CPBA Bartender of the Month: Brant Porter

CPBA Bartender of the Month: Brant Porter
January 3, 2017 Simon Ogden

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Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:

I am a professional Bartender, currently fighting the good fight at Pizzeria Prima Strada on Fort St, in Victoria BC.

How did you get into bartending? What was the inspiration for your career route?

My cousins own two Thai restaurants here in town, and with my mother helping manage them I was working in the kitchen and the front of house far earlier than I probably should have been. I caught the hospitality bug very quickly, and decided that serving people food and making them smile would be the best way to make money for my budding music career. One night, I watched one of the owners create a drink (aptly named Sexy Time) with brightly coloured liquids from brightly coloured bottles and was awed by not only the flavour and the strange alchemy behind achieving it, but also by the reactions of the people around him tasting it. I knew I could do that. The day after my 19th birthday, I had my first bar shift. I soon realized that at this time, there was a growing movement around the world to take back cocktails and bartending from the brightly coloured liquids, and introduce fresh juices and quality ingredients. I bought a ticket to Victoria’s Art of The Cocktail festival, and proceeded to make a fool out of myself in front of men and women who are now some of my closest friends, colleagues, mentors, idols, and employers. Just under a year later I took a job as a busser at a new restaurant called Little Jumbo, under the close mentorship of a former criminal and bare-knuckle boxer named Shawn and a zookeeper named Nate.

Is it barrels, carbonation or cocktails on tap? What’s the latest trend you see in bartending?

All those things are super neato, and I love using those techniques when it’s appropriate, but I think the next trend in bartending is looking at how we actually tend bar. What it means to serve people, to dispense them alcohol, to keep them safe. I think innovations in the way cocktails taste and are served will continue to move along at a fast and exciting pace, but bartenders as a whole will look at their jobs differently, with more career-oriented goals and responsibilities. We will look more frankly at how we treat our guests, our colleagues, and ourselves; something I think in turn will create better, safer, places to drink cocktails and make jokes about [Veneto’s] Brian Newham. That, and making sure we don’t kill the Earth and that you can get a decent Negroni at your local pizzeria.

What’s the best part of what you do? And what’s the most challenging part?

That’s a tough one, there is too much about this job that is too cool for school. Getting the opportunity to curate someone’s drinking and dining experience, exceeding their expectations and having them leave happier than when they arrived. Making rad, memorable cocktails, as quickly and as efficiently as I can, for a couple of friends or a packed restaurant. The constant search for knowledge and improvement. The ability to teach and train, and embed people with your excitement, and watch it spread and grow. Crafting with my hands, and making people laugh (occasionally). The hardest part is finding that balance between work and life, making sure you are a happy, healthy, super-dope ray of sunshine that doesn’t go to sleep drunk at 7am and gets up 3pm to eat a Hot Pocket and go back to work. That dude sucks.

What is your favorite spirit to work with behind the bar?

As proper spirits go, Gin has to be what ends up in my hands the most. A standard bottle of London Dry holds so much versatility and brightness; while newer styles, made both locally and around the world, have vibrant characters and complexities that lend their own stories to the cocktails you make. Vermouth also kicks ass.

Do you have a definitive cocktail style?

Probably! It’s nothing new, but making cocktails ‘complex, simply’ is something that really resonates with me. Having each ingredient (and each movement for that matter) carefully prepped and planned so that my original cocktails are simple to construct, simple to comprehend, and are bursting with flavours that tell an exciting, unified story. I want cocktails to be an extension of my hospitality and personality, so they are typically very sexy, with a little bashfulness, a dangerous past, and a lot better than Brian Newham’s.

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever had working behind a bar?

This is tough, because of my poor memory, but Simon Ford said I made the best Daiquiri he’s ever had. I think he says that to all the pretty-face bartenders though. Oh, and there was that one time I shone the light of truth upon Victoria bartending’s false idol Brian Newham (probably the best bartender in the city, but you didn’t hear it from me). Good days, man.

What’s the next step for you when it comes to tending bar?

Hopefully just becoming better.

Who’s bar are you most likely to be found at, and what are you drinking there?

You’ll likely find me crying alone on any one of the following bar tops: Little Jumbo, Veneto, Cenote, Clark & Co, Clive’s, or Cafe Mexico. I’ll be drinking Daiquiris or Vermouth & Tonics filled with lonely tears.

What’s your go to drink to mix?

At work, I’m always keen to make an Italian Classic, or a unique variation of it, to introduce guests to the Aperitivo style of cocktailing. Spritzes, Negronis, stuff you can enjoy before, during, or after dinner. If I’m outside of work, it’s very likely I have the means to make a Daiquiri, and you’re more than welcome to have one, just don’t let the bus driver see you. They work very hard.

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