Vancouver, British Columbia (CNN) — Six minutes. Six classic cocktails. In a Mexican wrestling ring.
It’s not a bartending scenario Kaitlyn Stewart imagined when she started mixing drinks 11 years ago to help pay for university.
Stewart, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, had her doubts about entering the competition organized by spirits producer Diageo.
“I’m not superpolished. I don’t wear a three-piece suit. I know a lot about bartending and spirits and cocktails and cocktail culture, but I mean I’m not a human encyclopedia like a lot of my colleagues are,” said Stewart, 32.
But she decided to get out of her comfort zone and become one of more than 10,000 World Class entrants around the globe.
Kaitlyn Stewart has been the bar manager at Royal Dinette in Vancouver since it opened in 2015.
Stewart is the second female to become World Class Bartender of the Year. In 2016, Jennifer Le Nechet from France took the title.
“It’s something that I don’t take lightly,” Stewart said. “I’m really proud of … helping be maybe a pioneer of having women in the forefront.”
Stewart’s artistry and stage presence — she went to film school, has acted in commercials and grew up deeply involved in dance and sports — might have helped her clinch the title.
Earning it was grueling. From her first recipe submission and Skype interview to the final challenge in Mexico City, Stewart estimates she made about 60 cocktails, some of which were inspired by her family and her life in Vancouver, a city she loves dearly.
“Having the mountains as my backdrop everyday and the ocean, you know, right there blocks away from where I live — you can’t complain about that,” Stewart said. “There’s so much green in the city, and the culture here is amazing.”
The food and beverage scene is a big part of that. Stewart enjoys relaxing at home with her cats, Jack and Goose, in her scarce downtime, but she’s still full of ideas about where to eat and drink in the spectacular city of Vancouver.
Downtown business district
Locally sourced, seasonal ingredients are at the heart of Royal Dinette’s menus.
Named the best Pacific Northwest restaurant in 2017 by Vancouver Magazine, Royal Dinette features constantly changing seasonal dishes ranging from house-made sausage with pickles and apple barbecue sauce to albacore tuna confit with Manitoba white beans and preserved lemon tonnato.
And with Stewart at the helm, the bar program is clearly top-notch. Cocktails such as the campfire-inspired Kumbaya — featuring hickory smoked rye, Amaro Montenegro, local small-batch cherry cedar bitters and a perfectly toasted homemade marshmallow — showcase her creativity.
The hotel has a residential tower that’s popular with guests in town for film and TV projects, “so you see a lot of famous faces kind of roll through there because it’s so kind of tucked away, nobody gets bothered,” she said.
Gastown and Chinatown
The Diamond in Gastown features an impressive array of original cocktails.
Outside of the downtown financial district, the adjacent neighborhoods of Gastown and Chinatown are full of great food and beverage spots.
Located at the site of Vancouver’s first jail in the heart of historic Gastown, L’Abattoir serves dishes such as baked Pacific oysters with whipped garlic butter and truffle and Arctic char with pommes dauphine, cucumber and dill.
Kitsilano and South Granville
Chef Angus An has created a local, seasonal menu of traditional Thai dishes with innovative twists at Maenam.
Chris Mason Stearns
After years of living downtown, Stewart moved to Kitsilano, just a hop over the Burrard Bridge. The area is the birthplace of yoga brand lululemon and home to many families and young professionals.
“It’s a great little walking neighborhood,” Stewart said. “What I love about it is you kind of feel slightly removed from the city, but at the same time, you’re five minutes away from the downtown core of Vancouver.”
Stewart says the black pepper Dungeness crab is a must-order when it’s on the menu. The grilled sausage and crispy rice salad — featuring house-fermented pork sausage, crispy curried rice puffs, coriander, lemongrass, ginger and fried shallots — is another winner.
“I try not to walk to the bus that way every day or I would stop there, and I would eat a croissant every single day,” she said.
Granville Island and its public market are popular with tourists and locals.
Robert Giroux/Getty Images North America
The island is also home to hundreds of businesses, many producing art and handmade goods.
Stewart has a camouflage apron with leather straps and chunky hardware that she particularly likes.
“If I could wear an apron every single day, I would. It’d make me look so much more fancy than I really am,” she said.
Kingsway and Fraser
And if the world’s best bartender is bellying up to the bar, their beverages are bound to hit the spot.
News credit : Cnn