Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:
Tour guide through the confusing world of spirits, wine and beer. Ambassador for having a good time. Darth 3-PO, drink-dispensing Sith Droid.
How did you get into bartending? What was the inspiration for your career route?
It was a lucky act of necessity, actually. I was the wine director at a restaurant in Kelowna and I had no intention of ever bartending. It looked really stressful. Then the bar manager quit and I was strongly encouraged to take over. I had never made a drink or been behind a bar in my life. I instantly fell in love. That was just over a year and a half ago. Now I live in Vancouver and work with Jay Jones at Vij’s and it is awesome. The best part of my job as a wine guy was when I made a recommendation that made people happy. As a bartender I get to create entire experiences that make people happy. It was a no brainer.
Is it barrels, carbonation or cocktails on tap? What’s the latest trend you see in bartending?
I would say on the whole I’m seeing a rise in cocktails on tap, but I don’t really understand the value in it. The best trend happening in bartending right now is a large and growing consensus that hospitality is the key to a great experience. We’re all friends and we’re all there to have a good time. There is no space for rude bartenders any longer; there are too many other places to get a proper drink.
What’s the best part of what you do? And what’s the most challenging part?
I think they’re one and the same, and that is making people happy. Sometimes people are already happy and I just have to keep that going. Other times they must be convinced to have a good time. But when someone takes the time to tell me they had a great time, because of the drink I made them or the service that was provided, that makes my night.
What is your favorite spirit to work with behind the bar?
I like almost all things with alcohol in them, so I don’t know that I have a good answer. I like to surprise people so if there is a spirit they haven’t had before or if they had a bad experience with it at some point I’ll use that. I like intensely flavoured things as a category.
Do you have a definitive cocktail style?
Whenever I create a drink my goal is to make something that didn’t exist before. Sometimes that’s a minor variation on an existing cocktail but my favourites are large departures. I like to take ingredients that shouldn’t work together and make them work. I like intense flavours and textures. I like drinks that are unabashedly delicious. I’ve always struggled to make elegant and delicate drinks.
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever had working behind a bar?
Such a hard question. I remember when I finally “got” how to stir a drink properly, back when I started to tend bar. That was a huge moment for me. I felt like a real bartender, and I’ll always carry that memory with me. These days, every time someone orders the same drink twice I’m really happy. Making a drink for Simon Difford and David Wondrich was cool, too.
What’s the next step for you when it comes to tending bar?
Keep improving every day. I have so many more books to read and techniques to hone. I’m going to keep competing because I enjoy it and it pushes me out of my comfort zone. I like the limitations they impose on the creative process. The end result is so different than if I had just been given free reign.
What’s your go to drink to drink?
While the Daiquiri is probably my favourite classic cocktail, I find myself drinking Smokey and the Bandit from Keefer Bar when I’m at home. It is simple, smoky, bitter and sweet: a few of my favourite things.
What’s your go to drink to mix?
If it’s dealer’s choice I often go with a Bennett if I’m thinking gin. It’s a Gimlet with angostura bitters, and it is quality. It always surprises people. La Louisiane if someone usually drinks an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan.
Fernet, Mezcal or Chartreuse?
Mezcal. The other two are delicious but not as versatile. And if we’re just doing shots I’m still picking Mezcal.
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