Bourbon Battles: A Fight For The Cocktail


I was wondering how long I could manage Bourbon & Honey without dedicating an entire post to bourbon. Turns out, it took me six months. However, considering the name of my little corner of the Internet is Bourbon & Honey, this post is very apropos. You may remember the burger I enjoyed at One18 Empire during the Alberta Burger Fest. The restaurant manager invited me back for #BourbonBattles, hosted by One18 Empire and the Calgary Marriott. Obviously, I said "YES!". Because bourbon. And, I'm fiercely competitive.

So what is #BourbonBattles?

Bourbon Battles

Bourbon Battles is the brilliant brainchild of Marriott Hotels. It is a competition where local bartenders show off their skills and have a chance at being crowned the ultimate bourbon craftsman. The competition starts in Lexington, KY and finishes in New York City on June 14, or National Bourbon Day.

DSC_0307Bourbon Battle

Each event features four contestants. There are three rounds in each competition. The contestants are required to create an old-fashioned, Manhattan and a cocktail using a secret ingredient. The winner of each competition goes to compete in the final event in NYC.

Calgary #BourbonBattle

Calgary is the only Canadian city on the Bourbon Battles tour. It was held on May 19 in the lovely (and spooky) Calgary Marriott downtown. Calgary was well represented - three of the four contestants are local bartenders. The competitors were Shelby Goodwin (The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen), Madeline McDonald (Model Milk), Kevin McKee (Scottsdale Arizona Marriott) and Michael Sheppard (One 18 Empire).

There were three brands of bourbon that each competitor could only use once: Maker's 46, Marker's Mark and Knob Creek.

Bourbon Battle

Bourbon Battle

Round One

The evening started with a smattering of small bites and signature drinks from One 18 Empire's brilliant chef and bartender. I enjoyed a Maker's Mark Black Walnut Old Fashioned. It was, um, amazing.

Bourbon BattleBouron BattleBourbon Battle

Things got underway quickly with the first round - The Manhattan. Each contestant had only five minutes to craft their cocktail, from mixing to presenting. And while the judges deliberated, we were treated to a little description of each drink. think I'd actually listen to the names and ingredients. Cause, you know, I'm a blogger. But, no. I was too busy Snapchatting. Guilty!!

The drinks were given a score from 1-5 in a very Dancing with the Stars fashion.

Round Two

Bourbon Battle

Round two was my favorite. The contestants were to create a unique version of the old-fashioned. I love this drink. If I'm out and not drinking bubbly or red wine, this is it. Same process at round one. Five minutes. Deliberation.

Except this time, not only did the contestants have to fight for the best old fashioned, but for the best DANCE MOVES! If you follow me on Snapchat (which you should), you would've seen it.

Round Three

Bourbon Battle

Oh, round three. The mystery ingredient round.

Buh. Buh. Buhhhhh.

The contestants were allowed to mix ingredients however they wish, as long as they used the mystery ingredient, which was alpine clove honey.

What was amazing to me as I watched these guys fling and fly and twist and twirl was the incredible dedication to what they do, the undeniable passion they infuse into every drink and the unwavering concentration to mix perfection.

Winner Winner

However, there can only be one winner. After three rounds and 15 total minutes of intense competition, the winner of Calgary's Bourbon Battles was...

Shelby Goodwin!


This was the winning recipe:

Bob and Barb's Backyard Pie
- 3/4 oz Makers Base 
- 3/4 oz Makers 46
- 3/4 oz Knob Creek 
- 2 dashes of fee brothers chocolate bitters 
- 3 dashes of angostura orange bitters 
- 3 muddled gooseberries 
- 1/2 oz homemade brandy cherry juice 
- 1oz of secret ingredient (bee land alpine Amber honey) 
- garnished with a gooseberry and a cherry
And guys, it looked so darn pretty! And I'm sure it tasted delicious, too.

Huge congratulations to Shelby, and good luck in New York!

Also, thank you to One 18 Empire being the most gracious of hosts and to Calgary Marriott and Marriott International for a wonderful event.

Until next time,

XO _ britt