Mixologists will gather in Queenstown today for a week of mixing madness, competing for the title of the world's best cocktail maker.

In what has become known as one of the most extreme contests of its kind - the 42Below World Cocktail Making Championships will begin by throwing contenders off a cable swing suspended 134 metres above an icy river.

Now in it's eighth year, teams of tenders from the US, UK, Italy, Australia and New Zealand will clash in the Lab Experiment-themed event. A multi-national Wild Card team will also participate and, for the first time, a hand-picked international team of pros - dubbed the Startenders - will shake things up.

"The Startenders team is going to add an extra level of spice, bringing back those bartenders with a proven track record, throwing them together and seeing if lightening can strike twice," said chief judge and 42Below vodka professor, Jacob Briars.


Joining Briars on the team of taste testers is former international bartender of the year, Briton Tony Conigliaro, Australian bartender Marco Faraone and Miami mixologist and former 42Below World Cocktail Champs winner, John Lermayer.

Mixers will be called to create their signature cocktail to be scored on taste, innovation and creativity.

Competing bartenders will spend the first half of the week in the snowy city attending seminars with titles like "How to Win (or at least, not suck) in Cocktail Competitions" and "Beyond Mere Mixology: Using Science, Senses and some rather Fancy Kit to Make the World's Most Interesting Drink". They'll also be pushed to the limits with various adrenalin-fueled fun that NZ is famous for.

They'll fly to Auckland on Thursday ahead of Friday night's finale.

Life & Style Editor Nicky Park will be on tour with the master mixologists. Follow her on Twitter.