Cocktails

Shaken and stirred at Made With Love cocktail competition

One bartender says cocktails "are no longer really challenging"

Guests voted for their favourite bartender with MWL dog-tags.
Guests voted for their favourite bartender with Made With Love dog-tags.   Maddie Johnson

On Monday, the Westin Hotel hosted Halifax’s 5th annual Made with Love cocktail competition — a competition that marked the end of Jacob Van Hemessen’s cocktail career.

Van Hemessen, 26, dropped out of university a few years ago to pursue a career with cocktails. He travelled Europe, worked in one of the world’s top bars and immersed himself in the industry, but he’s become disillusioned with the craft.

Jacob Van Hemssen is leaving cocktails behind to explore wine.
Jacob Van Hemessen is leaving cocktails behind to explore wine.   Maddie Johnson

“Cocktails, to me, are no longer really challenging,” he said.

This is why he’s switching to wine.

“Wine and beer and that whole world is something that I’ve always been interested in, but kind of on the periphery, and I’ve never actually had the opportunity to dive into (it),” he said.

“Cocktails are so exclusive now a days; they’re becoming really mainstream and it’s becoming this whole other thing where wine and beer are separate from it.”

Two months ago Van Hemessen was working at Bar+Bites -Two Doors Down (formerly known as Temple Bar) and made it through the qualifying round of Made With Love.

Van Hemessen now works at Obladee, a wine bar downtown, but represented Temple Bar at the competition.

Despite changing his focus, he spent a lot of time preparing for the event. His cocktail was called Bay Breeze and was inspired by Tidal Bay Wine. It was a combination of Skyy vodka, yuzu, soured pear green tea, apple cider vinegar and distilled water.

Jacob Van Hemssen pours his pre-made cocktail to sample.
Jacob Van Hemessen pours his pre-made cocktail for a guest  to sample.   Erin McIntosh

Unlike other bartenders, who made their cocktail repeatedly throughout the night, Van Hemessen made the cocktail beforehand and poured it from a bottle. He says he wanted to keep it efficient and sustainable.

“I had this conception of the drink I wanted to do from the very beginning and I just thought it would be a really fun way to leave the industry,” he said.

Van Hemessen didn’t win Monday night, but for him, the competition was about finishing something he started.

Deborah Warkentin represented Level Bar Monday night.
Deborah Warkentin represented Level Bar Monday night.   Maddie Johnson

Made With Love was created by Pierre-Olivier Trempe in Montreal in 2009. It has since grown to include nine Canadian cities and cities in Spain and Mexico. This year’s event in Halifax sold out of its nearly 700 tickets.

Cyle Crothers from Lot Six made a cocktail called the Glühwein Sour.
Cyle Crothers from Lot Six made a cocktail called the Glühwein Sour.   Erin McIntosh

“(Made With Love) is a great chance to showcase what you have to offer and how much you enjoy what you do,” said competitor Cyle Crothers from Lot Six.

Made With Love guests sampled cocktails and food pairings from 16 bartenders, who represented 12 Halifax bars.

Thomas Powell from Lot Six competed for the first time.
Thomas Powell from Lot Six competed for the first time.   Maddie Johnson

Mark Bradbury from the Bicycle Thief won Public Choice award and Vasili Panagopoulos from Highwayman won the Judges’ Choice award. The winners will compete at the National Finals competition in May.

First time competitor Vasili Panagopoulos from Highwayman, will head to the finals in May.
First time competitor Vasili Panagopoulos from Highwayman will head to the finals in May.   Erin McIntosh