Disaronno's annual Mixology Star event, a professional-level mixology competition featuring the best and the brightest from the bartending industry, recently showcased drinks ranging from liquid nitrogen-infused smoke bombs to classic cocktails. The competition was fierce, challenging contestants to create a unique drink inspired by a film. The panel of judges marked each competitor based on their drink's taste and name, as well as the mixologist's performance quality and technique. After one of the most entertaining and tasty competitions of the year, the judges crowned Australian-born Simon Hooper as this year's Mixology Star. Trend Hunter was lucky enough to sit down with Hooper, as well as one of the panelists, Dave Mitton, who is also the president of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Professional Bartender Association.
Dave Mitton, President of Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Professional Bartender Association & Co-Owner of The Harbord Room
1.What do you look for when judging a cocktail competition?
There are a lot of factors, from originality, names, technique and skill set, but at the end of the day, it’s about taste. It’s about balance, and texture and flavor…who made the better drink?
2.Are there any trends in mixology that you’ve noticed at today’s competition?
A lot of people are using smoking. One gentleman today used some dry ice, which was great, but most people are sticking to pretty traditional techniques. There were lots of plays on classics, which was nice to see.
Simon Hooper, 2013 Toronto Mixing Star Winner
3.How did you get started in mixology?
I’m from Sydney, Australia, where I started as an apprentice chef when I was 18. I worked my way up, doing the whole flavor palette thing…I used to get in trouble for talking a lot in the kitchen, so they decided to move me to the bar. I got picked up at a pretty early age by big bartenders who said, “I think you have a little something special.” I worked with them, I trained with them, then I moved to Canada five years ago. If it wasn’t for the Toronto bar scene in Canada, this wouldn’t have happened.
4.What inspired the drink you made for today’s competition?
The drinks today were based on films, so I chose ‘Blood and Sands,’ which is a famous, classic cocktail, but it’s also based on a famous bull-fighting thriller. Usually it’s with scotch, but I substituted scotch for tequila this time. From there I used Disaronno, which would go so well with tequila. Then I used sweet vermouth, and fresh orange juice. I put the cap on, and as soon as I did that and the dry ice smoked over, I thought “Yes!” It was like electricity in my veins.
Photo Credit: BlogTO.com | SFYGF