Netflix is set to shake up the bar and spirits worlds with Drink Masters, a reality series out of Canada to debut on Oct. 28 as competing mixologists infuse and blend their liquid art to create fresh takes on storied cocktails.
Similar to other reality competition shows, 12 contestants from across North America have to complete challenges against a clock, with one person getting their marching orders every episode until an Ultimate Drink Master is crowned. But what can be done with a skillet and stove in Top Chef or Chopped can apparently also be done with a cocktail shaker and a bar top in Drink Masters as bartenders shake, stir and pour elixirs to create madcap cocktails, Marblemedia co-creator Matt Homburg tells The Hollywood Reporter.
“It’s not just about what’s in the glass, but what appears around the glass as part of that experience. And it’s just as much about your palate as well as the aromas,” Homburg explains. After the success of its Blown Away and Restaurants on the Edge series on Netflix, Marblemedia pitched the streaming giant on a cocktail competition series that is less in-your-face than American reality competition series and more focused on the tactile adventure of making cocktails.
“It’s taking something cinematic, with rich, elevated, distinct characters who are passionate and having a slightly unique quality different from a lot of other shows out there — something more optimistic, which is true to the values of our company,” Homburg says.
“It’s not lost on us as Canadians to be making a reality competition show that has a different perspective than around a show made out of the U.S. There’s space in this environment for all of these different perspectives and that’s what people are tuning into,” he adds about the success of Blown Away.
Fellow Marblemedia co-creator Mark Bishop insists Drink Masters is the product of an indie producer based in Canada, but operating as an American company focused on a world market that Netflix and other streaming players are expanding into. “We’re a Canadian company, but our focus has been about working closely with the U.S. We’re there. We have someone based in LA., we’re there, working and selling directly to the streamers in the U.S. We’re operating like an American company and a local company as we work with them, and all the while leveraging every dollar that we can out of Canada and we have by creating Canadian content,” Bishop tells THR.
Netflix’s Drink Masters, unveiled on Thursday, sees mixologists drawn from celebrated bars in New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas and elsewhere who are mostly veterans of the cocktail competition circuit. The series is shot in Hamilton, Ontario on a giant soundstage with nine cameras trained on two long bars, velvet fabrics, chandeliers, bar stools, floor-to-ceiling shelves of bottled spirits and a kitchen to which contestants are forever racing back and forth for key ingredients.
The cocktails are marked on taste, presentation and how the palates of the two judges, Frankie Solarik and Julie Reine, are reacting that day. And the tough job of making that rarified passion for cocktails gripping for ordinary TV viewers falls to the series host, Tone Bell, a stand-up comic who starred as John Levy alongside Andra Day in Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
“I’m getting some jokes off, but I’m also learning stuff that people at home will take away as they try to make things that our competitors created,” Bell tells THR. “That’s the really fun part of the series.”