The GOODS from Kale & Nori
Vancouver, BC | After an epic showing of our favourite bitter spirits in Season One, Bittered Sling Bistro invites Campari & Aperol back into the ring, August 2012. This month’s contenders, Scout Magazine’s “Bartender of the Year” winner Ben de Champlain of Boneta Restaurant in Gastown, against the young buck, the vivacious Josh Boudreau of Veneto Tapa Lounge in the Hotel Rialto across the pond (Victoria). As we get closer to the finale of Season One, Ben and Josh will likely attack each other through cocktails, nunchucks and the ultimate use of our favourite bitter spirits. Inspired by a recent trip to New Orleans and the 10th Anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail, Chef Jonathan presents a southern-style menu, promoting local and ethical products. This one is not to be missed! Learn more after the jump… Read more
In case you missed it, here’s newly anointed Scout Magazine Bartender of the Year Ben de Champlain on Global TV’s Morning News talking about his victory and making one of his badass, tourney-winning drinks. Thirsty?
by Andrew Morrison | In what I think went down as the most memorable and exciting bartending competition that Vancouver has ever witnessed before, Boneta barman Ben de Champlain defeated The Keefer Bar’s Dani Tatarin yesterday to win the title of Scout Magazine’s 2012 Bartender of the Year. And boy is my palate still tired. All told, local titans of the trade Mark Brand (Save On Meats, etc), Steve Da Cruz (Tacofino), Ron Oliver (The Diamond) and David Greig (L’Abattoir) and I must have judged some 60+ drinks on the say, which made for some good times indeed and bellies full of drunk bread. It was an incredible turnout – standing room only – and a superb thing to see our local bartending community out as one to celebrate their very best talents.
From the outset, this tournament was designed by bartenders for bartenders. It actually began a month ago on June 4th, when over 30 of BC’s top barkeeps wrote a 50 question entrance examination (just like school). One exam was given at the Diamond in Gastown, and another was served to a group of keeners across the Strait in Victoria. It was not at all an easy test. It was specifically designed to favour booze nerds of the most bizarrely devoted kind. Of course there were some sneaky questions among the serious ones. These ranged from essential intel, like “What time does Gyoza King close on a Saturday night?” to totally obtuse poseurs of urban legend, such as “In which Victoria neighbourhood did a cougar once famously break into a basement suite?”
A couple of weeks later we announced the 16 bartenders with the highest marks. They were, from 16th to 1st: David Bain of Diva at the Met and Josh Boudreau of Victoria’s Veneto (tie); Ryan Malcolm of Victoria’s Sauce; Alistair Bell of Revel Room; Dani Tatarin of The Keefer Bar; “JS” of Tableau Bar Bistro; Jay Browne of Calabash; the irrepressible “H” of Jules Bistro; Brendan Brewster of Victoria’s Fiamo & Svelte; Brooke Levie of The Marina in Victoria; Jon Smollensky of Hawksworth; Marc Smolinski of Max’s; Gez McAlpine of The Keefer Bar; Josh Pape of The Diamond; Ben de Champlain of Boneta; Simon Kaulback of Boneta; and Shaun Layton of L’Abattoir. A tough field, indeed.
Fast-forward to yesterday, where the 16 gathered to first blind test 5 spirits and make an original cocktail which was judged blind (we were sequestered in the back room behind a curtain). Some of the drinks in the latter challenge were outstanding. Others, not so much. Still, the level of commitment from the competitors was made very plain. Once the scores were added up, we had to eliminated the lower half of the field. Those who remained were Josh Pape, J.S., Marc Smolinski, Simon Kaulback, Brooke Levie, Dani Tatarin, Alistair Bell, and Ben de Champlain.
Now we entered the most gruelling part of the competition: a no hold’s barred series of timed, head to head smackdowns. In twos, the eight bartenders were presented with chits of four drinks to replicate a real world scenario. Some of the these were familiar (eg. Mint Julep, Sazerac), while others were less common (eg. Mary Pickford, Clover Club). Points were awarded for style, speed, and accuracy/taste. When the smoke cleared, we were left with Pape, Tatarin, de Champlain and Bell.
In the next round, Tatarin took out Pape by a close margin and de Champlain laid waste to Bell, setting up a final that was more riveting than any competition I’ve ever been involved in before (it made the Black Box challenge at the Canadian Culinary Championships look like a bag of dead dolphins). Dani was the first to finish, which gave her some points, but she dropped the ball on a couple of drinks, letting the turtle thwart the hare. Ben took his time to both entertain (in his own inimitable way) and concentrate, and ended up with a series of cocktails that swayed every one of the judges. It was a hard won thing, and he owned it like a fucking boss.
In addition to winning our 2012 Bartender of the Year title and a framed award designed by Glasfurd & Walker, de Champlain took home a holiday package put together by our good friends at Tourism Kelowna. It includes two nights accommodation at the very gorgeous Clarance House, two tickets to the always amazing Okanagan Feast of Fields, and a round of golf for two (with power cart) at the Graham Cooke-designed Harvest Golf Club. He also gets $600 cash, a lovely pair of sneakers from Alife, a whole bunch of glassware, and the respect of his peers and the city at large.
Everyone here at Scout would like to thank our amazing hosts and the staff at The Keefer Bar; the tireless tournament coordinators, David Greig and Keenan Hood; everyone on the Island who helped facilitate; all of the judges (you poor dears); and everyone who got their asses to Chinatown on a holiday to watch it all go down. I had the most fun I’d had in a while, and I’m already looking forward to next year.
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Owners: Mark Brand, Neil Ingram
General Manager: Simon Kaulback
Bar Manager: Ben de Champlain
Boneta loves you.
Our seasonal menu, updated weekly, offers modern European comfort food paired with a beautifully chosen wine list and classic custom cocktails. The lounge and speak easy bar encourages impromptu socializing while the main dining room provides secret hideaways and insider views to the open kitchen. Service is relaxed and attentive with an atmosphere that is energetic and warm. Here you will find unapologetic feasting in a gorgeous Gastown setting. Welcome to Vancouver.
2012 Bartender of the Year – Ben de Champlain
Top 10 New Restaurants in Canada 2008
Vancouver Magazine 2008 Restaurant Awards
Best New Informal – Gold
Design of the Year – Gold
Best Service – Bronze
Best Bar/ Lounge – Bronze
Sommelier of the Year – Neil Ingram
Top 10 New Restaurants in Canada 2008
Georgia Straight 2008 Golden Plate Awards
Critic’s Choice Best New Casual – Gold
Reader’s Choice Best New Downtown – Bronze
The Courier Stars of Vancouver 2008 Reader’s Choice Awards
Best New Restaurant – Silver
Food & Wine Magazine
Go List 2008 – One of 332 outstanding restaurants in the world