USBG Goes to Finland

Las Vegas bartender Patricia Richards is heading back to the Arctic Circle for a second time to compete against the world’s most elite bartenders in the 13th Annual International Finlandia Vodka Cup Finals to be held in the Lainio Snow Village SnowHotel in Finland on Feb. 2.

Patricia Richards, for the second year in a row, won the right to represent the U.S. during the Finlandia Qualifying round held in Las Vegas on Dec. 20. Last year, Richards placed fourth overall in the International Finlandia Vodka Cup, the best U.S. finish in the history of the competition.

“It is very exciting to be taking Ms. Richards back to Finland to compete in the Finals,” says Nick Nelson, U.S. brand manager for Finlandia Vodka. “Her top-five finish last year was the best the U.S. has ever done in the Finals, and we have high hopes she will win this year.”

To compete in the qualifier, U.S. bartenders had to submit drink recipes online to the United States Bartender’s Guild for an aperitif and long drink. The submissions were reviewed by a panel of judges that included members of the USBG, Finlandia Vodka and Tony Abou-Ganim, world-renowned mixologist and USBG National Ambassador, and narrowed to the top-ten competitors. The panel then recreated the drinks of the top competitors and scored each on the aroma, appearance and taste. Once the points from each separate drink category were tallied, Richards once again prevailed.

Richards will now compete against 33 bartenders from around the globe based on the art, style and craft of their original Finlandia cocktails and the final category of the contest, the “Quick Mix”, an Iron Chef-style category. In the “Quick Mix”, bartenders must create a recipe based on mystery ingredients within 10 minutes. This category tests the skills of even the best mixologist.

To practice for the Quick Mix, Richards will attend a refresher training with Tony Abou-Ganim in Vegas in January. “Patricia is a very talented mixologist who continually rises to the top,” says Abou-Ganim. “She demonstrated her abilities last year with her fourth place finish in the Finals. I am sure she will once again represent herself, the USBG, and all U.S. bartenders well in the finals and hopefully will bring home the Cup to the U.S. this year.”

Besides the competition, Finlandia Vodka will once again host a special session of Finnishing School, a program taught to elevate the bartending vocation by providing an unbiased approach to mixology. Finlandia’s Global Ambassadors and the Soulshakers, representing three of the United Kingdom’s most respected and renowned drink consultants, will lead the session covering: An irreverent and illustrated history of vodka; In-depth breakdown of the process of distillation, fermentation and filtration; blind tasting with tips to help identify ingredients used in making; the scientific approach to bartending; instruction on taste and balance; and lastly, real concepts that influence every drink. Moreover, each competitor will have the opportunity to enjoy uniquely Finnish experiences such as dog and reindeer sledding. And, of course, participants will enjoy local foods like reindeer and fresh smoked salmon served with specialty Finlandia cocktails. Good luck to Patricia Richards in the 13th International Finlandia Vodka Cup Finals!

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