World Class Canada invites the planet

The competition puts on the glitz to attract the global final

Previous winners of World Class Canada celebrate the country’s newest Bartender of the Year, Toronto’s Massimo Zitti. Photos courtesy of World Class Canada

World Class Canada is back,” says Michael Armistead. Is it ever.

After two years of cancelled, postponed and virtual events, competitors and judges gathered in early May at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal for what was more than a festival that crowned Toronto’s Massimo Zitti World Class Canada Bartender of the Year 2022. It was an invitation to the world to make Canada the destination for next year’s global final.

“Our goal this year was to put on a global final standard operation, to show the world that Canada can host a global final. And that is our ambition,” says Armistead, who oversees the Diageo World Class Canada Bartending Competition as National On-Premise, Reserve and Sponsorship Manager. “After a tough two years, we wanted this year’s event to showcase what being back to normal looks like—and to show that Canada really, really deserves to host the global final in 2023, Canada’s 10th anniversary in the competition.”

And why not? Since joining the competition in 2013, Canada has placed in the top 12 almost every year it has competed and has twice taken home the top prize. (Vancouver’s Kaitlyn Stewart was named World’s Best Bartender in 2017 and Edmonton’s James Grant in 2021.)

But Armistead knows that alone isn’t enough to entice the organizers to Canada, so he pulled out the big guns: two surprise judges, Agostino Perrone, director of mixology at London’s Connaught Bar, World’s Best Bar in 2020 and 2021; and the actor, cocktail aficionado and Tanqueray No. Ten Global Partner Stanley Tucci. 

They joined the other judges: craft cocktail pioneer and Speed Rack founder Lynnette Marrero along with Stewart, Grant and the other previous World Class Canada winners Grant Sceney, Shane Mulvany, Chris Enns and 2019 global runner-up Jeff Savage.

At the national competition in Montreal, regional finalists used Diageo’s reserve products in a series of demanding challenges, including the final speed round.

The World Class Cocktail Festival in Montreal, which ran April 27 to May 5, included pop-up events, brand seminars and, of course, the competition, which involved six unique challenges, including a garden party featuring low- and no-alcohol cocktails as well as the final challenge, “Break the Bank,” a speed round held at the opulent Crew Collective & Café. 

From the original 10 regional winners—Dylan Brentwood and Keegan McGregor from Nova Scotia; Jason McNeely, Jessica Mili and Massimo Zitti from Ontario; David Draper, Sam Clark and Teneille Whyte from Alberta; and B.C.’s Kate Chernoff and Matthew Hassen—Clark, Zitti, Chernoff and Mili made it through to the final, with Zitti, co-owner of Mother Cocktail Bar, taking home the national title. He will compete globally in Sydney, Australia, September 10 to 15.

And who knows? Perhaps next year’s winner will be able to compete right here at home. 

Diageo World Class Canada,

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