How the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS Winners are Chosen  

Ever wondered just how the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS jury chooses the nominees and winners each year? Read on for a special inside look at the judging process.

Choosing the outstanding bars, bartenders, brand ambassadors, and bar products from such a competitive field is no easy task, but every year, our MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS jury comes through. With just a few short weeks to go before the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS 2018 winners are announced, we’re going to take you backstage to show you how the long list, the short list, and the winners are chosen.

Don’t forget, you can still buy tickets to this year’s MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS gala dinner.

The GSA Jury and the European Jury

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS last year, the award categories were expanded beyond Germany, Switzerland, and Austria (GSA), to include the entire European bar scene. It may sound like a simple enough change, but it led to the creation of two different juries: one to decide on the classic GSA categories, and a larger, more diverse jury to judge the four new European categories.19

Both juries are made up of bar industry professionals known for their experience and good judgement. It’s important that each jury member is independent, too – the first rule for jury members is that their own bars or brands are not eligible for awards while they are serving on the jury. This year, the GSA jury is made up of nine industry experts, led by jury chairman Erich Wassicek from Halbestadt Bar. Meanwhile, the European jury is nearly twice the size, with 17 members from 17 different countries, led by the great Salvatore Calabrese.

The Long List

Both juries follow the same process for choosing nominees. First, an advisory council of hundreds of bartenders, journalists, and other industry experts, give three nominations each for each of the categories.

It’s a way of making sure more obscure bars and bartenders aren’t overlooked, but the nomination process wasn’t always so collaborative. “We’ve gained a lot of experience over the years in how to organize the voting process,” says MIXOLOGY publisher, and MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS organizer, Helmut Adam. “In the early days, the jury decided on everything. But as the bar scene exploded, we realized we had to institute a broader decision making process,” he explains.

Once the advisory council votes have been tallied, the jury creates the long list of 10 nominees per award. They take into account the advisory council’s votes, but the jury members have the option to veto a nominee – this is usually done only if a popular nominee doesn’t qualify for the award they’ve been nominated for. Jury members can also add a wildcard nominee into the mix.

“When we introduced the advisory council, the jury members asked to have the right to vote wildcards into the long lists,” says Adam. He sees the wildcard system as another way to make sure the long list isn’t just filled with the most famous bartenders. But he’s quick to point out that the significance of wildcards shouldn’t be overstated. Even if a wildcard entry makes it onto the final long list, with all the subsequent rounds of voting, “there is absolutely no guarantee that a wildcard goes through all the way.”

The Short List

Once the long list has been decided, the jury’s real work begins. The GSA jury meets in person to debate the merits of each nominee. Being spread all over Europe, the European jury has to meet virtually, discussing the nominees over email and messages. The meetings are moderated by Helmut Adam, who is there to facilitate discussion and explain the categories, but not to vote. “It is such a pleasure to have all these excellent industry professionals in one place and talk and discuss the topic we’re all passionate about – the bar,” he says.

Adam is keen to get the European jury to meet in person in the future: “what we’re definitely looking at is to have a physical jury meeting for the European categories as we have it for the GSA regions.” Physical or virtual, the meetings end the same way, with a secret vote on each category to cut the ten nominees down to just five. Adam tallies the votes and organizes any necessary extra votes in the event of a tie. Once the final five nominees for each category are determined, the short list is published.

Once the short list is revealed to the judges, they immediately begin deliberating on the winners. Unlike in previous voting rounds, where judges select multiple names in preference order, this time each judge has just one single vote per category. The votes are made in secret, ensuring that not even the judges know results before the winners are announced at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS gala.

Looking to the Future

Although he won’t give anything away about this year’s winners, Adam is pleased with the geographic diversity of the nominees – the awards have come a long way in a short time. “When we started this format 11 years ago, you would rarely find a bar feature in consumer magazines and newspapers,” he says. Now, the awards give bars from all over Europe the chance to get wide recognition. “If you look at the long and short lists this year, you’ll notice a lot of bars from smaller German cities. As there are no major news organizations in these places, it’s a lot harder for them to get the word out,” says Adam.

As for the future of the awards, there are still improvements to be made, but Adam isn’t going to rush things: “our plan is to grow the European awards year by year. In a number of years we might have judges in all major regions and a couple of additional award categories.” Along with arranging face-to-face meetings for the European jury, Adam admits it would be best if the jury could visit every bar that’s been nominated. “In an ideal world they would. But it’d probably take the yearly turnover of our company to organize that,” he says with a smile.


Foto: Photo via Shutterstock.

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