Front of the class

From East and West, bartenders move on to the regional finals of the Diageo World Class competition

Chris Enns, bartender at Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, is the World Class Canada Bartender of the Year 2018. Photo courtesy of Diageo World Class Canada

Since the beginning of January, Canada’s bartenders have been perfecting their recipes, practising their techniques and preparing for their moment in the spotlight at the Diageo World Class Canada cocktail competition.

On March 1, 13 bartenders from Eastern Canada and 13 from the West made it through to the Regional Finals, which will be held in Toronto and Calgary in late March. From there, five winners from East and West will go on to the National Final in June. The winner of that event will compete in the global final of the world’s biggest, most prestigious bartending competition, which will be held in Glasgow at the end of September.

“The idea of each step of the competition is to set the competitors up for the next level,” says Michael Armistead, who oversees the Diageo World Class Canada Bartending Competition as the National On-Premise, Reserve and Sponsorship Manager for Diageo.

“The submissions to this year’s competition were a really high standard and it’s amazing to see places like Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon be represented in the Regional Finals,” he adds. “The level of creativity is high and there are some really interesting ideas coming through. The focus seems to be on Bulleit Bourbon, Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, Don Julio Tequila and Ron Zacapa Rum.”

When Diageo World Class was first held in 2009, it was a UK bartending competition featuring the spirits company’s Reserve Brands: Ketel One Vodka, Cîroc Ultra Premium Vodka, Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, Don Julio Tequila, Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky, Bulleit Bourbon and Ron Zacapa Rum. In the 11 years since, the Reserve Portfolio spirits have remained the backbone of World Class, but the competition has grown dramatically. Last year, thousands of bartenders from 58 countries competed, making the winner truly the global Bartender of the Year.

Diageo Reserve World Class Canada winners since 2013, from left: Lauren Mote, Jenner Cormier, Grant Sceney, Kaitlyn Stewart (Global Bartender of the Year 2017), Chris Enns and Shane Mulvany. Photo courtesy of Diageo World Class Canada

“World Class tests every aspect of bartending skill,” Armistead says. And, he notes, “At the Global Final, Canada has consistently placed in the top 10 or 12 in the world. People have noticed and are now saying, ‘What’s going on in Canada?’ And they’re making a point of coming to see the Canadian compete.”

Part of the reason for Canada’s strength on the world stage is that all the previous winners are still working with World Class. Vancouver’s Lauren Mote, who won World Class Canada in 2016, is now Diageo’s Global Cocktailian, but Halifax’s Jenner Cormier, Toronto’s Shane Mulvany and Vancouver’s Grant Sceney, Chris Enns and Kaitlyn Stewart (2017’s global winner), are also actively involved in coaching, mentoring as well as judging during the competition.

“I spend all year trying to figure out how we can do it bigger and better next year and somehow we seem to manage that,” Armistead says. “This year we are taking the competition to a new level. The National Final, in particular, is going to be a lot of fun.” You can find out more about how the 2019 Competition goes, including the National Final, in the next issue of The Alchemist!

See the full list of Diageo World Class Canada regional finalists here.

Diageo World Class Canada,

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