If you fancy yourself as a bit of a cocktail maverick, you’ve probably got nothing on Evelyn Chick. The Canada-based bartending extraordinaire was the winner of the prestigious Beefeater MIXLDN global competition in 2015, a tough contest that puts the skills of the world’s most prestigious bartenders to the test, competing to create the very best Beefeater gin-based cocktail. Evelyn’s winning cocktail, Endless English Summers, inspired by a walk through one of London’s parks, has seen her career skyrocket, and now she’s shaking, stirring and pouring her way through bar events across the world. We spoke to her in the lead up to this year’s competition, based around the theme of London films, about opening her own bar, cocktail creativity and her advice for any budding cocktail connoisseurs.
London Calling: How did you end up entering the competition in 2015?
Evelyn Chick: I’ve been bartending in Canada since I was 19, and I started getting into cocktails immediately in Vancouver. One of my first cocktail mentors, Trevor Calley, saw a little bit in me and pushed me to go and do my first cocktail competition. I originally went to art school and wanted to get into art curating, so for me it was a side job at first.
LC: What did it feel like to win and be globally recognised, how has life changed for you since then?
EC: It’s been a lot busier. Since winning Beefeater MIXLDN I went on a tour of the West Coast of Canada, met bartenders and motivated them to follow their passions, explore new drinks and new flavours. I did a lot of events including one for international women’s day. I’ve also travelled to Prague, Berlin and Athens to speak to other bartenders. I’ve also opened a bar since then, my first bar opening, and it’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride of blood, sweat, tears and emotion!
LC: You said you have quite a creative background, are you able to unleash that creativity whilst making cocktails?
EC: Yeah definitely! I love the combination of flavours and the unusual pairings of flavours that you probably wouldn’t think of. The reason why MIXLDN is one of the biggest gin competitions in the world is because they have a theme each year, so for last year the theme was to create a cocktail that was very quintessentially London. And that’s where I started, with the sense of the royal park, and feeling inspired by my surroundings. In Canada we’re surrounded by nature all of the time, so in terms of my creative process it intertwines with my everyday life. I’m very fortunate to be able to step out to a national park or the Ontario Lake, and see something that might inspire me to make a new ingredient or something new that people won’t have seen.
LC: What can people expect from the competition finals?
EC: For this year the theme is London films, and I actually judged the UK finals this year. Film is celebrated in all cultures, so there are a lot of London based films that people are familiar with and have been inspired by. The top 31 countries will have their own vision for a cocktail that is uniquely British, and I’ve seen a lot already from the cocktails and flavours that people have come up with. There’s a lot of entertainment value from the competition because creating them becomes very theatrical. The little props and trinkets people come up with has been mindblowing. Someone once even served their cocktail in a teddy bear!
LC: What is the secret to making a perfect cocktail?
EC: The secret to a perfect cocktail is realising that there is no perfect cocktail! It’s a subjective experience, but for me the cocktail needs to be balanced, evoke feelings, and create something sitting in front of the drinker that is for their palette and not yours.
LC: What’s your advice to this year’s participants?
EC: You’ll find the people who succeed will have thought about what’s going into their cocktail and the process. The beauty about Beefeater is each year they have a new theme or try to relate something cultural to it. I guess what I would be looking for is if you followed the theme, from a British film, and why the ingredients relate to that and if the gin shows, which is the purpose of the competition really. Focus on the theme, the spirits, and letting the botanicals of the base show, because we all know how much we love gin! Also, allowing your personality to shine, and being who you are as a bartender.
The Beefeater MIXLDN Global Bartender Competition Final is on 9 February at The Bike Shed, Shoreditch. Find out more here.