Toronto Drinks Show
This weekend was the 4th annual Drinks Show held at the Brick Works in Toronto. This event was created by Laura and Michelle of the Martini Club as a way of celebrating modern cocktail culture. The show is a cocktails only, no beer, no wine, which is a nice touch because focus is good. It runs from 5PM to 11PM Friday and Saturday and parking is effectively no existent, but they do provide free bus service to, and from, the show to select locations in Toronto. This was my first year attending the Drinks Show, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here’s how it turned out.
For the ride two hour drive to Toronto, Paul, from the Booze News, came along. I’m one of those people that likes to show up early so I can see things before an event becomes crowded. With the event starting at 5PM, we walked through the doors at about 5:15PM. A few wrong turns and a stop at one of the large LCBO stores in Toronto, delayed the arrival. But I did pickup a couple of beers unavailalbe in London, Sgt. Major’s India Pale Ale and King Pilsner.
The event was held at the Don Valley Brick Works which is an old industrial site that is now a heritage site that incorporates a nature preserve and a collection of buildings formerly used to make bricks. A significant number of buildings in Toronto were constructed from bricks made at this location. Casa Loma, Massey Hall, the Ontario Legislature, University of Toronto and many homes throughout the city, were constructed using bricks from the Don Valley Brick Works. The Brick Works closed in 1989.
The industrial, bare brick, railway tracks and iron beams gave the event a unique feel when contrasted with the ice sculptures, colourful product displays and the pounding beet delivered by the DJ. There were about 40 to 50 colourful product booths with a single bartender in most. Some had two. There was also a temporary LCBO store selling products from the participating companies and a dining area with a few select bites.
In a unique twist from the norm, there were no scantily clad ladies of the brand or circus wannabee bartenders. More on this later.
Each booth represented one or two brands and served up a couple of unique cocktails. The majority of the cocktails were created by the Martini Club for the event, with a few companies dictating their own cocktail terms.
For the most part the cocktails were good, there were a few misses, but that might just be a person taste thing. All of the cocktails were served up, in a 2 oz sample size, stemmed, plastic cup. Each cocktail cost two dollars.
Overall I liked the show. The one thing that seemed to be missing is true professional bartenders behind the bars. You only need to observe how they used their boston shakers to “shake” the drinks. Most of the time it was just a light jiggle, no shaker face, no over the shoulder, shaking it like you mean it type shaking to be seen. The sound alone from 50 bartenders giving it all they got would have added some atmosphere.
Some of the drinks were meant to be stirred, and I’m all for that, but there were no bar spoons. Instead they just lightly swished the drink in the boston shaker. Again, nothing really wrong with that but I like watching a good bartender at work, using the proper tools. It provides a level of professionalism.
Now back to the flairtenders and scantily clad promo girls who were not in attendance. On a professional level I like that, focus on the drinks. But part of being at an event like this is having some form of entertainment. The DJ was pounding out house music, but that was about it. Paul and I both agreed that some more interaction would have been nice, like the ability to sit at a bar. Logistically, that might be hard to do with 3000 people coming and going in a six hour period. But from an brands perspective, making a connection with the people attending through a good bartender is a great way to build brand loyalty.
Overall a very good event and I look forward to see how things change next year.