CPBA Bartender of the Month: Matt Buck

CPBA Bartender of the Month: Matt Buck
May 1, 2016 Amber Bruce

Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:

A man possessed by spirits, a creative mind, always learning, always growing. An efficient, friendly host and a genuine conversation.

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

I started out in the industry as student needing to pay the bills, but I grew accustomed to the lifestyle and I stuck with it. I was working in high-volume pubs, clubs, and franchises for the better part of a decade before I burned out and decided to go back to school. Last March, a year into studying Social Work, the franchise I had been working at for five years closed down, and after running into an old friend Sean Draper, I managed to secure a job opportunity in the bar he was opening, Red Deer’s first Cocktail bar- To The Lost. I genuinely found my passion in cocktails. Prior to then I had never viewed bartending as a craft, but working in that environment and with that team, I knew I was home, and I knew I had a lot to learn. I quit school and decided to dedicate myself full time to cocktail bartending.

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

Here in Red Deer the latest trend in cocktails is, well…cocktails. Locally, the cocktail culture is really finding a following, though in my opinion we’re still a couple of years behind larger cities like Calgary and Edmonton. It’s really exciting to see the city starting to embrace things like fresh juice, bitters, tinctures, and shrubs.

One of the biggest trends I see is how today’s technology is taking a small world and making it smaller. The internet has a wealth of knowledge available to anyone searching for it. I am very thankful to have the ability to access information and inspiration from bartenders the world over, because it helps me to continue learning and challenging myself even though I may not live in a city with a fully established cocktail scene.

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

The craft of bartending is really what called to me – the expansive nature of it and the fact that you can never stand still. In order to be effective, you always need to be learning, experimenting, and growing. In my opinion that is both the best part of what I do and the most challenging. I love being able to forge trust in my relationships with guests, learning about their palates and preferences and working to make their experience the best it can be. To do that I need to constantly strive to stay at the top of my game, which takes a lot of time and dedication. All knowledge is most assuredly power.

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

I’ve been going steady with Gin for a few years now, but I’ll admit lately I’ve been seeing smoky Scotches on the side… I don’t think I’m ready to settle down.

Do you have a definitive cocktail style?

I’ve still got a lot to learn and right now my focus is educating myself about as many different styles as I can to continue building solid foundations for myself.

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

Having been behind the bar for twelve years, I think the most memorable moment for me was when realized that cocktail bartending had reignited my passion. I had basically given up on the industry, but being immersed in the rich history and bright future of cocktails brought me back. I love what I do.

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

As I’ve said, I still have a lot to learn, and that is always at the forefront of my mind. Given the fact I’ve only been working with cocktails for a little over a year, I need to work very diligently to reach the same level as the talented people I look up to in the industry. When I am not at To The Lost, I’m working full time on building a stronger cocktail culture in Central Alberta through Old Fashioned, a hospitality consulting company I started with my friend and mentor, Seth Van Havere. Red Deer is really starting to embrace good cocktails, and we are incredibly excited to see what the future has in store for our community.

What’s your go to drink to drink?

A Negroni. If it’s my first time in an establishment, I always order a Negroni. If it’s made well, I instantly feel more comfortable.

What’s your go to drink to mix?

It always depends on my guest, their palate, and their mood that day. I don’t think there is a single cocktail out there that can make everyone happy. Except the Negroni…

Fernet, Mezcal or Chartreuse?

Mezcal for sipping, Fernet for shooting. I need both, you see.

Brought to you each month by our friends: