If you haven’t heard of international cocktail contest phenomenon It’s a Rematch!!! Beeyatch!!! (note the required six exclamation points), then chances are you aren’t a mixologist working in New York, New Orleans or London. That’s OK, I’m not either. I first heard about Rematch last February as they were tossing around dates for their first New York “heat.” It was being co-hosted by Giuseppe Gonzalez and Rematch co-founder, Paul Mant, a bartender from London I had not yet heard of.
I was mostly curious why would all of these serious bartenders (Sasha Petraske, Phil Ward, Kenta Goto) would be involved in a cocktail throw down at 14th Street dive Otto’s Shrunken Head. And who was this Paul Mant guy? So I had to go.
At its core, Rematch is a speed tiki cocktail contest where each competitor must make 10 drinks under three minutes. The winner is determined partly by who finishes with the best time, combined with the best tasting drinks.
The rules are always the same, each competitor must make two daiquiris and one of each the following: Caipirinha, mojito, pina colada, zombie, cuba libre, planter’s punch, mai tai and finally open a beer. That’s the core. In its outer layers, however, it’s a legendary hours-long boozefest that is either the most fun you can’t remember having, or an absolute shit show. Or both. I must have liked it; I went back for another round in New Orleans after Tales of the Cocktail.
On a recent trip to London, as I was stumbling from pub to pub in search of proper boozers, it occurred to me that it would be fun to sit down and talk to Paul Mant about how Rematch came about. Three pints in to my evening I sent a Facebook message to Giuseppe Gonzalez in New York and asked, “What’s Paul’s cell phone number?” Forty-five minutes later we were cozied up to a counter at El Camion, a Mexican joint in Soho.
How did the whole crazy idea of Rematch get started?
It was five years ago during the whole Rum Renaissance at the first Tiki Off. I was working at Mahiki and Tim Stones was working at Trailer Happiness and we were outside afterwards talking smack about who would have beaten who and we said it right there: “It’s a rematch…bee-yatch!” Initially it was five bartenders and about 20 of our friends at Trailer Happiness. And history was made. I love the kind of Fight Club-esque idea behind it. It’s all word of mouth. First Nick Van Tiel took it to Sydney, and now it’s in all five states in Australia. There are Rematches in Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Vancouver…
New York, New Orleans…
Basically, it’s a thinly veiled excuse for a massive piss up. I like to say that it’s a non-profit making disorganization. The only basic rule is no sponsors and the same round. Someone in Sydney just set a new Rematch “world record.” They finished their round in 2 minutes and 6 seconds.
How did you get it over to the States?
I met Giuseppe for the first time in 2010 at Tales of the Cocktail and he helped host the first one in New York. Along with Claire Smith (from Belevedere). But it doesn’t make any money and it takes a lot of work! Tim Stones got a job with Beefeater and can’t be involved as he was. So other people have gotten involved and organize them and then I show up and shout.
Where do you want to do the next one?
I’d like to bring it back to Tales for the 10th Anniversary. I would love to do it at Alibi. It’s one of my favorite bars in the world. That would be the ultimate place.
How did you end up on the path of professional, career bartender?
Well, I was thrown out of college. I was studying economics. I took a very relaxed approach to studying, and did very well and that infuriated people even more. My dad finally said, “If you don’t get a job, you’d better find a place to live.” I had a job at a golf club behind the bar, and I turned that from part-time into fulltime. A guy there owned a club and asked me to come work for him. I worked at The Lab in London for awhile. I moved to Antigua. And then six or seven years ago I started at Mahiki, and became head barman there. And I just left Quo Vadis. we were nominated for Best Bar at Tales of the Cocktail two years in a row.
Why do you think you’re a good bartender? What do you think are the secrets of being a good bartender?
There are so many people who know more than me! I spend a lot of time teaching people to be nice and charming. Some people take it too seriously. Like they think they’re curing cancer selling carcinogenic products. Or they’re doing you a favor by serving you a drink