Made with liquor and love

Photo courtesy of Paul Alberts.

Having never been to a mixology competition before, I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Vancouver finals of Made with Love. What I didn’t expect was a trade show style set up and voting with dog tags. I pictured a stage, set up almost like a cooking show, with mixologists creating fancy drinks while they or a commentator explained what they were doing and why the ingredients would work well together. Then samples of the drink would be passed around. What I had imagined was much more entertaining than the reality.

We were greeted with a drink of Campari and Red Bull Yellow before entering a large conference room at the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel, which was lined with tables against three walls and tall cocktail reception tables scattered in the centre. Upon entering the event it wasn’t clear where to begin or how one would vote for their favourite drink. Eventually an emcee made a barely audible announcement explaining the purpose of our dog tags — we were supposed to give them to the creator of our favourite drink. Then the dance music began.

Each mixologist had quite an elaborate set up at their table as they tried to create an entertaining experience while making their drink for you. One table featured men in togas making “Aphrodite’s Milk” (it was just gin and greek yogurt – gross unless you like the taste of straight gin). Another table attempted to bring the beach indoors by having you stand in a sandbox while your drink was being made. Their rum based drink did have a taste of the Caribbean and wasn’t bad, although it was very strong.

The lack of variety of the liquors used in the drinks was a bit disappointing. The mixologists were sponsored by a few select brands: Campari, Hendrick’s Gin, 1800 Tequila, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Disaronno, Skyy Vodka, Wild Turkey Bourbon, and Appleton Rum.

Some of the tables had a canapé paired with their drink, which was a nice addition. My favourite by far was a chocolate gelato paired with a vodka-based drink infused with rosewater. Both were delicious. Other than that drink, I was hard pressed to find one that didn’t make me shudder on first sip from the sheer alcohol content.

Another table that deserves praise for their performance element was a Campari table set up like an old Parisian carnival. There was a ring toss, popcorn, and a mixologist with sparkly make-up making a whisky ice cream float. The ice cream was delicious, but after that ran out the rest of the drink was quite bitter.

Even though I struggled to find a good drink, I was entertained by the interesting people wandering around the room, and now I know I can stick to my good old Long Island iced tea.

14 of Vancouver’s best barchefs presented their creations, and here are the winners:

Public’s choice:
#1 Adrian Lindner, Beach Bay Café
#2 Stephen Tufts, Dickie’s Ginger Beer
#3 Frank Palter, Fairmont Waterfront

Judges’ Choice:
#1 Tyler Williamson, Fairmont Pacific Rim
#2 Adrian Lindner, Beach Bay Café
#3 Frank Palter, Fairmont Waterfront