On November 4, Halifax's best bartenders will be pouring their affection into the hundreds of booze aficionados who will be milling around the Seaport Farmers' Market at this year's MadeWithLove.
Started in 2009 in Montreal with an audience of 100, MadeWithLove is now an event with fans in 11 cities across Canada and the US. This is its third year in Halifax.
"We have seen an increase of the participation from the bartenders in Halifax," says producer and founder, Pierre-Olivier Trempe. "From eight bartenders the first year to 25 bartenders at the qualifiers this year."
Two women stand out in the 14-person competitive field. Anne-Marie Bungay-Larose and Sarah Amyotte are representing The Middle Spoon and Cheers, respectively.
Amyotte has been working in the service industry for seven years, bartending for five. "My first industry job was actually at Cheers and The Dome working as a shooter girl and sometimes cover and coat check," she says. "Working for Grafton Connor has been the perfect way to learn the ins and outs of the industry."
Bungay-Larose has only been bartending a year. "I was asked if I wanted to try my hand at it and I have been behind the bar most nights ever since," she says.
Some say that bartending is a man's world, but at this point it's safe to say that it in some cases it would be nothing without a woman. For Bungay-Larose and Amyotte, it's just the next step after years in bar service.
"I think when you serve in a bar, it's a natural progression to gain interest in bartending. Where I work, most of the girls want to get behind the bar," Bungay-Larose says about The Middle Spoon.
"I have always seen a strong balance between men and women behind the bar," says Amyotte. "That being said, I sometimes find that there is an underlying stereotype that female bartenders only have to be flashy and flirty, not thorough and skilled. There is a growth in women unwilling to adhere to this standard, who love the essentials of the job, and these are your up-and-coming mixologists."
But Amyotte also thinks that it's quality, not quantity, that sees the rise in female competition bartenders. "I think the continuous upswing of females competing in MadeWithLove has a lot to do with the confidence of the competitors, not the populous of female bartenders," she says. "Artisanal cocktails are personal---almost intimate--- and it's sometimes nerve-wracking to share them with strangers. I definitely get butterflies when I say, 'Here, try this!' But that's my favourite part of working in the industry: the interaction, the banter, the conversation."
Male or female, a great bartender always benefits from mentorship. And Halifax bartenders are lucky to have past MadeWithLove winners, Jeff Van Horne and Jenner Cormier, offer up support.
"Jenner Cormier taught me all the technique I know when it comes to mixing drinks," says Bungay-Larose of her former co-worker. "He definitely pushed me to compete and I'm grateful he did. But I've been expanding my own knowledge and creativity, trying to keep it unique."
Inspiration has come from another source for Amyotte. "My older brother is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer. I'm dedicating my participation to him," she says. "Matthew has always been both my best critic and my biggest fan. He has excellent taste and an aptitude for artistry so I know if he likes my drink, it's got to be good!"
Monday, November 4, 6-10pm, $55
Seaport Farmers’ Market 1209 Marginal Road