Credit: Clément Rebouillat, Highball

Wellington-based bartender Alex Vowles has won the Highball New Zealand Bartender of the Year competition.

Vowels, from Tory’s Street’s Hawthorn Lounge, took out the cocktail crown, with Dan Felsing from Crumpet in Wellington taking second place, and Andrea Marseglia from Piku in Hawke’s Bay coming in third.

The national bartending competition, which had been on hiatus since 2008, saw 28 competitors from Auckland to Wanaka, partake in a high intensity six-part tournament.

Bartenders were put through their paces with challenges such as a two-hour written exam, a blind whisky tasting and a cocktail-making round, inspired by lockdown, where bartenders made drinks with common ingredients found at home.

From there, 20 competitors were eventually whittled down to eight for the finals, where they made five cocktails in five minutes.

Alex Vowles, winner of Highball NZ Bartender of the Year, said the win was surreal after two days of gruelling, intensive competitive conditions.