Ahead of ‘Made With Love’ Mixologist Challenge, Bartenders Share Their Secrets

Win VIP tickets to the Toronto event on March 26th with our giveaway.

March 21, 2018 5:00 am
Cocktails, anyone? (Made With Love.)
Cocktails, anyone? (Made With Love.)

Made with Love challenges bartenders from across the globe to create the best craft cocktail. The competition – which began in Montreal and has since expanded to events across Canada, Mexico, and Spain – begins at the regional level. At each tournament, mixologists pour their passion and creativity for alcohol into a single drink. Ticket buyers and a panel of experts then vote for their favorite concoction.  The drinks are judged on a criterion of taste, originality, and presentation. Winners from the regional tournaments go on to compete in the national finals.

Now in its ninth year Made with Love has established itself as the premier event in cocktail culture. Whether you’re a seasoned drinker with opinions on fernet, or a novice still struggling to understand wine notes (tastes like grape!), each tournament offers an exceptional night out and a glimpse into high-end hospitality.

The handiwork is half the fun! (Made With Love.)
Pedro Marques

On March 26th the regional finals of Made with Love will be held in Toronto. Eighteen of the city’s best bars have chosen a representative to descend upon the Distillery District and throw down the proverbial gauntlet. The bartenders will be fighting to see who can mix the best drink, hors-d’oeuvres will be served, and fabulous prizes including elite vacation packages will be given away all night.  If you’re in the area we’ve got a VIP pair of tickets to the event. Share this article and tag @RealClearLife in a tweet including the hashtag #Enjoymwl. Winners will be chosen by the Made With Love staff and alerted by Saturday the 24th.

Ahead of the Toronto date, we had a chance to speak with three of the competitors about how to up your home bar game and what makes the best simple cocktails.

An alternative to the rose bowl. (Made With Love.)
Pedro Marques

Matt Rajchman, East Thirty-Six

I love going for a sour style at home. All I need is a fresh lime or a lemon. And sours go with any of the liquors that I like. From a dry Rum Daiquiri, to a creamy Bourbon sour, I can usually find something. It’s all very simple. Three ingredients: Liquor of your choice, citrus, sugar. A little shake and voila! Sours are always refreshing and make you look amazing with little effort involved.

If you’re looking to make the best home bar you start with a various selection of liquors.

A couple whiskeys. A gin. A vodka. Tequila is great and a different style. Don’t forget your favorite bitters and vermouth. Then a selection of sugar, agave syrup, and honey. Add citrus to your grocery list and you are always ready! I love to have a few trays of big ice cubes in my freezer. A few fresh herbs around too. It gives me more creative options.  Getting started can be a bit much so collecting bottles over a few weeks of groceries is best. You’re also going to need a shaker, a set of strainers, and a bar spoon. A sharp paring knife and small cutting board also go along way. That should be a good start for most cocktails.

Adam Karpowicz, Boutique Bar

The best drink you can do at home – or any place – is the one made with passion and fresh ingredients. Lots of my friends are skeptical when it comes to mixing alcohol. They usually drink vodka-sodas or gin and tonics. That’s why when I invite them to my place for a drink I like to surprise them with something simple but unpredictable.

The great way to do that it to make a phenomenal Tom Collins or a twist on it. The original recipe calls for 1.5 oz gin, 2/3 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice, 0.5 oz simple syrup and top-up with soda. But instead of using simple syrup, add any other flavored syrup or puree. Syrup is easy to make. It’s  2:1 sugar to water. If you want a flavor? Add to it a cup of your favorite fruits and blend it all.

As far as a home bar? Definitely, start with basics. There’s no need to buy everything from the top shelf and overstock your place with unnecessary tools. It’s easy to go overboard. But as with any passion, it becomes the more you want the more you need.


It’s all in the details. (Made With Love.)

Josh Mellet,  Barchef

I feel like the best cocktail to make at home is a Negroni. This classic drink is slightly spirit forward, very easy to make and extremely well balanced in flavor. Take a rocks glass and fill it with equal parts (1oz each) Gin, Sweet Vermouth and Campari. Add ice to your glass, stir and garnish with a fresh orange peel. This is one of my favorite cocktails and is a great way to start or finish your evening. Cheers.

Starting your home bar can be slightly intimidating. There are a plethora of different spirits, liqueurs, bitters, and bar tools that can take a long time to develop. Not to mention all the practice it requires becoming knowledgeable on how to work with all these ingredients and tools. But hopefully, this will help get you started. In terms of spirits, you should be stocked with the essentials. Gin, Rum, Rye, Bourbon, Tequila and Vodka. In terms of which brands you should buy, I would ask your local bartenders what they enjoy mixing with.

Then having liqueurs like Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth, Campari, Aperol, Amaretto, Amaro and Angostura bitters will help introduce you into the world of fortified wines, accent liqueurs, bitters, apéritifs and digestifs. These types of spirits are essential to drink making and are used in a ton of different classic cocktails.

These interviews have been edited for length/clarity.


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