Bar stars shine at Vancouver Cocktail Week

Some of the world’s biggest names and most influential experts will be in town for the festival, March 5 to 11

Some of the national and global bar stars who are attending Vancouver Cocktail Week, from left: Kaitlyn Stewart, Massimo Zitti, Jeff Savage, James Grant, Grant Sceney, Chris Enns. Canadian Cake Hospitality photo

A cocktail is more than spirits and mixers and a pretty garnish. Every glass is filled with history and knowledge, and served with a side of genuine hospitality in a convivial atmosphere.

In other words, cocktails are all about the people who make, serve and enjoy them. So we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome the national and international bar stars who are coming to Vancouver Cocktail Week presented by The Alchemist, March 5 to 11.

Among them are brand ambassadors, distillers and bartenders (including global and national champions), as well as the cross-country finalists for Diageo’s World Class Canada competition. They will be leading seminars, hosting events or maybe just sitting next to you at a Cinq à Sept one night. (Be sure to say hi!)

The very best way to mingle with these pros is to attend the Golden Era Cocktail Revival Gala March 11 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s glamorous Pacific ballroom. They all be there for the VIP hour, the speed round final of the World Class Canada championships and the announcement of Canada’s Bartender of the Year. And then, of course, they’ll stay on to enjoy the live music, dancing, fine food and 40 cocktail stations throughout the evening. (Get tickets here.)

Here are just some of the folks who will be in town for VCW 2023—and note that some other big names are expected to be announced soon!

Jenner Cormier: co-owner Bar Kismet, 2013 World Class Canada Bartender of the Year, Halifax.

Voula Delinis: brand ambassador, Diageo, Montreal.

Chris Enns: World Class Canada Bartender of the Year 2018, bartender Blue Water Café, Vancouver.

Simon Ford: founder, Fords Gin, Louisville, Kentucky.

James Grant: World Class Global Bartender of the Year 2021, Canada’s 100 Best Bartender of the Year 2022, director of mixology Fairmont Royal York, Toronto.

Robert (Bob) Gunther: president and CEO, Koloa Rum, Hawaii.

Dr. Dustin Herb: research geneticist and plant breeder, US Department of Agriculture, Lebanon, Oregon.

Takuya Ito: owner of the absinthe-and-whisky-focused Bar Tram and Bar Trench, Japan.

Frédérique Leblanc: brand ambassador, Diageo Reserve, Montreal.

Chris Mosey: Western Canada brand ambassador, Flor de Caña Rum, Vancouver. Originally from Liverpool and previously bar manager at Brix & Mortar.

Karl Mudzamba: rugby union star and co-founder of BIRA! Rum, South Africa and Canada.

Shane Mulvaney: World Class Canada Bartender of the Year 2016, on-premise educator at Enthuse Marketing Group, previously bartender at Alo, Dante and The Dead Rabbit, Brooklyn.

James Neil: Canada’s World Whisk(e)y Ambassador, Beam Suntory (Bowmore, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Auchentoshan, Kilbeggan), Hamilton.

Johnny Neill: eighth-generation distiller and founder of Whitley Neill Gin, London, U.K.

Ben Rojo: brand ambassador, Don Papa Rum, Los Angeles. Previously, senior bartender at Angel’s Share, opening bar manager at George Washington Bar at the Freehand NY, founder of Black Emperor.

Jim Romdall: Northwest Manager of Maison Ferrand. He is one of the founders of the Washington Bartenders Guild, a ten time judge at the world’s largest spirits competition and previous manager and owner of some of the most well-regarded cocktail bars in the U.S.

Samia Sharnobi: brand ambassador, Diageo Reserve, Quebec.

Jeff Savage: lead bartender, Botanist, World Class Canada Bartender of the Year (No. 2 globally) 2019, Vancouver.

Grant Sceney: creative beverage director, Fairmont Pacific Rim, World Class Canada Bartender of the Year 2014, Vancouver.

Priya Shah: senior brand manager, Campari, Toronto.

Benjamin Sheffield: sommelier and brand ambassador, Scrappy’s Bitters, Seattle.

Kaitlyn Stewart: beverage consultant, curator and educator @likeablecocktails, World Class Global Bartender of the Year 2017, Vancouver.

Dennis Tamse: global relationships director, Nolet Distillery and Ketel One Vodka, Netherlands.

Rogerio Igarashi Vaz: partner and bar manager of whisky-and-absinthe-focused Bar Trench, Tokyo, Japan.

Christina Veira: general manager of Bar Mordecai (No. 47 on North America’s 50 Best Bars), director of programming for Toronto Cocktail Week, bar and beverage curator for Restaurants Canada, national coordinator for Speed Rack, Roku Industry Icon 2022, Toronto. [Disaronno]

Mitch Wilson: global brand ambassador, Black Tot Rum, Netherlands.

Massimo Zitti: World Class Canada Bartender of the Year 2022 (No. 5 globally), co-owner Mother Cocktail Bar (No. 38 on North America’s 50 Best Bars), Toronto.

For information and tickets, go to 

—by Joanne Sasvari

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