This year is the 25th year of the Giffard West Cup Cocktail Competition, hosted by family-owned, French liqueur company: Giffard. Originating as a local competition in the West Coast of France (hence the name) in 1997, the Giffard West Cup has grown to include 17 different countries.
The competition was last hosted in 2019, where approximately 800 bartenders applied to compete. And after two years of isolation, the competition has return to a public stage. With Western Canada’s division competition in Vancouver’s newest luxury Italian restaurant: Acquafarina. The competition weeds out combatants round after round, leading up to a Grand Finalist and the finale on a world stage level.
Every year it is a different theme, and this year it is “Listen to the Flavours.” Utilizing Giffard’s liqueurs, competitors have been asked to create a cocktail inspired by music. The chosen tune must link to what inspires each bartender behind-the-bar.
The rules are as follows: Create a cocktail inspired by music with Giffard liqueurs representing at least 50% of the total
alcoholic volume of the cocktail. From March to June, a series of competitions in participating countries will decide the national finalists. The winner will be invited to the Grand Finale, which will take place in Europe, in September.
Our finalists and their entourages, plus a handful of media folks (such as myself), were in attendance. We all mingled and sipped on the cocktail of the day: a Kir Rose featuring Giffard’s Pamplemousse combined with sparkling rose wine.
And then by one our 11 competitors took their place behind the bar. Setting up their allotted 8 minute cocktail with an introduction, recipe break down, and show for our industry judges. Each choosing their own background music and one of the following Giffard liqueurs to use: Rhubarb, Pamplemousse, and Banane.
Our first contestant tends to the bar at Homer St. Cafe. He made his cocktail light, bright, and crushable. The “Banana Boone” was mixed and shaken to Beastie Boy’s “Brass Monkey”. A really original song for a tropical cocktail.
Our second bartender can frequently be seen a the Raven Room in Whistler. The restaurant has recently had its bar debut at No.55 on the list of 50 best bars. She started off by offering the judges a shot as they watched her mix her Miss American Pie cocktail to Don Mclean’s “American Pie” song. The end result: a very jammy cocktail with a picnic theme.
Our next bartender was from Brix and Mortar, one of the OG cocktail bars in Vancouver. He paired Elvis Presley’s vocals to his peanut butter and jelly cocktail, featuring candied bacon and bacon washed whisky.
40 Knots winery in Comox represented as their bartender prepared a fun banana split cocktail with an actual whole banana, real whipped cream, and a bevy of homemade sprinkles and toppings flavoured with various Giffard liqueurs. All while bopping to Ace of Base’s “Cruel Summer”.
From the new Italian restaurant in the Shangrila Hotel: Carlino, comes a Cuban inspired cocktail with music and outfit to match. This is the “Havanana” made with Giffard’s banane liquor, chocolate, coffee, and cigar notes.
All the way from Quartermaster in Revelstoke our next bartender brought her punk influence to the mix with a Giffard Pomelmousse cocktail titled after the song “Rose Tattoo”.
From Victoria Islands’s Clive classic lounge (No.20 on the list of the 50th best bars) comes our next contestant shooting her shot, as she transitions from server to bartender. This is the “Pomelmousse” juice prepared to a very unique track that transitions its pace from slow to speedy, as the artist rapped through the alphabet. It was a wonder she was able to keep the show light and flowing.
Our next competitor bartends out of the new Lebanese restaurant, Yasma. The song and aptly named cocktail “I am rhythm” represents her sentiment to the art of bartending. A slow tempo that builds up, much like her career from bussing tables to standing behind this very bar.
From the The Courtney Room in Victoria our rocked out bartender dawned a mullet and declared his love for his craft through his cocktail: “The final pact”. All to Meatloaf’s rock ballad, “I would do anything for love”. Mixing in humour he declared he would do anything to find the perfect bar and the perfect job, offer examples.
Our next competitor won us over with his smile and his “Simple smile” cocktail, shaken to the song, “I feel good” by James Brown. Hailing from Kingfisher Resort, this was a celebration in removing the mask mandate and being able to see everyone’s facial expressions once more.
Our last competitor won the crowd over with jokes, a free agent who themed his cocktail to a New Zealand band and their song that he fell in love. He stated that it coincided with his professional cocktail experience. The “114” is a calming influence for him and the lyrics speak to him with weird combinations ideas; such as the fresh brewed coffee and grapefruit juice that went into his entry.
After the judges tasted and the scores were tallied we had a second runner up, a first runner up, and a winner that would be flown to Europe to compete globally, representing our division.
As a first live look at a cocktail competition, this was a great experience. It was just a shame that the audience wasn’t able to try any of this. I guess it gives us reason to visit the above mentioned restaurants to taste the talents of all our competitors first hand.