I like games. Videogames, board games, escape games, all games. Invasion Cocktail, now it its fourth edition, has created an excellent drinking game. The game is, how many different cocktails can you try from May 10 to 16. Now, this is an invasion that I can get behind.
The basic premise is that you download an app and hit the participating bars, who will offer you discounts on their featured cocktails. The fest is organized by MadeWithLove, Canada’s premier bartending competition, and showcases the talents and tastes of our delicious terroir. The week features a cocktail brunch at the Au Pied de Cochon sugar shack on May 14 (includes transport and four drinks), industry training days on the 15th and 16th and the main event is of course the bartending competition on the 16th at TRH Bar with specials all night long and a JagerBBQ on the terrace.
I was invited to the opening party last night at the Phi Centre, and what a hoot. At least ten different bars participated in the evening. As the lovely gentlemen from Royal explained to me, the festival paired each bar with a product and challenged them to create a delicious original cocktail highlighting the ingredient. They could pick a product but had the option of just winging it. It was seriously a lot of fun and I love the concept of the basic challenge.
At this kind of open bar event, you would expect taster-sized cocktails, but no. This was honestly, a bit of a recipe for disaster, and as the night wore on, the sound of shattered glasses rang through the hall with evident and increased frequency. But it was so much fun. Everyone was feeling rather social, as you could imagine, and since this was an event with full blown lighting, and bottled water on every table, so people would pause between libations to have a chat.
- “Where did you get that one, so pretty!?”
- “Over by the Palco stand, they are using real vanilla, it comes across as a hint, not a sledgehammer, not too sweet. Go get one!”
And so on. The one issue I personally had with the evening was the lack of carbs if you were vegetarian. L’Gros Luxe was pumping out beet salads like it was nobody’s business and I saw that pulled pork sliders were coming out of the kitchen with some frequency, but as a vegetarian, the rare appearance of a veggie taco elicited Hunger Games-esque reactions in me. If you are going to pump people full of liquor, might want to go a bit heavier on the snacks for everyone, or it’s gonna get messy.
Standouts included Proxibar (Le Lab’s catering company (!))’s “Not So Virgin Cocktail”, a clear offering that hinted at all kind of fun pear, vanilla and pineapple flavor but still packed a stiff vodka punch. If you like tasting your booze, this was your drink. Another favorite was the Royal’s “Sesame Street”. This Cava with an actual dusting of sesame, hints of lemongrass, served cold and fizzy. This was a lovely summer jam if ever there was one. “Le Miro”, served up by Red Tiger Vietnamese Pub was also excellent, like a thicker apple cider, but not cloying. This was a drink for cold autumn nights around a fire. It actually brought me straight into fall, which is my happy place.
The Ecole de Bar de Montreal was pushing the envelope. They had two stands, and one of them was actually serving mystery drinks. They had a cornucopia of products, strawberries, thyme, pear, lemongrass and depending on what you chose, you got a different drink. Kudos to taking it to another level, and my strawberry-based drink was delish.
Check out the app and the website for more information on tickets and events, participating establishments. Can I also say, everyone at the party was seriously hot. Montreal, you are looking good… or is that just my St-Germain goggles? You decide.
Invasion Cocktail takes plays May 10-16. Details can be found HERE.