Shaking up the scene at a top bartending show today, Cam Timmins says Kiwis have come a long way since the days when having a drink meant a pint of flat ale down at the local rugby club.
Timmins, 23, hopes to show off his skills when he takes on the country's best bartenders at the Restaurant & Bar show in Ellerslie today.
Contestants in the Bar Masters contest will do a written test, a signature cocktail served in a tall glass and a "twist on a classic".
"You'll be given a drink and you've got seven minutes on stage to twist it," Timmins explains. Those who impress will be back on stage tomorrow for more competitions.
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It's not easy making drinks that look as good as the whisky and grapefruit-based Son of Tom that Timmins is shaking up in the picture. His career started in less glamorous fashion - pouring pints in pubs five years ago.
Timmins, seen at Ponsonby's Mea Culpa bar, said Kiwi drinkers now had more colourful tastes, and were more engaged with different drink types. "Cocktails have piggybacked a little bit off the rise of fine dining and the New Zealand chef identity.
"People want to know what they're drinking, where it comes from, and they're willing to try new things."
Timmins should be bursting with fresh ideas after a dream trip to New Orleans last month for the Tales of the Cocktail festival. "It's the world summit for everything spirit and cocktail-related," he said. "If Bill Gates and Steve Jobs got together and said let's have the biggest party and conference in the coolest city and invite all the right people ... that's the equivalent for us in the liquor industry or cocktail business."
The Restaurant & Bar show is at the ASB Showgrounds on Green Lane West, today and tomorrow and is expected to attract 5000 hospitality workers.