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Madeleine MacDonald — 2022 Outstanding Young Alumna

Madeleine MacDonald sitting on a bench looking off camera

Madeleine MacDonald (HM '14)
2022 Outstanding Young Alumna
Instructor, School of Hospitality and Tourism, SAIT


It’s all about balance.

Madeleine MacDonald won’t hazard a guess at how many cocktails she has created over the past nine years, but if her 50 notebooks of ideas and inspiration are any indication, it’s a lot. And the fact that she’s participated in at least the same number of competitions – and won many of them – should tell you she’s pretty good at it.

Your big break?

I interned at Model Milk and got to be a “baby bartender” in a brand new venue that was pushing the boundaries in terms of cocktails and food. That’s where cocktails became my passion. I loved that it allowed me to be creative and combined my interest in cooking with my love of people.

The story behind your favourite cocktail?

Inspiration can come from anywhere – an ingredient or a dish your grandmother made – but it was a song in this case. One of our regular customers at Model Milk was obsessed with Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus and played it all the time. The cocktail was my first to make it onto the menu and is near and dear to my heart – Model Milk even brought it back for their 10th anniversary.

Your inspiration?

When you’ve been in an industry for a long time, it’s easy to get jaded and grouchy, but my students keep me inspired – they have such joy, interest and excitement. I teach students from all over the world with different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures, and that creates a dynamic classroom. We share our stories – and favourite beverage products – and learn from each other’s experiences and mistakes.  

On finding balance

Cocktails are all about balance – acidity, sweetness and bitterness – and allowing each ingredient to shine. As much as restaurants compete with each other, we’re also connected. We take care of each other and balance each other out. But we can still do a lot to rethink aspects of our industry to be more equitable and provide a better work/life balance. I’ve been given so many opportunities that I need to give back. It’s why I’ve loved being able to help bring Speed Rack, a global bartending competition, to Alberta and working with the Bartenders Benevolent Fund to help people in our industry get the funds they needed to live through the pandemic.

The power of story

This year’s SAIT Alumni Awards recipients are all well versed in the power of story. Whether they’re breaking them from the news anchor desk, uncovering them rinkside at an NHL game, spinning them behind a trendy cocktail bar or using them to connect with students in a classroom, they know exactly how sharing stories shapes, challenges and connects us.

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