2024 Vero Bartender Competition: Canada Picks A Finalist

Although it’s a mixology competition, Amaro Montenegro’s Vero Bartender Competition resembles a masterclass in alchemy. Inside the distinctively-dark bottle is a secret, 40-ingredient blend developed in 1885 by Italian explorer Stanislao Cobianchi. Though it’s well over a century old, Amaro Montenegro has preserved its heritage well. To this day, only subtle tweaks have been made to the bottle; the recipe remains unchanged. But — while the liqueur is unmistakably Old-World — subsequent years have brought endless opportunities for pairing.

Amaro Montenegro has encouraged bartenders to incorporate the herbal liqueur with a themed cocktail competition, taking it global in 2018. The latest concept, “A Timeless Spirit,” tasked contestants with capturing ’90s nostalgia in a beverage. As always, the roster of Canadian competitors was filled with from of the nation’s best and brightest.

Dylan Brentwood: Vero Bartender Competition

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Dylan Brentwood: Vero Bartender Competition

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Dylan Brentwood: Vero Bartender Competition

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Dylan Brentwood: Vero Bartender Competition

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Ten Canadian finalists, selected from over one hundred entries, flew out to Toronto to compete for the national title. First prize went to Dylan Brentwood, director of Halifax’s Bar Kismet — a seafood-focused restaurant and cocktail bar. Though Brentwood’s tenure at Bar Kismet exceeds four years, his enthusiasm hasn’t faded. The East Coast native sees his workplace as “a place of entertainment, joy, and, a little bit of theatre.”

Amaro Montenegro 2024 Vero Bartender Competition Canada Dylan Brentwood recipe for 'dem apples' cocktail
Dylan Brentwood’s winning cocktail.

“It’s so important to support young talent like this,” Tad Carducci, Montenegro’s Director of Outreach and Engagement told Elle Gourmet. The competition is mutually beneficial; contestants gain experience and exposure, while Montenegro gets a valuable look inside current mixology trends.

Due to the pandemic, the Vero Bartender Competition took a two-year pause before returning with “Share the Essence” in 2022. The theme asked contestants to craft large-format cocktails, using ingredients like words to tell the story of a journey — physical or metaphorical — that inspires them. That year, mixologist Ruben Sudmeier won first place with “Wanderer.” It’s a fitting name; a Dutch native, Sudmeier bartends at Café Nuebla in Salamanca, Spain.

2024 Vero Bartender Competition

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2024 Vero Bartender Competition

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2024 Vero Bartender Competition

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Prior to Sudmeier’s win, the most recent contest was 2019’s “Sharing Cocktails” — themed drinks celebrated authenticity and friendships. Swedish mixologist Marcus Fredriksson took the crown for his cocktail “Around the Corner.” Poured from a watering can, Fredriksson served his drink in flowering pots. The inspired blend featured quirky elements like fermented apple juice and walnut honey (in addition to Amaro Montenegro, of course).

For this year’s global final, Dylan Brentwood will head across the Atlantic to compete in Bologna, Italy. We’ll be cheering him on from Toronto!