Art of the Cocktail 2012 Recap


For the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of being a spectator at Art of the Cocktail. The three day festival is a journey into the art, craft, and tradition of the cocktail with all proceeds going to the Victoria Film Festival. Each year, I’ve come away with a new favourite spirit, knowledge of new cocktail haunts in Victoria, and up and coming stars of the cocktail scene.


Victoria’s appetite for all things cocktail has come a long way in the last ten years. As cocktails come back into fashion, bars and restaurants are working diligently to direct resources to staff training and bar programs. Trained “artists of alcohol” can craft a story through layers of flavours muddled, stirred or poured into every drink.


Another element to Art of the Cocktail, is the people. Not your average drinkers, this festival brings out an entirely different social animal than the booze festivals that you may be used to. Dressed to impress, these hip imbibers are out in their finest threads and on their best behaviour. Suits, ties, hats, little black dresses and even the odd fascinator can be seen strolling through the masses.


The spectators are not the only ones out to impress however. Each station set up in the Crystal Gardens main hall is vying to snag your attention with a signature creation, a flare of fire, a fog filled pumpkin or even a machine that carbonates your cocktail on the spot. Purveyors are also there to pitch spirits, switch  Scotch drinkers to a tumbler of absinthe, or convince Manhattan lovers that there is more to life than just the classic cocktail.


The Marina's carrot cake: White chocolate and mascarpone mousse, orange blossom gel, Grand Marnier "plumped" sultanas and lemon balm. Photos by Elizabeth Nyland

Each booth puts forth an original cocktail creation, some of which are paired with an accompanying bite. (Often incorporating the main ingredient of the cocktail). Stand outs for me this year were the “Harvest Martini”, a beautiful gin, peach, cinnamon and candied ginger concoction from Spinnakers Gastro Pub and the PB & J hors d’oeuvre from Darcy’s Pub, a pork belly and cider jelly masterpiece served on small squares of toast.


Aside from the Grand Tasting, there are events all over town and range from the Home Bartenders Competition, to Tiki in the 21st Century, to the coveted Best Bartender of the Pacific Northwest event. This year the contenders for Best bartender were tasked with creating a unique cocktail involving foods by the Whole Beast Artisan Salumeria. The winning bartender was Victoria’s own Josh Boudreau from Veneto Tapas Lounge, the defending champion from last year. The 25 year-old created a cocktail titled  “John Coffey” as a tribute to the character played by the late Michael Clark Duncan.  The cocktail consisted of a savory blend of duck confit infused tequila, balsamic vinegar, apricot, Averna (Italian bitters) and Bianco Vermouth served to resemble an espresso with a biscotti garnish. The biscotti was glazed with a duck fat icing.


Year after year, the cocktails, people, food and fun only get stronger. As Victoria continues to expand on its culinary festivals, I will continue to expand my collection of ticket stubs. Kampai!



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