Maybe it’s time to dust off Edmonton’s old “City of Champions” signs.
On Thursday, James Grant of Little Hong Kong beat 49 other competitors for the title of Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year. Grant won the national title in April and was representing Canada at the finals.
The plan was for the 50 world finalists to compete against each other in Madrid, but that was scuttled by COVID-19 and travel restrictions. Instead, each of the bartenders’ efforts were streamed from their home cities, while the event was coordinated in London, England.
One of the challenges was to create a Johnnie Walker highball that reflected the spirit of each competitor’s home city. Grant created the Pathfinder, which features the flavours of spruce tips, lilac and pine foraged from Edmonton’s river valley. The Pathfinder is meant to reflect how an Edmontonian feels about the shift from winter to spring.
“A bright drink, it speaks to the excitement and optimism of finally entering a new season,” Grant said during the competition.
After the competition, Grant spoke about his love of working and creating behind the bar.
“When I started my journey in bartending I never thought it would lead me here,” Grant said in a release. “I was simply inspired by the community and creativity of everyone around me, it was infectious and soon I had fallen in love with the craft and opportunities. It gave me the drive and determination to seek out the best in the business to learn from and that’s what got me here today.”