BANFF – Supplying locally crafted alcohol to warm the spirit – the Tribute Craft Spirits Celebration will be taking place for a second year in Banff starting this week.
Made with Love small event planner Florence Doyon said it is exciting to be back after the success of last year's event. The festival is a collaboration between Made with Love and Banff and Lake Louise Tourism and serves as a way to showcase the great food and beverages in the mountain town.
“The goal of the festival is to showcase local spirits from Alberta and B.C. and to become one of the biggest craft spirit festivals in Canada,” Doyon said.
She added that Made with Love began as a cocktail competition held across the country and has expanded to include Tribute as an event platform to showcase local spirits.
A cocktail menu will be featured for the festival and runs from Jan. 15-26. Participating venues will be showcasing five unique cocktails using local ingredients, with more than 100 cocktails to try over the week.
During the festival, 19 local restaurants partner with Tribute to showcase the local food scene in Banff and Lake Louise, along with 12 distilleries from Alberta, British Columbia and Montreal.
Doyon said a highlight of the event is the two-day outdoor tasting experience at the Bear Street parking lot that takes place on Jan. 25-26.
“The two-day outdoor tasting experience is going to be really unique,” Doyon said. “It’s a winter festival, it’s going to be cold but we have plenty of warming tents, plenty of heaters – it’s going to be a really cool way to enjoy winter.”
The outdoor tasting days are an amazing side of the event, she said, because it offers guests the chance to meet local distillers and learn the stories behind their spirits.
“We’re going to have heated tents and people are going to be able to walk from tent to tent and try cocktails and spirits,” Doyon said, explaining that the atmosphere is complemented by the beautiful snow sculptures created for Banff and Lake Louise Snow Days. “We’re going to also have a big beautiful ice bar in the middle and some fire pits as well to warm up people. It’s a really cool outdoor event.”
Closing out the festival the best bartenders in the Bow Valley will be facing off on Sunday (Jan. 26) for a cocktail competition organized by the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
“It’s described as the most extravagant cocktail competition,” Doyon said. “It’s a really fun event.”
Serving as the chief sponsor for the competition, Wild Life Distillery will be supplying its gin for the valley's six best bartenders to work with.
“It’s [the cocktail competition] essentially to highlight the mixology talent in the Bow Valley and show our gin,” said Wild Life owner Matt Widmer said. “While organizing a fun cocktail comp[etition] for people to go to the [Fairmont Banff] Springs and dress up.”
It is a fitting festival for Wild Life because the distillery and festival celebrate the culture of the Bow Valley while helping foster relationships between locals.
The event is a great way to connect restaurants with distillers and the public, Widner added, while showcasing interesting bar techniques and cocktails.
He said it is amazing seeing the creativity mixologists bring to the competition to create incredible one-of-a-kind cocktails.
“It’s showing support for the bartenders who work hard month in and month out and giving them some acknowledgment,” Widmer said. "My favourite part is the creativity."
He added that the competition can help inspire people to understand the versatility of spirits so they can enjoy their own cocktails at home.
Doyon said the festival also features an exciting seven-course feast organized by Block Kitchen and Bar that will showcase local food paired with local spirits.
“Cocktails have been really trendy, and the fact that eating local and drinking local has been a big, big trend we jumped into this trend and wanted to create something really fun,” Doyon said, adding that she hopes the event will be able to draw people from across the province while serving as a fun event for locals in the Bow Valley.
Doyon said she recommends arriving early to the event so they can enjoy the entire festival and check the schedule so they can plan their week out.
The Tribute Cocktail Menu will be available from Jan. 15 to 26 at participating restaurants. The two-day outdoor tasting experience takes place on Jan. 24-25. The 12 days of celebration ends with the Banff Craft Cocktail competition on Jan. 26.