'This is potentially career defining': Vancouver to host national bartending championship

The World Class Canada bartending competition is having its national final at Vancouver Cocktail Week. | Canadian Cake Hospitality

Cocktail competitions can be intense affairs for both participants and spectators.

We're about to get a taste of the action thanks to the upcoming Vancouver Cocktail Week (VCW) festivities.

VCW's closing gala event (Mar. 11) at the Hotel Vancouver will have live music, 30 bar stations, and all the merriment you might expect from a prohibition-themed party. But it's also the setting for the final showdown of the World Class Canada bartending competition finals.

Hailing from across the country, 10 contestants will arrive to compete in a series of challenges that will test their skill and mettle.

The competitors, three of whom are from B.C., had to submit a five-ingredient recipe that was replicated by the judges in a blind tasting. Emily Vey of The Diamond, Harry Tham from Clive's Classic Cocktail Lounge in Victoria, and former nationals finalist Kate Chernoff secured spots and will be representing B.C.

"This is potentially career-defining for these bartenders," says Michael Armistead, spokesperson for Diego, the company organizing the competition.

How a bartending competition works

At the start of the Golden Era Cocktail Revival Gala, the group, who will have already completed six challenges, will be cut down to four. The final four will compete in a speed round where they must create two servings of four classic cocktails and one wild card, 10 drinks total, as fast as they can.

The final round in a cocktail competition is the most exciting to watch because of the pressure and prizes at stake, says Armistead, all in front of 500 people.

The winner will then be announced and must prepare to compete for the title Bartender of the Year at the world finals in San Paulo, Brazil. The top two will also be given a trip to the Kettle One distillery in Holland.

Vancouverite, Bartender of the Year winner, and TikTok star Kaitlyn Stewart is one of this year's judges; other former World Class winners will be flying in to host seminars and guest shifts throughout Cocktail Week.

VIP ticket holders for the Golden Era Cocktail Revival Gala will have the first hour to themselves with passed cocktails and canapés before general admission kicks in at 7 p.m. Those looking to make a night of the event can enjoy a special room rate at the Fairmont.

Anyone looking to get an early taste of the action can also buy tickets to the World Class Canada Cocktail Reception challenge (Mar. 9) at the Vancouver Club. The contestants will have to make a regular and non-alcoholic cocktail and guests can sample each and vote for their favourite. The winner will win the consumer's choice award.

Golden Era Cocktail Revival Gala

When: March 11, 2023, from 7–11 p.m. (6–7 p.m. for VIP hour)
Where: Pacific Ballroom, Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
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