We drank, we tasted, and we voted!

On Monday December 15th, myself and the BandMark team had the pleasure of attending the Montreal finals for the Made With Love Mixology competition. It was cold and snowy, but a perfect way to bring  2014 to a close.

Made with Love is a Mixology competition dedicated to exposing the artistic talent of the everyday barman. Had you read my preview article, you would come to learn that Montreal is the home of this successful, reoccurring event. Montreal bred Pierre Olivier Trempe, who is also the co-creator of Semaine D’Invasion du Cocktail, is the curator behind this amazing competition. Being a barman himself back in his day and an alcohol connoisseur by nature, Pierre created an opportunity for barmen and drink makers of all kinds to showcase their individual skill and their ability to master the craft of Mixology. What started out as a simple idea to help give visibility to the industry he loves, has turned into a national and international competition, going as far as Mexico, and has catered to hundreds of Mixologists in more than 50 events since 2009.

This time around, the top finalist, whom will be moving on to the Spring 2015 finals in Toronto is Romain Cavelier of Henri saint Henri. Romain has been submerged in the cocktail culture for the past 10 years now. It is refreshing to see someone so certain of their passion and pursuing it with such great success. Without passion, ambition is nothing.

Romain has proved that his love for spirits has paid off. And ain’t no bullshit, his love for alcohol and spirits is obvious and he def doesn’t hide it. After working 10 years in the industry doing it all from busboy to dishwasher, he knew he would end him up right where he is today; behind the bar as an established barman. I swear, for as much as I love alcohol, it boggles my mind how I never ended up behind the bar myself.

It was about 3 years in to his career that he became seriously inspired by a barman he met and ever since then has been developing his skill.

The cocktail culture is something that has been developing at a rapid pace over the past decade. It is a traditional, social ideal that has been revolutionized by the modern world and has quickly become a top trending factor in the food and beverage industries, especially with the rise in thematic dining.

As popular as it has become though, I still do believe that it does not receive the recognition it deserves. Even at events like Made with Love; for all the hard work and dedication these Mixologists put into this competition, it seemed as though the majority in attendance only cared about the open bar ticket they paid for, and not actually understanding the individual creation. What people don’t seem to grasp as of yet is that it really takes a certain understanding of the equilibrium of our palette to create such an orgasmic experience for our tongues; to balance so many flavors AND have them complement each other def takes a certain expertise.

In reality, the cocktail culture has existed for centuries; going as far back as the 18th century to be exact. The first actual use of the word “cocktail” was spotted in England’s Morning Post and Gazeteer in 1798. That’s got to say something about how much alcohol has actually been a part of our history. Sure, you can call it a debilitating culture, but it was as much so then, as it is now. It was us a society that chose to exploit the culture instead of embracing it. I know I embrace it, and I love life. Not only that, but with celebrity chefs like Bourdain, Brown and Ramseyon the rise, they have brought the food and beverage industries to a whole other level.

It took Romain approximately 2 months of taste testing and balancing all the traditional components of a cocktail; a bitter, a sour, a sweet, and an alcohol, to create what he considered the perfect ensemble. He equally was interested in tuning in to his Parisian routes by playing up the Pineau des Charentes, a French fortified wine aperitif. He was going for something elegant, yet raw. The drink was paired with a smoked duck amuse bouche, including poached pear and goat cheese mousseline on a blue potato chip.

Even though confident and comfortable with his talent, he can’t really say he expected the win for the reason that Montreal is home to a large number of very skilled cocktail enthusiasts. I tried to get some deets from him about his ideas and inspirations for the spring finals, but unfortunately is unobtainable information because he himself is still uncertain. I am excited to see what he has to bring to the table in Toronto, the comp will def be there.

Romain will be joined in Toronto as well with our runner up, Jonathan Elbaz. These men, and all drink makers alike are making a huge impact on their industries proving that mixology is more than making a simple drink, it is a true form of art.

I leave you with the winning recipe from Romain himself, The Gentleman Lumberjack:

  • ½ oz Pineau des Charentes coq D’Or
  • ½ oz smoked lemon
  • 1 ½ oz homemade pear juice
  • 2 tsp Birch syrup
  • 2 dashes licorice bitters

Amuse Bouche: Smoked duck with poached pear and goat cheese mousseline on a blue potato chip.

Cheers to the cocktail culture.