Hogtown Shakedown

Are you a gentleman and a scholar or a lady of impeccable taste and wit? Can you recite Jerry Thomas and quote Cocktail until you’re blue in the face? Most importantly, are you incredibly creative, with a Meehan-like palate? Great: Here’s your chance to prove it. Show us what you’re made of in the first-annual Hogtown Shakedown, where (in association with Toronto Cocktail Week) we crown Toronto’s top bartender.


Submissions close Wednesday, August 21, at 11:59 pm. Then we’ll pick 20 lucky drink-slingers to serve up their cocktail creation to members of the Toronto Cocktail Week advisory panel. The panel will narrow it down to 10 semi-finalists, who get to be profiled in The Grid. It all leads up to a live event taking place on Tuesday, October 1 at SpiritHouse, as part of Toronto Cocktail Week’s opening-night festivities. The five finalists chosen at the event will compete for the title on Thursday, October 3, at The Drake Hotel.

Thank you for your interest! Submissions are now closed and semi-finalists have been chosen. For contest rules, please click here.


John Bunner – Bartender/Bar Manager, Yours Truly
Jeff Carroll – GM, The County General
Josh Lindley – Bartender, Bar Isabel
Shane Mulvany – Head Bartender, The Chase
Veronica Saye – Bartender, The Home of the Brave


Competition Period

The “Competition” commences at 9:00 AM EDT on July 15, 2013 and ends at 10:00 PM EDT on October 3, 2013 (The “Competition Period”). The Competition Period includes: the electronic entry period, which begins at 9:00 AM EDT on July 25, 2013 and ends at 11:59 PM EDT on August 20, 2013; the Preliminary Challenge, which takes place from 8:00-9:30 PM EDT on October 1, 2013 at SpiritHouse; and the Finalist Challenge, which takes place from 8:00-9:30 PM on October 3, 2013 at The Drake Hotel.


  • Open to all legal residents of Toronto, Ontario who are at least nineteen (19) years of age, Smart Serve certified, and currently bartending in Toronto
  • Limited to one entry per person
  • Recipe must be original and must not have been entered in any previous competitions. If a cocktail is known or thought to have been plagiarized, the competitor will be disqualified
  • Entries are to be submitted electronically at www.torontococktailweek.com but are not officially accepted until organizers send email notification of acceptance
  • All entries must be received by 11:59 PM EDT on August 20, 2013


  • Drinks that are easily replicated will be preferred by the judging panel. All ingredients must be easily accessible. Any specialty ingredients (spirits and liqueurs not readily available for purchase through the LCBO, homemade vermouths, tinctures, syrups, bitters, etc.) must be provided upon request in amounts sufficient for five (5) cocktails to gain entry into the semi-final round


  • Entries must contain alcohol. Be as creative as you wish
  • Cocktail specs must be provided and include all ingredients, exact measurements in ounces (oz), preparation instructions and garnish. “Dashes” may be used to describe bitters, hot sauce, etc.
  • Recipes for the semi-final round may differ from your preliminary submission
  • Structure will differ for the Final round. You will be asked to use five (5) spirit brands in five (5) separate cocktails in the final round of competition. There will be a surprise component revealed onsite.

Drinks & Preparation

  • For semi-final and final competitions, competitors must prepare drinks in front of the judging panel
  • Drinks may be mixed according to bartender’s preference (shaken, stirred, pulled, blended, etc.)
  • Standard glassware will be provided, but competitors are encouraged to bring their own specialty glassware. Note that points are awarded for presentation
  • Bartenders are responsible for bringing their own bartending utensils (jiggers, spoons, strainers, shaking tins, etc.) gold leaf, Alpine ice blocks hand-shaved by Cartesian monks, silk robes, and any other specialty prop or ingredients
  • The use of branded glassware or tools is not permitted
  • Competitors may bring a bar slave (assistant) to help with preparation during finals
  • Spirits or liqueurs available through the LCBO, widely available ingredients (lemons, limes, oranges), cubed ice, scoops, and preparation space will be provided by the organizers/venue
  • Competitors must prepare five (5) drinks for judges to sample
  • Competitors will have a finite amount of time (TBA onsite) to prepare their drinks and present them to the judges

Drink Names

  • Drink names that include rude, discriminatory, or profane words are prohibited. Witticisms, double-entendres, and subtle puns will be applauded


  • Competitors are encouraged to interact with judges and audience members while preparing their drink. Note that points are awarded for general presentation and demeanor


  • The “Competition” organizers reserve the right to have final decision in any matter relating to the judging of the competition
  • The “Competition” organizers will appoint the judging panel and reserve the right to replace or appoint new judges before or during the competition
  • The judging panel must remain impartial and declare no preference to any competitor throughout the competition period. Points are to be awarded based on judging criteria alone (as delineated by the “Competition” organizers)


  • Competitors are expected to conduct themselves in a safe and appropriate manner. Any actions considered hazardous or insulting to the judges, audience, or fellow competitors will result in immediate disqualification.


Ivy Knight

Ivy Knight Ivy is a freelance food writer and cookbook author who is currently at work on two books for HarperCollins. With her husband, Kerry Knight, she runs the website Swallow (swallowdaily.com) and co-authors a column on Toronto's food scene called Swallow TO for Buffalo Spree magazine.

Christine Sismondo

Christine Sismondo Christine is The Grid’s drinks columnist and contributed to the National Magazine Award–winning guide “94 excuses to drink now.” She is the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History, as well as America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops.

Brad Long

Brad Long Brad is the chef and owner of Café Belong and Belong Catering, as well as a co-host of Restaurant Makeover and an advocate for sustainable farming and the ethical treatment of animals. When he isn’t whipping up menus, chatting with farmers, or poking produce to test its freshness, Brad can be found with his wife, Sheryl, and their five children, or at work on a new food documentary.


Dale DeGroff

Dale DeGroff Dale honed his technique and talent at some great establishments, including New York’s Rainbow Room, and has been credited for setting off a cocktail revival. He is a winner of the James Beard Award for Wine & Spirits Professional, the author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail, a partner in the bar-training program Beverage Alcohol Resource, and the founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans. He also launched his own brand of bitters.

Rob Gentile

Rob Gentile Rob’s passion for cooking led him to Toronto’s George Brown College for culinary school and then into the kitchens of Mark McEwan, one of the country’s most influential chefs. After stints at North 44, Bymark, and One Restaurant, Rob partnered with Peter Tsebelis and Gus Giazitzidis to open Buca Osteria & Enoteca, which serves some of the city’s finest Italian dishes. In 2013, two new Buca concepts will open: Bar Buca, located near the restaurant on King West, and Buca Yorkville at the Four Seasons residence complex.

Dave Mitton

Dave Mitton Over the past 17 years, Dave has worked behind the wood in numerous bars, saloons, and gin joints across the world. His heart is divided between perfecting classic cocktails and crafting contemporary new drinks. Dave’s a managing partner at The Harbord Room and THR & Co. in Toronto; as president of The Canadian Professional Bartenders Association Ontario Chapter, he also helps build and share the cocktail community across Canada.


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