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Drink Masters: Shake up the Competition (2022)

Are you looking for an out of the box reality TV show? One that’s not about dating, romance, sex or finding your ideal mate in a beach house, in a pod, or marrying a stranger sight-unseen? Well, Netflix has come to the rescue with a delightfully unexpected and intense “cooking” competition show that is not about food. Enter Drink Masters, a ten-episode series set in a decadently opulent bar befitting 1920’s prohibition era swank. The judges include two internationally-renowned white mixologists, Julie Reiner of NYC and Frankie Solarik of The Six (aka Toronto), wonderfully anchored by the astute and always entertaining black host Tone Bell. These three staples are also joined by guest judges like the brilliant, black, queer mixology diva Tiffanie Barriere whose bar One Flew South earned the prestigious title of best airport bar in the world in 2014.

As for the contestants, they are wonderfully diverse in sex, sexuality, gender, race, and cultural heritage including black, white, Indian, Japanese, Puerto Rican, Tunisian, and French-Canadian competitors from middle America and big metropolitan American and Canadian cities. In fact, two contestants hail from Montreal. Although mainly professional bartenders, one got her start on social media and another as a research and development production chef. We were particularly impressed that in the white male-dominated world of mixology, half of the competitors are women and two of them are black women!

In each episode these fierce competitors face off in distinct challenges meant to test their speed, ingenuity, skill, and creativity. What’s a stake? Oh, just a cool $100K for the winner (and that’s US dollars, not Canadian)! Since everything they dream up is judged on appearance, taste, and creativity, this show is not just about making a great cocktail, it’s about transporting the person who drinks it through a unique sensorial and aesthetic experience. In each new episode, the contestants are judged on distinct challenges with the bottom two facing off again to avoid elimination. Did we mention that every challenge has an imposed time limit? The nature of the challenges is as eye-opening as the cocktails that they inspire! They include creating a unique take on a margarita, innovating a new cocktail centring a specific fruit, botanical or spices, whipping up a dessert-inspired cocktail, creating a cocktail precisely configured for a specific food pairing, innovating an entire flight of cocktails, and showing off your molecular cocktail making skills. Sound difficult? Well, it is! As the episodes click by, the competitors dwindle, and the challenges grow – well – more challenging. A side effect of the mounting pressure is that the once outwardly boastful and even arrogant facades of these skilled mixologists quickly fade, and their vulnerabilities become apparent.

What you’ll learn is how much you never knew about the ever-evolving world of mixology in which the top-tier are not merely “bartenders,” but chemists, inventors, and chefs! Technically, these super star contestants are innovators who smoke, juice, dehydrate, foam, sauté, blend, oil, and steam their way to extraordinary cocktail experiences. Indeed, so much of what they do is not at “the bar,” but in the fully-stocked kitchens which double as their laboratories. What does it take to win? Well, creativity, innovation, a superb palate, an extraordinary command of ingredients, and a knowledge of how their chosen ingredients interact instantly and over the time it takes to imbibe a cocktail. Drink Masters is a truly mind-blowing and sense-stimulating experience that leaves you wanting to step up your at-home mixology game. Tune in and it’s sure to become your next guilty viewing pleasure.