Harmony Arts Festival shakes things up with new pop-up cocktail competition

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      Now entering its 26th year, the Harmony Arts Festival is quite literally shaking things up for its latest installment with the introduction of Mixology Night on the Pier, a pop-up cocktail competition featuring a handful of Vancouver’s most inventive bartenders.

      The annual arts and music festival, which takes place from this Friday (July 29) to August 7, is already host to one of West Vancouver’s hottest culinary events—the BEST of the WEST—and now it’s tapping into another trend that’s bound to draw out-and-out imbibers to Ambleside Pier in droves.

      “Cocktail culture in Vancouver is really hot right now, similar to how the craft-beer scene kind of had its heyday a few years ago,” Julie Melanson, event manager for Mixology Night on the Pier, notes by phone. “And now, we’re noticing a real change toward cocktails.”

      Mixology Night on the Pier takes over Harmony’s waterfront digs on the evening of August 4, when eight of Vancouver’s top bartenders, including the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Grant Sceney, L’Abattoir’s Katie Ingram, and the Shameful Tiki Room’s Shea Hogan, will serve up an assortment of original cocktails. The mixologists have been given free rein with their creations, resulting in thirst-quenching concoctions that use everything from strawberry-and-cardamom shrub to radish gastrique to locally sourced peach bitters.

      “They completely came up with these on their own, which is actually really awesome, because you never know what you’re going to get,” says Melanson. “And we did get quite a wide range of very different cocktails, so it worked out really well.”

      Rum, gin, and vodka feature prominently for the traditionalists, while those looking to sip outside their comfort zones should find plenty to expand their palates, thanks to cocktails that incorporate Aperol, Cocchi Americano, and Cachaça—a Brazilian spirit made from sugar-cane juice. The goal, of course, is to sample all eight drinks, after which guests will be able to vote for their favourite.

      The cocktail that earns the most votes will win its mastermind mixologist a round-trip Helijet flight for two to Victoria. A raffle will award one lucky attendee the same prize as well. As part of an event already well-known for its expansive art and music lineup, Melanson notes, Mixology Night on the Pier will bring a new dimension to the multiday fest. (This year features performances by the Piano Men and local R&B/soul-pop trio Lovecoast, a massive art and fashion showcase, and a talk with award-winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden.)

      “It’s about offering something new and different,” she says, “just keeping the Harmony Arts Festival interesting.”