You may remember when I profiled Julien Forrester, one of the finalists in the Ottawa Regional Finals of the Made With Love cocktail competition. Well, the Regional Finals were a closely contested battle between 18 of Ottawa’s best barchefs but only two could prevail and advance to the National Finals.
Coming out of the March 20th regional competition, Eric Romolock of Fauna won the Judges’ Choice award and Jay Frederick of Common took home the Peoples’ Choice award. I had the opportunity to interview the pair as they head into the final week of preparation before the National Finals on April 30th.
The National Finals will welcome 17 of Canada’s best craft cocktail creators to our fair city. For the final chapter of this contest, competitors will be asked to create the best drink they can dream up, as inspired by a soundtrack of their choice.
This music & mixology pairing will be showcased during an extravagant stage presentation where competitors will be asked to make drinks for the panel of four judges. Guests will be wowed by the onstage performance and get to sip on custom creations from the barchefs throughout the evening.
Veterans in the industry, Jay and Eric were kind enough to share their thoughts on what fuels their creativity, who they like to serve at the bar (and who they don’t) and how they got their start. They were also kind enough to encourage a little day-drinking by whipping up a couple cocktails to lubricate our conversation.
In the regional finals, Jay won the hearts of audience members by serving up Woodford Reserve with chocolate tea with chilies that used cherry juice in place of water, and for sweetener, he used honey cut with lime juice and vanilla. He served his drink in an old-fashioned lantern that he then filled with chocolate tobacco smoke. As guests opened the door to the lantern, they were welcomed with the rich and inviting scent of the smoke that beautiful complimented the cocktail within.
Eric impressed the judges with his Cirka vodka based cocktail that incorporated freshly juiced yellow beets, lemon juice and caraway syrup. The end result was a nuanced cocktail that surprised and delighted the palate.
Both Jay and Eric were tight-lipped about what they have planned for the final flourish in the national finals so you’ll have to get your tickets to the big show to see what they come up with. With incredible trips up for grabs, including Kentucky with Woodford Reserve, Italy with Campari, Nicaragua with Flor de Cana, France with Grand Marnier and Spain with Made With Love, these two are sure to put their best foot forward.
The National Finals of Made With Love are being held on Monday, April 30th from 6-11 p.m. at Zibi and tickets are on sale now for $55 through Eventbrite. There are only 300 tickets up for grabs, so be sure to act fast.
I hope to see you there and be sure to tune into my Instagram story on the night of for live coverage!