Australian entries for Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year 2021 will open on 1 February, with the competition returning after a forced hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19.

While the 2020 Global Finals were set to be held in Sydney, the city will now have to wait until 2022 to host the competition with 2021’s Global Finals moved to Madrid from 5 to 8 July.

The change allows for greater flexibility across timezones — a necessity for the adapted event, which will feature a unique multi-format set-up.

A number of scenarios have been designed to ensure the event is COVID-safe: if it’s deemed sage, bartenders could be competing in-person; if not, partially or fully virtual scenarios will see them competing from their own country. The final decision on which format will be adopted is set to be decided early in the new year.

“2020 has been a difficult year for everybody in the drinks industry, but it’s also been a catalyst for innovation, creativity and community,” said Global Head of Diageo World Class Simon Earley.

“We were determined to create a safe environment where we could recognise that and give people something to look forward to.

“It’s a genuine privilege for me to confirm the World Class Global Finals will​ ​take place next year. Our priority is the safety of our people and our bartenders so we’re delighted to be able to announce this unique multi-format World Class finals to safely celebrate the people taking drinks culture to new heights. Madrid is a fantastic city, full of culture and creativity and home to some of the best bars and bartenders in the world.

“Whatever the scenario, we will create something special and we will showcase and celebrate the very best of cocktail culture and the bartenders who make it happen.”

In 2021, bartenders will lodge their submissions via the Diageo Bar Academy portal before competing in a series of challenges where they use Reserve Brands to experiment with flavour, balance and creativity.

An interactive online masterclass on 20 January will provide provide bartenders with knowledge and inspiration, with the sessions recorded and available to view at leisure.

The Australian finals will be held in April at the end of the World Class Cocktail Festival, a seven day national program of experiences that celebrate the craft of cocktail making. The national winner will be crowned at a COVID-safe event on 26 April.

Prizes will be given at every stage of the competition.

Entries for the 2021 Australian competition are open from 1 February and can be submitted here.