Spanish barman wins world cocktail ‘Oscar’

David Ríos has become the first Spaniard to win the Diageo Reserve World Class Barman Competition, considered to be the 'Oscar of cocktails' and the biggest prize in mixology.

Spanish barman wins world cocktail 'Oscar'
The world's best mixologist will now star in a TV series and have his creations published in a book. Photo: Diageo

The laid-back Ríos overcame competition from 44 of the best barmen in the world to claim the prestigious title.

"My intention is not to drive the customer crazy," the mixologist said of his prize-winning approach.

"We have to make life easier, not complicate it."

Read about how one of Spain's favourite summer drinks, the kalimotxo, has taken New York by storm.

The 37-year-old Ríos was last man standing among the 15,000 hopefuls in 50 countries who entered the demanding contest.

This year's final, the sixth, took place on board the luxury Mediterranean cruise ship Azamara Journey.

Ríos owns and runs Café Kobuk in Barakaldo, in Spain's Basque Country, with his brother.

There, he serves up breakfasts,coffees, beer – and of course, cocktails.

He also works as a barman in Bilbao's "The Jigger Cocktail".

Ríos will be distracted from the café, and his plans to open a new establishment in Bilbao, as he embarks on a year-long global tour as ambassador for the Diageo Reserve brand.

He will also star in a TV show, to be aired in 100 countries, featuring the best moments of the competition.

On top of that, his cocktail creations will feature in a guide book to be published this month.

"I am thrilled and humbled," he said.

"I look forward to the year ahead, meeting my peers, educating new talent, and learning about new cocktail cultures and trends around the globe."

Diageo ambassador Spike Marchant felt that David's café experience had stood him in good stead, saying, "his creativity, technique and sense of hospitality make him an ideal ambassador for our industry."

Ríos told Spanish daily 20 Minutos that he got started "a little bit accidentally" when he was just 18 and the bar where he worked hosted a cocktail party.

Since then his trajectory has seen him work as a sommelier in Michelín 2-starred restaurant Mugaritz and as maître d' in Bilbao's Michelín-starred.Hotel Sheraton.

His title-winning creation, el Ponche de Oro Vasco ('Basque Gold Punch') was a technically demanding cocktail of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve whisky, pineapple juice, grenadine and soda, adorned with an orange slice, anise and mint.

"My creations are based on classic cocktail-making, but with some modern touches," explained Ríos.

David's relaxed approach even extends to his job title and he shrugs it off when people refer to the world's best mixologist as a waiter.

"They never mean it badly."

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Spain has second highest rate of daily alcohol drinkers in EU 

More than one in ten Spaniards drink alcohol every day, making them the Europeans who drink most regularly after the Portuguese, new Eurostat data reveals. 

Spain has second highest rate of daily alcohol drinkers in EU 
Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

Thirteen percent of people in Spain drink alcohol every day, a similar rate to Italy, where 12 percent enjoy a tipple on a daily basis, and only behind Portugal, where 20 percent of people have an alcoholic drink seven days a week.

That puts Spaniards above the EU average of 8.4 percent daily drinkers, data published by Eurostat in July 2021 reveals. 

This consistent alcoholic intake among Spaniards is far higher than in countries such as Sweden (1.8 percent daily drinkers), Poland (1.6 percent), Norway (1.4 percent), Estonia (1.3 percent) and Latvia (1.2 percent). 

However, the survey that looked at the frequency of alcohol consumption in people aged 15 and over shows that weekly and monthly drinking habits among Spaniards are more in line with European averages. 

A total of 22.9 percent of respondents from Spain said they drunk booze on a weekly basis, 18.3 percent every month, 12.5 percent less than once a month, and 33 percent haven’t had a drink ever or in the last year. 

Furthermore, another part of the study which looked at heavy episodic drinking found that Spaniards are the third least likely to get blind drunk, after Cypriots and Italians.

The Europeans who ingested more than 60 grammes of pure ethanol on a single occasion at least once a month in 2019 were Danes (37.8 percent), Romanians (35 percent), Luxembourgers (34.3 percent) and Germans (30.4 percent). 

The UK did not form part of the study but Ireland is included. 

Overall, Eurostat’s findings reflect how the Spanish habit of enjoying a glass of wine with a meal or a small beer (caña) outdoors with friends continues to be common daily practice, even though 13 percent does not make it prevalent. 

Spaniards’ tendency to drink in moderation also continues to prevail, even though a 2016 study by Danish pharmaceuticals company Lundbeck found that one in six people in the country still drinks too much.