Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Some of Canada’s finest bartenders will battle for nation-wide cocktail-engineering supremacy in Toronto at the MadeWithLove competition. The upcoming final round of MadeWithLove will be held on May 25 at the Everleigh Club.
“This is the last event of our national tour. We’ve been touring across Canada for the past 12 months and we visited seven cities starting from the east coast in Halifax going all the way to Vancouver,” says director and founder Pierre-Olivier Trempe. “We select two finalists in each of those cities, so there are a total of 14 national finalists who will be competing for travels in all our partners distilleries all around the world.”
Cocktails will be judged on the criteria of originality, creativity and taste with People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice winners. Judges will look for passion, expert knowledge, distinct ingredients, and how competitors incorporate these elements in unique and delicious ways.
120 Bartenders Compete to Be No. 1
According to the press release, throughout the year and across the nation 120 bartenders vied for the coveted position of regional semi-finalists. Winning prizes include trips to Italy, Jamaica, Kentucky and Mexico. This year’s finale will pour a new theme into the mix called Cocktails Inspired by Art. Artists from graffiti crew Ready to Rock will provide eight pieces of art representing forms of hip-hop and street art to inspire 16 cocktail creations and will be in attendance to unveil their works.
Trempe says he has seen a huge push in tourism because of the competition, and says the competition has boosted interest in cocktails to new heights.
“Cocktail culture in Canada is booming everywhere, in every city,” says Trempe. “Even in Winnipeg, that had no cocktail culture two years ago now we have over 25 bartenders competing and 500 people attended the event last year.”
William Schifke, who is from Winnipeg and will be competing with his cocktail co-pilot Ravinder Singh, agrees with Trempe, saying that the “cocktail culture” was pretty much nonexistent until recently. But that’s changing.
“It is really nice to see the increased interest for well-made drinks. The scene is beginning to grow and I think people’s idea of what a ‘cocktail’ is has changed,” says Schifke. “That is the good part. I think Winnipeg still has a ways to go in respect to experimenting with different flavour profiles or using different ingredients.”
Cocktail Culture Growing In Winnipeg, Halifax
Another area of the country where the cocktail culture is booming is Halifax, a city known more for good beer than anything else. But mixologist and MadeWithLove competitor Matthew Boyle says things are changing on the east coast.
“Although Halifax has been labelled in the past as a beer city, it really is blossoming as a cocktail hub as well. With the groundbreaking work of the cocktail scene’s ‘godfathers,’ Jenner Cormier and Jeffrey Van Horne, we are birthing more and more mixologists every day,” says Boyle, who will be competing with Michael Hopper. “There is a real sense of community in the scene on Halifax, bartenders aren’t scared to share information and help people and I think that really has lifted the scene over the past couple of years.”
While other areas of the country may be experiencing a cocktail culture awakening, it’s nothing new in cities like Toronto and Montreal. For Dan Traveras, who will be representing the host city with his teammate Nick Incretolli, the competition cannot come soon enough.
“It took hard work and some proper planning to win the semi-finals. These are not competitions you train for like flair or speed challenges,” says Traveras. “MadeWithLove is about the competitor and their capabilities to create and share those creations in a interesting way. I think one of the most important things for me to bring home the national finals is that I’m honestly happy with my performance. I’m my hardest critic to impress. So if I can be confident in what I’m serving, then I have just as good a chance as the other 13 bartenders.”
MORE ABOUT MADEWITHLOVE
Vancouver: Matteo Caniglia and Mike Shum
Calgary: Graham Masters and Deanna Breland
Winnipeg: William Schifke and Ravinder Singh
Toronto: Nick Incretolli and Dan Tavares
Montreal: Jonathan Elbaz and Romain Cavelier
Quebec: Patrice Plante and Remy Bernard
Halifax: Michael Hopper and Matthew Boyle
Prizes: Winning prizes include of one of eight trips: Italy, offered by Campari; Jamaica, offered by Appleton; Kentucky, offered by Wild Turkey; and Mexico, offered by MadeWithLove.