This past Monday one of my favorite events of the year rolled around – the Toronto finals of the Made With Love cocktail competition. The preeminent mixology destination, Made With Love showcased Toronto’s best and brightest for an unforgettable night.
The Liberty Grand is just that, a very grand venue that adds a wonderful level of class and excitement to the event. It played host to the 18 regional finalists of Canada’s largest mixology competition.
Each station was creatively appointed with items that highlighted the drink’s theme, often incorporating its very elements in the decor.
The majority of the competitors stepped up to the added challenge of offering a food pairing. We had jerk porchetta sliders, drunken rice, and torched mochi. My personal favorite bite was a ceviche from El Local Loco. Those pork sandwiches also disappeared at an almost magical rate.
The drinks themselves were next level. All night I could hear murmured exclamations of surprise and delight over the options. One of my own companions is an aspiring mixologist, and he attended in the hope of broadening his horizons. It was a success, because from his first sip (of beet juice and vodka), he said “my entire perspective has already changed”. And truly, if you are a fan of the fantastic, this is definitely the event for you.
But it was, above all, a competition. Each participant was randomly assigned one of the sponsor spirits (the options including tequila, rum, Campari and bourbon). They then had a month to develop their unique drink, its presentation, and how it would be paired.
The judges took to their tasks with great attention; observing the drink presentations, and then deliberating at length over each beverage and food pairing.
The judges’ choice winners were 1) Jamison Cass of Baro Toronto, 2) Trirell B of Luma, and 3) Danielle Yoon of Drinksmith.
Guests were also given branded dog tags to use as votes for their favorite. The People’s Choice awards went to Jamison, with the runners up being Nick Incretolli of Bar Sazerac and Leah Young of The Carbon Bar.
The station that stood out most for us, both for theme and taste was Leah’s. She described for us the journey that we were meant to experience with her offering of Six Impossible Things. A frothy cup of Campari, fruit, tea and pink peppercorn was paired with delicate sugar cookies. It reminded me of childhood summertime. So while there was an overwhelming selection of drinks that blew my mind, Six Impossible Things was the only one to actually evoke emotion – that drink and cookie made me happy! And so it won my tag.
After a long evening of sampling, we eventually hit sensory overload, and it was time to go. Made With Love has continued to uphold the tradition of showcasing the city’s best and most creative.
If there is any barrier to the average person wanting to attend, it might be the relatively steep ticket price. However you get what you pay for – an all-you-can-drink extravaganza the likes of which you’ll never have without a citywide bar crawl. Also, while there is still something to be said for the humble G&T, once you’ve had a cocktail that was Made With Love, it’s hard to want to go back.