum of 30ml (1oz) of the specified sponsoring brand(s) where applicable and the total combined alcoholic ingredients must be equivalent to no more than 75ml (2.5oz) at 40% alc./vol..

8. Ingredients may be measured using a jigger or similar measure or freely poured.


9. Recipes entered must be the original creation of the competitor and if a competitor is thought to have plagiarised a known, existing cocktail they will be disqualified. [Please use Difford's Cocktail Finder to check for combinations of same ingredients.]

10. Recipes entered must be expressed in 'shots', ounces (US) or millimetres with the use of 'dashes' and/or 'drops' limited to bitters, hot pepper sauce and the like. Fruit juice quantities must also be stipulated, e.g. "squeeze of lime" is unacceptable.

Drinks & preparation

11. Drinks must be assembled in front of the judges.

12. Drinks may be hand-stirred, hand-shaken or blended in an electric mixer.

13. Competitors must supply their own bartending utensils (shaker, bar spoon, strainer etc.). An electric blender will be provided by the organisers.

14. Cocktails may be presented in any shape of glass, cup or other hygienic and food safe receptacle. The organiser will supply limited basic glassware but competitors are advised to bring their own. Note, points are awarded for presentation. No brand name or logo other than the regular discrete mark of the glassware manufacturer should be visible (sponsoring brand excepted).

15. The organisers will supply frozen cubed ice (approx. 25ml/1inch square). For crushed ice, competitors are advised to bring their own Lewis bag and mallet or other crushing tools. Competitors may bring their own block ice, but the organisers cannot guarantee freezer space will be available to store ice.

16. Drinks may be served hot (with organiser's written consent), straight-up, or over cubed, cracked or crushed
ice (competitors will have to crush their own ice using their own tools within allotted presentation time).

17. Each competitor must present one cocktail to the photographer and at least four more cocktails for each of the judges to sample. Judges' sampling cocktails must be made to an identical specification to the photographer's cocktail but may be smaller in volume than the photographer's cocktail.

18. Competitors must be able to prepare drinks within a maximum of seven minutes but will additionally be given a further five minutes, prior to making their drink, to familiarise themselves with the bar area and prepare equipment and ingredients. Ten points will be deducted for every 30 seconds of over-run time from each judge's scoresheet.

19. Competitors serving drinks that appear inedible or working with unhygienic methods will be disqualified and their drinks discarded without being sampled.

20. Due to safety concerns, the use of fire and flames is prohibited.


21. Garnishes must be edible but may be mounted on sticks, skewers, straws, forks or other such common bar accessories. Use of edible fruits, herbs, leaves and spices may include sprigs, peels, barks, fruit shells etc. Any flowers and petals used must be of an edible variety.

22. Fruit for garnishes may be peeled in advance, but not sliced, wedged or pre-cut in any other way. Garnishes must be assembled within the five minute allotted drinks preparation time.


23. By entering this competition, competitors agree to assign copyright of their recipe and drink name to the competition organises.

24. Competitors and drinks presented during the competition may be photographed (still or video) by the organisers and copyright of these images for any use, including advertising, will be retained by the competition organisers.

Release of images

25. By entering this competition, you are giving permission and assigning license to use images photographed during the competition, both still and video to the organisers. You agree that images may be used in any media for any purpose which may include, advertising, promotion, marketing and packaging for any product or service. And that these images may be combined with other images, text and graphics, and cropped, altered or modified. This release is irrevocable, worldwide and perpetual.

Drink Names

26. Drink names including rude, lurid, sexual words, or words associated with narcotics or motor vehicles are prohibited.


27. Competitors are encouraged to talk to the judges while making their cocktails. Points will be awarded for general presentation and working methods.

28. The competition may be broadcast, recorded and rebroadcast so competitors using rude or swear words will be disqualified.

29. By entering this competition, competitors confirm they do not hold beliefs, nor have I expressed beliefs in public or private which contradict the stated values of the sponsoring brand.


30. The competition organisers reserve the right to have the final decision on any matter relating to the judging of the competition.

31. The competition organisers will appoint the panel of judges and reserve the right to replace or appoint new judges before or during the competition.

32. The judges must remain impartial and declare any vested interest they may have in the competition or competitors. They must judge each competitor on their competition presentation and drink alone.


33. While every reasonable effort will be made, the competition organisers cannot guarantee the safe return of glassware, equipment or any product supplied by a competitor. Therefore competitors are advised to house their tools and product in bags/boxes which enable them to efficiently gather and hold their equipment and ingredients immediately after competing.


34. Competitors considered by the organiser to be practising or promoting any form of irresponsible drinking, including 'shots' will be disqualified and may be asked to leave the venue.

35. Competitors must conduct themselves in a safe manner and any action considered by the organisers to endanger fellow competitors, judges or spectators will result in instant disqualification and possible ejection from the venue.

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