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This Karate Kid-themed cocktail showdown packed a punch.
It was a holiday somewhere. That’s my excuse for attending the Bar-ate Kid Invitational, a bartender showdown themed on the 80s movie Karate Kid. It all went down at 1:00 pm, July 4, at Chinatown’s Keefer Bar.
The purpose of this contest? To determine the dominant sensei/bartender in Van’s big bad cocktail scene.
Right. July 4th is American Independence Day. And that’s why I, an ex-American, was drinking in early afternoon (I mean observing the mischief) as 16 bartenders in doji, sweat bands and other kung-fu frippery mixed drinks at lightning speed.
I’d love to share more, but I don’t remember. Just kidding.
The Bar-ate Invitational began at 1:00 pm, and with round after round of knockout competitions, the battles raged on for more than four hours. Competitors from hotspots like The Diamond, Pourhouse and Waldorf Hotel paired off, shaking drinks as the clock ticked.
In round one the barkeeps made two cocktails in two minutes. In round two, they made three cocktails in four minutes… you get the drift. Judges (David Greig of L’Abattoir, Andrew Morrison of Scout Magazine, David Wolowidnyk of West Restaurant) determined the winner based on three criteria: speed, style and drink quality.
The drinks were mixed at a fast and furious pace.
The cocktails slid down the bar relentlessly as the music thumped and the crowd hooted, holding their beer cans high. Tom Collins. Vespa. Corpse Reviver. Dark and Stormy. Moscow Mule. Caipirinha. Daquiri. Pimms Cup. Negroni. El Diablo. Pisco Sour. Side Car. Rob Roy. Martinez.
I was lucky enough to taste a few and it was truly revitalizing to sip classics after all the recent media buzz about “mixology,” where overcomplicated infusions and food additions abound, causing booze to resemble salad. I sat next to Simon Kaulback, the bar manager at Boneta and Vancouver Magazine’s bartender of the year, who agreed that the Bar-ate Kid criteria, which honour a return to basic bartending skills, was long overdue.
“I’m a classic bartender,” he told me. “Give me a simple Americano any day.”
Unlike the Karate Kid, the underdog of the Bar-ate Kid invitational did not win: Josh Pape of The Diamond took first place and the corresponding $600 prize. Before the competition even began, a bird or two whispered in my ear that he was the predicted winner. Congratulations, Mr. Pape.
The beginnings of an Americano.