Exclusive: UKBG takeover promises revolution

The UKBG has been turned on its head by the appointment of an all-star team that includes bartending legend Peter Dorelli, Declan McGurk of the American Bar and Mia Johansson of Swift.

With former president Luca Cordiglieri and vice president Michael Sweetman departed, the United Kingdom Bartenders' Guild was in danger of becoming a defunct opperation earlier this year. “It almost disappeared,” Dorelli told Drinks International. “But the new team will start a revolution.”

The trio of UK bar-stars will work under new president Salvatore Damiano with a remit to raise the profile of the UKBG and to make the body relevant among grassroots bartenders.  

Dorelli, who has been a driving force behind the UKBG’s reincarnation, will now take on an ambassadorial role. He told DI he hopes to change perceptions of a body that has been criticised for losing touch.

Dorelli said: “Through this new role I will bring passion, enthusiasm, a fresh sense of unity and a clear vision for the future of the UK bartending community. There are no obstacles to what we can achieve – we can do anything we want.”

At the heart of the new UKBG will be a bartender education programme and new brand-neutral cocktail competitions which will aim to find and promote new talent in the industry.

McGurk, who has been named vice president of the UKBG, told DI: “Peter wants to create something new and sweep everything aside. I don’t really have the time for this role – but you can’t say no to Peter. But I also see a big opportunity that the UKBG has missed up to now. In my new role I won’t hold back my opinions and I believe I can help make it relevant again.”

Though the plan is to gain traction across the UK, the new team will look to “make the UKBG strong in London first”.

McGurk added: “The bartending industry needs a neutral organisation that will truly reflect the UK's bar scene and I believe that UKBG has the potential to fill this role on a national scale, and not just in London, with innovative educational programs and competitions reflective of the world’s most popular challenges.”

The UKBG's new flagship bartender competition will aim to offer an alternative to the big brand competitions that have dominated the landscape in recent years. “The national winner will be taken up and down the country for a year promoting his or her cocktail – I want to change the winner’s life,” Dorelli told DI.

Johansson, who becomes the UKBG’s Chair of London, said: “I am looking forward to taking the UKBG to a new level that will encourage the next generation to take part in an unbiased program that holds incredible opportunities. In my new role, I see myself as an ear to the ground and I am looking forward to help create a new UKBG that appeals to the current and growing trends.”

The UKBG will receive logistics and marketing support from UK drinks agency Italspirits, which is owned by Giuseppe Gallo.

Bartenders can join the UKBG here.