By Sacha Delfosse

Sydney's cocktail connoisseurs headed to The Loft on November 8 to help decide the winner of this year's Suntory Cup finals.

Suntory Australia changed the concept for the finals this year, moving away from a strictly trade event and invited members of the public to come along to sample and judge the signature cocktails of the finalists.

Guests voted for who they considered the most engaging host with the best cocktail by dropping 'tip chips' into the jar of the competing bartenders, who were selected following a gruelling round of preliminary judging and state finals.

Paul Neyland (pictured, centre) won the crowd's vote, and the national title, with his cocktail Pauly's Paradise, earning himself a trip to France to visit distilleries and Paris's best cocktail bars with $1,000 spending money.

Second place went to Gem Cherrie (pictured, left) and her Zen Iced Tea Margarita, with James Bator (pictured, right) and his Lemon Melon Kicker taking the third spot.

"We're thrilled with the launch of the inaugural 'Cocktail Connoisseur' event," Club Suntory's Nigel Weisbaum says.

"This is the first time that Suntory has opened up judging of our annual Suntory Cup competition to discerning cocktail drinking members of the public. Pauly's Paradise was a clear crowd favourite on the night, although his competitors put on a fine show."

The Shout Team

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