On June 4, a competition pitted 11 local bartenders against one another across five rounds of challenges designed to prove mastery of a range of cocktail-making skills.
A panel of three judges rated each cocktail according to flavour, presentation and the mixologist’s technique behind the bar at the second annual Cocktail Throwdown at the Lizard Creek Lodge’s Cirque restaurant.
They were also scored by patrons who voted for their favourite drinks via text message.
The winner would have his or her name etched on the coveted Silver Shaker.
“I first put on this event because I am passionate about cocktails and the art of cocktail making and I saw room in Fernie for there to be more of it going on,” said Aileen Shipley, food and beverage manager at Cirque.
At the end of an afternoon of competition, Kane Hooson of Island Lake Lodge and Spencer Schey of The Northern were tied for first place.
A 7-year bartending veteran, Hooson has worked in hotels and restaurants all over Australia and Canada. He said he loves the tiki bar scene and working with tropical flavours.
Schey is a longtime bartender and fishing guide. He’ll be guiding throughout the summer but said he would be back behind the bar at The Northern next ski season.
For the tie-breaking round, the two bartenders were given ten minutes to make one last set of cocktails using Calvados, an apple brandy from the Normandy region of France, as the main ingredient.
The bartenders approached the final challenge with very different philosophies.
“When they said apple brandy, I immediately thought of Apple Jacks cereal and that’s where it went. Cinnamon and delicious,” said Schey.
“(Calvados) is a strong alcohol,” said Hooson. “Really good with cheese and grapes. I don’t know why
but my mind went to sorbet.”
Hooson used lemon and raspberry for the sorbet flavour and tried to make it summery using a raspberry crust on top with some tonic for a Collins style cocktail.
Judge Jill Rutherford said he had creating a cocktail that you would want to sip by the pool all day long.
“He is a very skilled bartender and that came through in all of his movements,” she said. “You didn’t necessarily taste all the alcohol that was in there. It was a dangerous cocktail in that way.”
She characterized Schey’s cocktail as being very “spirit forward.”
“There was not a lot of mix in it,” she said. “You really got the sensation of the different spirits that were in there. You knew that you were sipping hard alcohol and it was just really delicious.”
In the end, it came down to the personal preferences of the judges who voted two to one for Schey’s cocktail.
He will have his name etched onto the Silver Shaker, which will be on display at The Northern until next year.