Taylor Fladgate Cocktail Competition 2021
The first ever Ontario Taylor Fladgate Cocktail Competition was held virtually on March 8, 2021. The livestreamed virtual event feature the top ten mixologists in Ontario, competing head to head, in front of a panel of four highly esteemed judges: Christine Sismondo, Christina Viera, Christopher Sealy and Head Judge Sandy De Almeida. After a challenging deliberation process, Reuben Virasami was named Grand Prize Winner for his cocktail ‘Another Zoom Date.’
Participants were tasked with creating an original cocktail based on one of four Taylor Fladgate products: First Estate Reserve Ruby Port, Late Bottled Vintage Port, 10 yr Old Tawny Port and 20 yr Old Tawny Port. Ten participants were chosen from the submissions and invited to prepare their original cocktail for judges to taste remotely, then present their cocktail in front of the judges and a wider audience for the live event.
Hosting a cocktail competition during the COVID-19 pandemic posed many challenges, but both participants and judges thrived. Virasami echoed the sentiments of many of the participants, sharing his thoughts around the virtual format. “I think having a lockdown competition is certainly unique,” said Virasami. “Many who would have full access to a bar/restaurant's full resources are limited to what products they have at home and can easily source. This loss is contrasted by the benefit many had, which was more time to work on this project that being furloughed from work allowed,” he said. Adding that the opportunity allowed for “perhaps a little more creativity and extended thought processes within these limitations.”
“This is one of the first Canadian competitions to function as a full-sized competition within lockdown restrictions, presenting interesting challenges. It meant that folks had to prepare ahead of time and there was no ability for last minute changes or small tweaks. There specifically needed to be thought put into freshness, any effects of the drink and garnishes on travel, how to really package the cocktail kit for the judges to best reflect the competitors drink, etc. In essence, it was a complete conversion of the spirit of bartending and hospitality, distilled and bottled in such a way to somewhat reflect an in-person experience. A unique endeavour to say the least.”
Despite the challenges, the level of enthusiasm shown by the participants was truly inspiring. With extensive experience participating in cocktail competitions, Head Judge Sandy De Almeida shared some of the highlights of the competition: “Obviously tasting and evaluating was a favourite part...in all my experience judging, there were NO duds. They were all spectacular.”
Based on the success of this first event, we are optimistic that this could become an annual affair.