Some of Ottawa’s top competitors were mixing it up Monday evening.

Literally mixing it up.

Bartenders from 16 local bars and restaurants took part in the first annual Made With Love Ottawa Regional Mixology Competition in the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park.

The event challenges bartenders to come up with a unique new cocktail and pair it with an equally exotic food item.

It turns out bartenders can be a pretty creative bunch, mixing alcohol with everything from candied hibiscus flour and egg whites to black pepper syrup, muddled cucumber and birds eye chilli.

That envelope-pushing approach to cocktails is exactly what Made With Love is all about, says the event’s founder, Pierre-Olivier Trempe. “It's not about making a gin and tonic or martini,” he says. “It's not about classic. It's about creativity, extravagance."

Trempe founded the mixology competition in Montreal 9 years ago. It has since grown into an international phenomenon with events taking place across Canada and as far away as Mexico and Spain. He says it was time Ottawa’s “cocktail culture” was recognized with its own regional competition.

Local bartenders are thrilled with the opportunity. “It's great to see all my fellow colleagues, my fellow bartenders, kind of pushing each other to raise the bar in Ottawa," says Stephane Duval of Carben Food and Drink.

Many who came to sample their wares agree. Jess Boudreau has been to mixology events in other cities and says it’s about time Ottawa had its own. “I think this is fantastic. I usually have to travel. I come here and this is like a trade show for cocktails,” says Bourdreau.

Two winners are chosen from each regional event, one by a panel of judges and one by the public. They advance to the National finals in Montreal in May.