Competition season 2017 is coming to an end which means its time to crown some new winners. Bombay Sapphire announced that Annie Williams Pierce of Columbus, Ohio’s Curio at Harvest took the grand prize as the North American Winner of the 11th Annual “Most Imaginative Bartender” Competition. Kaitlyn Stewart of Vancouver, Canada’s Royal Dinette was named World Class Bartender of the Year according to a statement from Diageo.
Most Imaginative Bartender
Pierce and eleven American finalists convened at Bombay Sapphire’s home in England for the intense four day finale to the competition. Contestants matched skills and creativity in events such as the “Artistry Challenge” which involved basing drinks off of paintings; “The On Air Challenge” which tested audience engagement; “Guest Shift” which focused on consulting skills; and the self explanatory “Final Cocktail Showdown.” The last event earned raves for Pierce who offered up the “Tokyo x London,” an Asian oil infused Martini riff.
A panel comprised of Sapphire Ambassador Gary Hayward, Pouring Ribbons founder Joaquin Simó, and USBG Southwest Regional Vice President and Phoenix beverage consultant Kim Hassarud awarded the top prize to Pierce. As per protocols, all of the contestants received lots of swag and travel, but Pierce’s perks include a position as GQ Magazine‘s first official “Bartender in Residence.”
“The Most Imaginative Bartender Competition really pushes the boundaries of what cocktail making can be and being able to flex my creative muscles is one of the main reasons I chose to embrace this craft in the first place,” said an elated Pierce. “I’m still reeling from the week’s events but can’t wait to experience all of the invaluable opportunities that this title will open up for me.”
Over in Mexico City, Mexico, 55 bartenders winnowed from a pool of 10,000 assembled for the World Class finals. The first round pitted contestants in a battle to create their best classic cocktail. Four victors emerged. This Final Four also competed in events testing their ability to incorporate culinary skills into cocktail; create greener, more sustainable drinks; and an overall test of knowledge, creativity, and technical skills. Stewart aced each of these tests and took home the trophy.
Judge Lauren Mote of Bittered Sling offered in a little insight into the decision. “By the time it came to the final challenge, we wanted to find someone bursting with skill, knowledge and charisma, with unbelievable creativity and an incredible mastery of the classic and signature serves. Kaitlyn well and truly delivered.”
More than just silverware, Stewart won a post as Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador. The new title comes with lots of travel around the globe. In addition, she earned a spot on the judging panels that will determine who follows in her footsteps leading up to next year’s finals in Berlin, Germany.
In a statement, Diageo stressed that they view the competition as an opportunity to push goals such as sustainability and customer education. “We also want to inspire cocktail fans around the world to drink better -we want more ‘armchair mixologists’ to have the courage to explore what’s possible and create their own signature serves in the kitchen,” explained Mote.