Canada’s Alex Black and Makenzie Chilton have been crowned the winners of Altos Tequila’s inaugural The Tahona Society Collective Spirit competition.
Previously cocktail-focused, this year The Tahona Society evolved, becoming a platform to inspire and champion sustainable practice within the bartending industry.
The competition challenged bartenders from around the world to present project ideas that benefit their bar staff, customers, the community or the environment in a bid to win a $50,000 grant to bring the concept to life.
15 projects were selected to compete in the grand final which took place last week in Guadalajara, Mexico.
In the build up to the final, the contestants had the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the Pernod Ricard-owned tequila brand’s sustainable values. This included an exclusive tour of the distillery from maestro tequilero Jesús Hernandez.
They also participated in workshops and received specialised tequila training and one-to-one coaching from the judges and industry experts in the fields of business, marketing and public speaking.
The bartenders pitched their initatives to a panel of judges that included Pernod Ricard House of Tequila vice president Christophe Prat, Shark Tank Mexico executive producer Kirén Miret, Altos Tequila co-founder Dré Masso, and Valerie Kramis, co-founder of design studio Agenda 28.
Alex and Mackenzie from Vancouver, Canada impressed with their project Mind the Bar, which aims to improve mental health in the bartending industry by providing resources, information and support to people dealing with thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety, and workplace harassment.
The grant will be immediately used to hire counselling staff who will be able to help and give advice to people suffering, and to scale up and expand the platform to other cities across Canada.
Makenzie said: “I feel shocked but so thankful. We’re going to help so many people and we’re going to literally save lives.”
Alex added: “We’ve got a whole lot of new friends that help a whole lot of great communities and we’re sure that they probably need as much help as ours do. We’re excited to be able to offer as much as we can.”
The pair urge any bartenders out there who are struggling to reach out to Mind the Bar.
“The biggest thing is to not keep it to yourself because someone you know will either have had a similar experience so you won’t feel alone or you’re able to be connected through this amazing community and someone will help you,” reassures Makenzie. “Our hope is that the education and knowledge that we bring will create that ripple effect.”
Carlos Andrés Ramírez, global advocacy manager at Pernod Ricard House of Tequila, said: “At Altos Tequila, we have long demonstrated the importance of being at the forefront of bartender education through The Tahona Society and promoting sustainable practices in the bar industry.
“We hope many more bartenders will join our familia of tequileros who want to get serious about protecting the environment and improving the lives in their local communities.”
In addition to the $50,000 grant, House of Tequila and the businesses of Miret, Kramis and Masso will sponsor a fundraising event for the US finalist’s Support the Staff initiative.
As part of the awards ceremony, Adrián Lopez from Hanky Panky bar in Mexico City was awarded the first ever Henry Besant Scholarship, which will help to fund an international exchange to London to advance his career.