To make it in the high-end bartending world you have to have a mix of skill, talent, and personality. Simply stirring a martini isn’t gonna cut it. Creativity and panache play a huge role when you’re slinging drinks. To up their respective games, many of the most ambitious bartenders dip a toe in the international cocktail competition circuit. It’s a great way to get your face out there, make new friends, and refine your skills.
Here’s the rub: Those big cocktail competitions are often held in travel destinations — far from the average American’s home bar. That means brands hosting these events will have to fly out 50 to 100 people, house them, feed them, and then fly them all home. It’s a lot of money for a bit of advertising and, perhaps more importantly, it’s a lot of carbon being pumped into our atmosphere.
As a response to the latter issue, two of the world’s best bartenders are changing the way we think about cocktail competitions. Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage left Dandelyan in London (the world’s best bar) just over two years ago and founded the international anti-waste collective Trash Tiki. They traveled the world talking with bartenders and mixing drinks from what was — essentially — the garbage a cocktail bar creates. It’s been a game changer in not only providing more sustainable and environmentally sound bars but in shifting the whole conversation about waste and profit in the bar game.
Now, Griffiths and Ramage are taking the next logical step and completely turning the cocktail competition model on its head. They teamed up with Sombra Mezcal to try a wholly new way to run a competition — with the lowest carbon footprint they could manage. The plan called for Griffiths, Ramage, and Sombra put out a request for recipes from bartenders in the U.S. and Canada. These bartenders would be tasked with making a unique cocktail with Sombra Mezcal and a recipe that included at least two sustainable practices. Participants then submitted their recipes to the team and Griffiths and Ramage both made and judged the cocktails.
Over 100 entries were submitted with a final 40 cocktails making it into the final competition. Since this was a “Virtual” contest, it literally saved the carbon emissions from at least 40 bartenders being flown somewhere to compete. Instead, Griffiths and Ramage worked from their home bars in Toronto and had a hoot testing the innovative and sustainable cocktails at home.
We caught up with the duo last week as they locked in their top 12, whittled down from the original 40. They explained what Sombra’s Sustainable Virtual Cocktail Competition means for the future of high-end bartending and parsed their top 12 cocktails.
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The finalists of our first-ever #sustainable cocktail competition have been announced. 🙌🏼🍹🍍Judged by @trashtiki’s @kelseyramage & @iaingriffiths_, here are the 12 finalists: – Tristan Bragaglia-Murdock, @jabberwockybar – Luke Carnevale, @mannawilmington – Marshall Davis, @gallopelon – Michael Dumapias, @brokenshaker – Kate Gerwin, @frontandcooper – Tony Lamperti, @aceneworleans @boucherienola – Melissa Markert, @deadrabbitnyc – John Mateer, @deathandcompany – Blaze Montana, @frontandcooper – Maggie Morgan, @manolitonola – Zach Sapato, @thelowryuptown – Brendan Wooldridge, @chambar_restaurant Congratulations and thank you for submitting. #LoveTheLand #FireRockAndEarth #EveryDayIsEarthDay