Perfect Serve 2016

Ichi-go, Ichi-e

“One moment, one encounter.” The Japanese Ichi-go Ichi-e philosophy is the guiding principle behind the Nikka Perfect Serve bartending competition. Every encounter is unique and can never be repeated, and so we must give our very best at all times.

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Focus on the Guest

Unlike other bartending competitions, The Nikka Perfect Serve encourages bartenders to place the guest at the heart of the bar experience.

Bartenders must be attentive and aware of their guest’s presence, state of mind, and palate in order to offer the most suitable service and cocktail at that specific moment. The process is as important as the cocktail itself.


As in previous years, the contest will continue to focus on omakase: “I leave it to you.” Judges playing the roles of indecisive customers will act as different characters, and ask the bartender to improvise a bespoke Nikka cocktail or whisky serve.

Experienced bartenders will have a large repertoire of cocktail recipes in mind at all times, and will be able to choose, twist and adapt them to serve the most appropriate Nikka Whisky cocktail for each situation played out by the judges.

Back to the Basics

The 2016 edition will add an extra challenge, by asking participants to limit their cocktail recipes to the essential ingredients available at most bars. Without relying on rare or homemade ingredients, or special glassware, bartenders will have to draw only on their knowledge, skill and experience to act spontaneously and create a truly magical moment.

Because tending bar is really about tending to humans with hospitableness, and establishing a memorable, authentic interaction.


  • For 15 minutes, you will be a bartender to 3 judges at the same time, as if in a real bar situation.
  • Judges will play the roles of guests and act out different scenarios.
  • The first two judges will ask you to prepare a Nikka cocktail (one cocktail each), which you should improvise based on the role they are playing. These can be classic cocktails, originals or twists, based on ingredients available at the hosting bar, and one of the following Nikka Whiskies:
    • Nikka From the Barrel
    • Nikka Coffey Grain
    • Nikka Coffey Malt
    • Yoichi Single Malt
    • Miyagikyo Single Malt
  • The third judge will ask you to serve him/her a whisky, which you should choose for them from the 5 available Nikka based on the role they are playing, and served in the most appropriate way (straight, rocks, etc.).
  • Only common bar ingredients will be available. Participants may not bring their own bottles, homemade ingredients or glassware. All you need are your bar tools.
  • Judges will score participants based on the entire experience: service, hospitableness, attention to detail, product knowledge, as well as the choice of and quality of the cocktails.

Note: The selection of whiskies may vary depending on market availability.

Training Sessions with Stan Vadrna

Stanislav Vadrna, Nikka Whisky EU Ambassador, will hold a “Keep the Focus. Hold the Vision. Trust the Process” presentation in each participating country several weeks before the contest, and will introduce the contest, and the omakase concept so that you may prepare for the contest accordingly. Please contact your local Nikka Whisky distributor for dates.

The Prize

The winner of the local contests will represent their country in the European finals on November 28th 2016. The winner and runner up of the finals will be invited on a trip to Japan to experience the Tokyo bar scene and visit the Nikka distilleries: Yoichi and Miyagikyo!

10 European Cities

  • France – Marseille, April 25th (registrations closed)
  • UK – London, July 11th (registrations closed)
  • Sweden, Norway, Finland & Denmark – Stockholm, Sept. 7th (registrations closed)
  • Poland – Warsaw, Sept. 13th (registrations closed)
  • Italy – Milan, Sept. 19th (registrations closed)
  • Czech Rep., Slovakia & Hungary – Prague, Sept. 21st
  • Portugal – Lisbon, Oct. 17th
  • Spain – Madrid, Oct. 19th
  • Germany & Austria – Hamburg, Oct. 24th
  • Greece – Athens, Nov. 1st
  • EUROPEAN FINALS – Italy, Nov. 28th

Sign up

Simply fill in the signup sheet below at least 2 weeks before the contest date (contact your Nikka distributor for details). Only 10 bartenders will be selected to participate in each competition. The original cocktail recipe (no more than 4 standard ingredients to demonstrate your mixology skills) and answer to the scenario situation (to demonstrate your understanding of the omakase concept) will be the basis for this selection. The contest will be held in English.

Who can participate:
Professional bartenders of any nationality currently employed in the country where the competition is held. Are not elegible:
-Employees of Nikka Whisky or Nikka Whisky’s distributors.
-All those who have already participated in the Nikka Whisky Japan trip in the past.

Original Cocktail Recipe
based on Nikka Whisky with no more than 3 other ingredients, all of which should be commonly available at a well-stocked cocktail bar (no home-made or rare ingredients).

Omakase Cocktail
What Nikka-based classic cocktail or twist would you serve to a guest who usually enjoys single malts, but would like to try a whisky cocktail, and WHY?

This situation will not be among the roles played out by the judges the day of the contest. It is simply used to test your understanding of the Omakase concept

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