An "elixir of love" brought Italy victory in Queenstown's annual cocktail world cup on Friday night.
About 300 vodka fans turned out to watch the best bartenders in the world shake it out for the Carnival of the Cocktail's top prize in a big top by Lake Hayes.
The Italians' winner lived up to the competition's "let's get weird" theme by marrying an unlikely selection of flavours - bitters, lavender, mint liqueur, passionfruit and black-pepper-infused vodka made by organisers 42 Below.
It was enough to beat the Kiwi team, who missed out on victory after finishing eight seconds over time.
Judge Jacob Brias said the winning drink was "more than the sum of its parts".
"It started fresh and fruity, then became drier and finished with fernet branca, which can taste like mouthwash if it isn't used carefully.
"The most important thing is taste, but a bartender must also be a showman and Italy had us in the palm of their hands."
There was only half a percentage point between Italy and the runners-up, the US.
It was a last minute comeback for the Italians, who were bottom of the table before the final round. Team member Danielle Dalla-Polla said:
"We didn't know what the judges wanted, but we wanted to win so we fought for it."
The New Zealand team presented a drink named "The Last Minute Cocktail" only to lose points for failing to meet the seven-minute time limit.
"It was quite an appropriate name in the end," said 23-year-old Hannah Waters, of Mea Culpa in Auckland's Ponsonby.
"We're a bit disappointed but we did our best."
Her team-mate Jonathan Almario, 20, of Wellington's Hawthorne Lounge, said the drink aimed to be "everything Kiwi" with ingenuity showing through in the black tea-infused vodka and freshly made passionfruit juice.
It also featured ice made from mineral water that had been boiled for purity.
The drink took only five minutes to make in the rehearsals, he added.
Contestants were selected in regional competitions held last year and competed in teams of three from Europe, west London, Australia, US, Scotland and New Zealand.
Points were given throughout the week in a series of challenges that included punch-making and matching vodka to food.
Celebrities on the final night included former Black Cap Dion Nash and models-turned- Playgirl journalists Jordan Monroe and Ashley Hobbs.