Virtual Showdown for the Diageo World Class Canada Bartending Competition 2021

Bartending is a sport, and we dare you to tell these competitors otherwise. Nine of Canada’s top bartenders recently met at Real Sports in Toronto to determine who gets to represent Canada in the Diageo World Class Global Finals.

The event was held virtually this year due to COVID-19 and maintained strict compliance with local regulations. Most of the bartenders haven’t worked in a bar in over a year, but they still showed up with the tenacity required to impress the judges.

What happened at the event? Who won? We’re about to go over everything you need to know about this exciting competition.

An Engaging, Yet Safe, Virtual Event

This year, the Canadian National Finals served to kick off the World Class Cocktail Festival in Toronto. However, the event was held virtually this year in strict accordance with local guidelines.

Held over three days, the competition had bartenders vying to impress a panel of accomplished bartenders. Judges based their scores on creativity, storytelling, and of course, bartending. In the months leading up to the event, nine are selected from the 30 regional finalists.

In the past, the finals would be a busy event filled with hundreds of aficionados. This year, guests joined virtually as the event was live-streamed to the World Class’ Facebook page. Even though it wasn’t the usual way that guests enjoyed the event, it was still plenty of fun. As the bartenders performed like rock stars, fans at home drank alongside them and cheered on their favorites.

The finalists were Oliver Stern and Jess Mili of Toronto, Daphne Vary Deshaies of Vancouver, and Edmonton’s James Grant. The final four faced off by being given orders of six classic cocktails. Each had to be made perfectly and as quickly as possible; time was a factor in scoring. The judges, ultimately, had to decide if the drink was worth paying for.

The safe, virtual event proves that even when apart, creative drinks and healthy competition can still bring us together.

What is the Diageo World Class Bartending Competition?

The Diageo World Class Bartending Competition is a well-respected worldwide event aiming to crown the single best bartender on the planet. Hosted in Madrid, finalists are chosen by their countries and sent to compete. Canada has historically placed in the top ten.

The event’s purpose is to celebrate the art of bartending and inspire imbibers to drink better. Attention is given to no- and low- alcohol drinks to promote moderation among consumers. Leading spirit companies, such as Ketel, One Vodka, Tanqueray, and Johnie Walker, to name a few, sponsor the competition.

Diageo Bar Academy hosts the event. The educational institution strives to evolve the art of bartending and provides plenty of resources to bartenders. World Class is the competition that aims to promote the craft of bartending all around the world.

And the Winner Is…

James Grant of Edmonton stole the show and walked away with the title of World Class Canada Bartender. He previously finished in the top four in the 2018 nationals. Now, he will finally realize his dream of competing in the global finals.

Grant exuded class with a formal velvet tuxedo complete with tails. He showcased confidence in the face of pressure during the competition. His performances even incorporated magic. The bar was indeed his stage, and the spotlight was on him.

He will go on to compete in the global finals hosted in Madrid. Armed with stories, skills, and recipes, Grant hopes to return to Canada as the World Class Global Bartender of the Year 2021.

A Truly Memorable Event

Bartenders and imbibers alike appreciated watching the best bartenders in the country show their stuff. Even though this event is held annually, this particular year will likely always stand out for being held virtually and creating a unique experience.

We wish Grant luck in the future and look forward to cheering him on in the finals.

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