Fiery contest for world's best bartender

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The Independent Online

Health and safety officials would have had a fit. Three-foot high flames and fireworks threatened to melt the glitter balls at home nightclub in Leicester Square, London, yesterday as 14 contestants competed for the coveted title of World Champion Bartender.

Health and safety officials would have had a fit. Three-foot high flames and fireworks threatened to melt the glitter balls at home nightclub in Leicester Square, London, yesterday as 14 contestants competed for the coveted title of World Champion Bartender.

Gone are the days when bartenders simply juggled bottles of spirits to impress customers. These guys (no women got through to the final, despite it being won by a Japanese woman last year) were willing to put their lives on the line.

First to dice with death was Karsten Sorensen of Denmark, who teased the crowd with two minutes of cocktail-shaker and bottle tossing, managing to drop them both periodically. Then came his pants routine, whereby he stuffed two cocktail shakers down the front of his trousers, leant over the table, and poured the contents into two melon halves. It is not clear whether anyone dared drink it.

He then took a swig from a glass, lit a taper stuffed into the neck of a bottle, and shot flames from his mouth, to the delight of the whooping crowd.

And in a final show of what literally turned out to be flare, he pushed his Afro-wig to one side and promptly lit his hair. But it was nothing new. Apparently Finland did it last year.

His five minutes were up, and after taking a photograph of the crowd he set off a glass full of fireworks. After frantic whispering at the back of the stage, the compere, Simon Evans, announced that the club had no licence for pyrotechnics and would the competitors kindly leave their lighters alone.

David Fisher, PR man for Beefeater Gin, which held the event, explained the root of the problem. "They're allowed sparklers," he hissed. "But if you translate that into some of the languages from the Eastern bloc countries, it means fireworks."

Next up was the UK's contestant, who, as tends to be the case these days when it comes to British representatives, turned out to be a foreigner. Rodolph Sorel, 23, who hails from Normandy and works in the Baroque Bar in Ealing, west London, walked on to the stage armed with nothing more dangerous than a basil plant and a punnet of strawberries.

Monsieur Sorel spent his allotted five minutes studiously preparing three cocktails, including one made of rose-flower jam, with the precision of a scientist. Though barely audible above the techno music, he explained with a chemistry-teacher-like passion for detail exactly what he was doing and why.

While the UK's effort failed to entertain the crowd, he won their hearts by producing such wonderful-looking cocktails that the compere was moved to try them, which at least meant that he shut up for a good two minutes.

Next up was Dosa Ivanov of Sweden, wearing a straw hat and a Chinese robe and carrying a wok. He made a tower of cocktail glasses, his hands shaking like a heroin addict's. His whole body trembled as he poured the turquoise contents of his wok into the top glass of the tower, its contents overflowing into those below.

More near-death experiences came courtesy of Kristian Kihlman of Norway, who ended his spot by setting the table alight. "Guys, no fire!" bleated the compere, before announcing that any further such incidents would result in disqualification. It was a good job. There weren't many tables left.

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