Belfast Telegraph

How Robert Cooper aims to shake up the world of cocktails

By Amanda Poole

A Belfast barman has been left shaken but not stirred after he was selected to represent the UK in an international drinks competition.

Robert Cooper (26), who works at Love and Death Inc. in Belfast city centre, saw off competition from bartenders at the The Savoy and The Dorchester in London among others to take him to the final of the 14th Finlandia Vodka Cup.

Our man is one of 20 bartenders from all over the globe who will battle it out to win $25,000 and be crowned the world's greatest mixologist at the final of the annual competition in Helsinki on February 1. Robert said he was delighted to learn he will be given the chance to show the rest of the world what Belfast barmen are made of when he represents the UK in the international competition.

"I've been a bartender for eight years now and I have entered cocktail competitions before but never got past the initial stages," he explained.

"Recently I have been having healthy competitions with my co-workers at Love and Death Inc. and I guess the time and effort I've put in to compete against them has paid off."

Anne Street-based Love and Death Inc. is no stranger to award success.

It won Bacardi's Bartender of the Year at the 2011 Fate Awards; Cooley Whiskey's inaugural Kilbeggan Whiskey Cocktail Tender of the Year and the bar is also rated second in MSN's top ten coolest underground bars in the UK.

Neil Punwani, senior vice-president and managing director of Vodka at Brown-Forman said the Finlandia Vodka Cup is a celebration of all that is best about the creativity and skill of bartending.

"By bringing the winning bartenders to Finland we are also thanking bartenders everywhere for making Finlandia the success it is around the world," he added.

For cocktail fans out there, Robert recommends investing in a good cocktail shaker.

He explained ice, fresh fruit and a good measure of spirits is key to cocktail heaven and the rest comes down to individual imagination.

"Have fun with blending spirits, juices, fruit or herbs to make a cocktail," Robert added. "It's about trusting your training.

"By combining the simplest of proven techniques and processes together with a little determination and trial and error you can concoct something amazing."

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