As the clock struck 10 p.m., the bar lights dimmed, country music blasted over the loudspeakers and the crowd of students started pouring in as graphic communication senior Nicole Cullop and kinesiology senior Adele Looper warmed up their wrists to pour drinks. Dressed in cupid outfits with printed cut-outs of Malibu Rum, their job for the night was not exactly shooting love arrows and playing matchmaker, however. These students were playing a different character that night — fantasy bartenders.
Fantasy bartending is a competition hosted by Bull’s Tavern in downtown San Luis Obispo where students can sign up to try their hand at bartending in a multi-round competition that takes place throughout the quarter.
“We’re both pretty competitive, and it’ll honestly boost our ego,” Cullop said.
After finding the inspiration to join the competition, the duo decided that not only do they want to compete for the fun of the competition, but they want to win.
“One of our friends signed up previously last quarter, so I found on Instagram that they were doing it, and so we decided to do it,” Looper said.
There are 24 teams, 48 students total, who participate in the competition. In each round, two teams act as bartenders and go head to head for the night. The winners are decided based on total sales, including tips. Those who want to support their friends but cannot attend the competition are also allowed to Venmo their friends to contribute to their total sales.
Each competition takes place on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Each night there is a special drink in which the competing teams receive extra points on top of their total sales. For Cullop and Looper, their drink of the night was Malibu Rum.
The winners of the competition get their names on a plaque and bragging rights, Bull’s Tavern managers wrote in an email to Mustang News. According to Cullop and Looper, the bar also hosts an open bar party for them and their friends as a reward for winning the competition.
Each competition begins with a 15-minute training session where the fantasy bartenders are taught how to pour alcohol based on the various cup sizes.
“You’re kind of just expected to know how to make drinks and what the prices are,” Cullop said. “I feel like we go downtown enough — we already kind of know how to make drinks. It’s up to your artistic ability.”
Fantasy bartenders are not completely left to fend for themselves. Throughout the competition, they are paired with an actual Bull’s Tavern bartender who trains and supervises them. Each fantasy bartender also has to agree to be “sportsmanlike and behave in a mature manner,” Bull’s Tavern managers also wrote in the email.
Aside from the fun of being a fantasy bartender, Cullop said competing is actually really stressful.
“All day [before the competition] I’m anxious,” Cullop said.
The first round of the competition for the duo took place Monday, Jan. 21, where they dressed in green full bodysuits, as four leaf clovers. After making it to the second round, they learned they would be competing Tuesday, Feb. 12.
“I feel like this time is going to be harder because it’s Pint Night, so there’s going to be a lot more people,” Looper said.
By the end of the night, their hard work and newly-acquired bartending skills had paid off. After making it past the quarter finals, Cullop and Looper are preparing for the final round of competition March 12.