Friday’s Rizza Umlas mixes & pours her way to the top of world bartending
John A. Magsaysay (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Female, has a flair for alcohol, and loves Friday’s. At first sight, it seems like Rizza Umlas is your average 21-year-old, making the most of her quarter life. But ask her to whip up five classic cocktails in less than four minutes and she can do it, with plenty of time to add you on Facebook. That type of skill comes in handy not only during happy hour, but can also bag the title of the youngest and first woman TGI Friday’s World Bartender champion.

“It’s so overwhelming that, until now, I still can’t believe it,” the TGI Friday’s Glorietta regular shared about her newfound glory, after realizing it last March 3 at the House of Blues in Dallas, Texas. “I didn’t really expect to win. I was so nervous.”

After topping both the championship’s compulsory and freestyle rounds, she left no room for the other 10 mixologists from TGI Friday’s bars around the world to take on the crown. “People may think that it’s not really that important. But as a Friday’s bartender, it’s a big thing,” she remarked.

Umlas had only been with the American-style diner franchise for a little over two years, where she started as a junior bartender. “I got into Friday’s Glorietta because there was a bartender there who judged me in a competition and offered me the job. I couldn’t accept it at first, because I was still studying. Then he offered it to me again, so I decided maybe I could be a working student. Luckily, my Friday’s Glorietta family supported me.”

Everything that led to her win was a twist of fate. Rizza was a Tourism student at the Lyceum of the Philippines University when she decided to pick a skill that wasn’t part of her regular syllabi. “There was a group of flair bartenders at school called Flair Bar Toppers who would usually join bartending competitions. At first, I only got into it because I used to have long breaks in school. But as I started seeing other girls doing flair-tending, I thought it was cool. I decided to try it out, and that’s how I got hooked.”

Women who can handle their drinks aren’t what we would call ideal, especially in our conservative country, and Rizza’s parents soon frowned upon her new skill. “At first, they didn’t like it because I’d usually get cuts and bruises during practice that my mom used to ask me to stop. But when I started competing, they became really supportive. Even when I competed at the World Bartending Championships, they were all watching it on the live stream.” The youngest of five considers her family her main inspiration, so much so that she gave all of her $10,000 winnings to her father, Roberto Umlas.

Her immediate family wasn’t the only ones glued to the competition but her TGI Friday’s family as well. “From the cleaning crew up to our CEO, they are all proud of me,” Rizza says. “I was actually constantly updating our CEO (Bistro Group’s William Stelton) on what’s happening in the competition. And they’re very happy, because after nine years, another Filipino won.” Now she joins 2007 winner Eric Martinez as the two greatest Filipino bartenders in the world.

“We always say that as a Friday’s bartender, you have to have passion, pride, and personality,” Rizza says. “You have to be proud of what you do, and I really am proud to be a Friday’s bartender since it is the type of company that gives all their support in making sure that you do your best.”



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