Bacardi selects student winners for The Great Canadian Ready-to-Drink Cocktail Ideation Challenge

Left photo: pictured (from left): First prize winner Carey Satin (l) stands with Sherry Gray (r), senior brand manager, RTD, Bacardi Canada Inc. as winners from The Great Canadian Ready-to-Drink Cocktail Ideation Challenge are honoured on March 29 at NC’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus. Right photo: pictured (from left) are Lyndon Ashton (CFWI Innovation Centre manager), Kyler Schwind (second place winner), Lokesh Khismatrao (fourth place winner), Carey Satin (first place winner), Piotr Weglewski (third place winner), and Sherry Gray (Bacardi Canada Inc.).

Sixty students. Forty concepts. Nine programs. Five semi-finalists. And it all came down to one winner.

The five semi-finalists of The Great Canadian Ready-to-Drink Cocktail Ideation Challenge were honoured on March 29, in the new Marotta Family Innovation Complex at Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.

Students from nine different NC programs signed up for the contest, which was organized by the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre and ncTakeoff, and held at the NOTL Campus in March.

Sponsored by Bacardi Canada, Inc., for student participants of legal drinking age, the ideation challenge involved presenting an original idea for a ready-made cocktail, along with how the concept fits the consumer market for Bacardi.

“We were very impressed with the quality of ideas and the amount of effort brought forth by the students,” noted Sherry Gray, senior brand manager, Ready-to-Drink line, Bacardi Canada, Inc. “Looking at the overall themes across all of the idea submissions gives us further understanding and validation of upcoming food and beverage trends that may not be mainstream now, but will very quickly become popularized.”

Three Bacardi judges visited NC on March 19, to narrow down those original entries to five semi-final concepts, which were moved forward to the final awards ceremony. In the end, Carey Satin, a second-year student in Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program, took home the top prize of $1,000 for her Keto-friendly creation.

The top four finishers (Satin had two concepts in the top five), along with program, concept, and prize, include:

  • First Place: Carey Satin, Culinary Innovation and Food Technology, $1,000 prize, for a Keto-friendly Tequila Spritzer;
  • Second Place: Kyler Schwind, Culinary Innovation and Food Technology, $500 prize, for Can of Memes line of beverages, including Ginger Tom Collins, Lemon Lavender Sidecar, Cold Chamomile Toddy, and Pomegranate Sour;
  • Third Place: Piotr Weglewski, Culinary Innovation and Food Technology, $100 Benchmark gift card for Strawberry Mojito Kiss My Kombucha; and
  • Fourth Place: Lokesh Khismatrao, Hotel and Restaurant Operations, $30 Benchmark gift card, for Spicy Cinnamon Cider Mojito.

CFWI Innovation Centre manager Lyndon Ashton was thrilled with the diversity of entries from across so many different programs, including Brewmaster and Brewery Operations; Culinary Innovation and Food Technology; Artisan Distilling; Hospitality and Tourism Management; Winery and Viticulture Technician; Tourism Management; Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development); Hotel and Restaurant Operations; and Esthetician.

“This contest builds on a partnership between Bacardi and Niagara College that began with consumer acceptance testing and has evolved into market research, and new and exciting initiatives like the one today,” noted Ashton. “This really highlights the value we bring to industry partners by integrating various areas of our expertise into applied research and innovation solutions across multiple touchpoints in their business models.”

“Watching highly motivated students showcase their own selling skills to Bacardi, with an outstanding combination of hard work and brilliant ideas, was just priceless,” noted Ana Cristina Vega Ludo, senior food scientist with the CFWI Innovation Centre.

The Bacardi judges included Gray; Adam Giliberto, senior manager, Commercial Performance and Insights; and Jennifer Smith, senior manager, Consumer Insights.

“While we can’t promise that these product ideas will make it on shelf, we do know that this program can help fuel our innovation pipeline and keep us connected to new technology developments and the imagination of the future leaders in our industry as they continue to learn,” said Gray.

She added that Bacardi will work with NC to potentially embed the challenge further into the curriculum, giving students a longer runway to develop their product ideas and create prototypes. “We are always looking for original ideas that are grounded in consumer insights that can spark the development of future products – it may be a technology advancement, a specific ingredient, a unique flavour or an ingenious marketing campaign idea.”

About Niagara College:

Niagara College offers more than 130 diplomas, bachelor’s degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit

About Bacardi:

Bacardi Limited, the largest privately held spirits company in the world, produces and markets internationally recognized spirits and wines. The Bacardi brand portfolio comprises more than 200 brands and labels, including BACARDÍ® rum, GREY GOOSE® vodka, PATRÓN® tequila, DEWAR’S® Blended Scotch whisky, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin, MARTINI® vermouth and sparkling wines, CAZADORES® 100% blue agave tequila, and other leading and emerging brands including WILLIAM LAWSON’S® Scotch whisky, ST-GERMAIN® elderflower liqueur, and ERISTOFF® vodka. Founded more than 157 years ago, in Santiago de Cuba on February 4, 1862, family-owned Bacardi currently employs more than 7,000, operates more than 20 production facilities, including bottling, distilling and manufacturing sites in 11 countries, and sells its brands in more than 170 countries. Bacardi Limited refers to the Bacardi group of companies, including Bacardi International Limited. Visit or follow @BacardiLimited.