Top bartenders in Okanagan battle for best cocktail at annual mix-off

Bartenders all over the valley are shining their cocktail shakers in preparation for the sixth annual Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery Mix-off.

The evening involves several local restaurants competing for best cocktail and best bite.

Each bartender will create a signature cocktail made with Okanagan Spirits and a local wine/beer/cider. The drinks will be paired with complementing kitchen creations dreamed up by the restaurants’ chefs.

There are 10 competing restaurants, including Salt & Brick in Kelowna and Globe at Big White Ski Resort.


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Last year’s judge’s choice winner was RauDZ Regional Table, with the people’s choice award given to Krafty Kitchen + Bar. The best bite award was won by Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar.

Shereen Abbas, digital marketing, communications and Kelowna manager at Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery, is excited to see what the competitors have in store.

“Years ago, we decided that the Okanagan needed a chance for the bartenders to be showcased because they’re so talented. So we stepped up as title sponsors,” Abbas said. “You can go to the event, you can taste, you can judge. We have live entertainment. It’s a really fun event.”

Okanagan Spirits cites itself as the oldest original craft distillery in British Columbia.

“The industry in B.C. is very young. We are the original distillery in B.C., but that means 2004, so it’s not the same as some of the other countries out there,” Abbas said.

One of the competing bartenders, Shayne Labis from the Train Station Pub, has been working on a top-secret cocktail for the mix-off.

Although he can’t share the recipe quite yet, the  “bar engineer” is generously sharing a new recipe.

“Negroni is a gin-based drink. We’re using a family reserve gin, so a beautiful taste of apple in there and it usually uses a Campari, which is very bitter,” Labis said. “So to make it a little bit easier for everyone to drink, I use apperol.”

Shayne Labis’s OKGN Negroni

Three-quarters ounce (.75) of family reserve gin
Three-quarters ounce (.75) Apperol
Half ounce (.5) OK Cassis
1 dash western Haskap bitters

The Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery Mix-off takes place Thursday, November 8th at 7 p.m. at the Laurel Packing House in Kelowna. A few tickets are still available online. There won’t be any tickets at the door, so advance purchase is required.


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