A Day at the Races: The Cocktail Jockey Mixology Competition

by Sean McGuigan

Last Sunday’s “The Julep” hospitality industry event at the Deighton Cup was a fantastic day at the races. Morning thundershowers gave way to an afternoon of sunshine, throwback attire, and bourbon cocktails. The highlight of the event, the “Cocktail Jockey” mixology competition, was the first cocktail competition I have ever taken part in. The contest featured a collection of the city’s finest bartenders representing its most cocktail-savvy establishments, all of them tasked with creating an original interpretation of the classic Mint Julep. But unlike the other participants, many of whom had weeks to prepare, I was asked to participate only the night before, while in the middle of my shift at Clough Club.

Considering the circumstances, I went into the event with few expectations, hoping only for a decent showing and a great experience. So I was as surprised as anyone when the judges’ decision was made and my cocktail was announced as the winner.

The idea for the cocktail came from an attempt to give the Julep a local context. Horse racing and the Mint Julep have a long history together. The Mint Julep has been the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby since 1938, and each year, over 120,000 Juleps are sold at the Derby in just two days. Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner was Mario Gutierrez, a Mexican-born jockey who launched his racing career at Vancouver’s Hastings Park, the venue of the Deighton Cup and the Cocktail Jockey competition. As the Julep is synonymous with the Derby, I thought a nod to Mario’s achievement, very much a local success story, would be a great concept for the competition.

The resulting cocktail, named “The Gutierrez,” is a Mexican-inspired twist on the classic Julep. Fidencio Classico Mezcal, Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole bitters, and the Clough Club’s house-made chocolate liqueur accent the Julep’s traditional bourbon and mint flavours with smoke, chocolate, and spice.  Stirred with ice and served neat in a cocktail coupe, The Gutierrez is a spirit-forward take on the original, with bold flavours being softened only slightly by an icing sugar-coated rim. A slapped mint sprig garnish infuses the cocktail with a fresh aroma and connects it back to the original Julep.

“The Gutierrez” will be available at the Clough Club starting this weekend.

“The Gutierrez.”


– 2 oz Bulleit Bourbon

– 0.5 oz Fidencio Classico Mezcal

– 0.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur (housemade)

– 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters


– Powdered icing sugar

– Mint sprig


– Lightly slap the mint sprig and wash the inside of a cocktail coupe or small tumbler with the sprig.

– Rim the glass with powdered sugar.

– Place the mint sprig back in the cocktail glass.

– In a mixing glass, combine Bourbon, Mezcal, Chocolate Liqueur and bitters. Stir with ice to taste.

– Pour the mixture into the cocktail glass over the mint sprig.