It was a day of firsts as Kjeryn Dakin from Sylvan Lake became the first woman to win the best caesar in Canada, with a virgin cocktail.
This is also the first time the win has come from Alberta, despite the drink being invented in Calgary.
Attending the national competition in Toronto on Nov. 25 was an amazing experience, Dakin said.
This was her second year competing on the national stage, and this year she was more focused and determined than ever.
“I lost by half a point last year and I was absolutely gutted… I didn’t want to lose again, I wanted to make my family and employees proud while also representing our town,” she said.
Returning to the competition almost didn’t happen for the owner of two local restaurants. She said the fear of losing once again plagued her with self-doubt.
The other factor to consider in that decision was her pregnancy.
She said she was unsure in the beginning if she wanted to compete because she was pregnant, and how she would get to the national competition at eight months pregnant.
“I wasn’t going to compete this year, because who wants a pregnant bartender.”
Dakin talked herself into competing once again, having earned a bye at the regional competition in Red Deer and moved straight on to provincials at the Calgary Stampede.
She entered with a caesar she called the Tragically Hips, due to its Canadian connection and the use of rose hips.
However, the part that made her sweat was entering with a virgin drink.
She said it was a risky move and one she doubted all the time.
“Being pregnant I couldn’t make a traditional cocktail because I couldn’t taste it along the way… No bartender worth their salt will make a cocktail without tasting it,” Dakin said.
To win provincially with a virgin cocktail was unheard of, but to do so again to have the best caesar in Canada was a truly amazing experience.
At the competition in Toronto, Dakin said she kept her head down and stayed focus on the prize the entire time.
She said everything had to be perfect, because she didn’t want to return to Sylvan Lake without the win for the second time.
“I didn’t even tell the judges it was a virgin drink because I didn’t want them to judge me on that,” she said.
When her name was called as the winner, Dakin said she didn’t feel proud or vindicated at winning on her second try.
Instead she said she just felt happy with a sense of finality.
“I was so happy, but it was also like it’s done, it’s over.”
Being named the best caesar in Canada will help her business, but Dakin says it will help the town as a whole.
Having Canada’s best caesar in Sylvan Lake will be a draw for many people to take that turn off the QEII and come into town.
Dakin says that is the important part.
“There is a tourist draw in having the best caesar, people will come just for that. But once they are here they will look at getting an ice cream down the street, or checking out axe throwing.
“Getting them into town is the hard part. I think this will be a draw to do just that,” said Dakin.
A version of the cocktail will be available to purchase at Bukz, though it will be “more substantial” than the one Dakin won the competition with.
She also said there will be the option to have it with alcohol or virgin.
“We want to give you value for what you are getting, and the one I made for the competition was like two gulps,” she said, adding the customer can request the version presented at the competition, it will just take more time to put together.