CPBA Bartender of the Month: Thor Paulson

CPBA Bartender of the Month: Thor Paulson
December 1, 2015 Amber Bruce

Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:

I work as part of a team, trying to create the best guest experience possible. I just happen to be the one making the drinks.

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

I had my first cocktail, a Rob Roy, at age twelve due to a mix-up at a private members club when I was out for dinner with my parents (I was supposed to get a mocktail). I’d never tasted anything like it before, didn’t know what was it in, and wound up getting another one. I found myself intrigued by whatever I’d tasted that day. That curiousity led to a hobby, which became a passion. Shortly after acceptance into engineering school, a couple personal changes led me to a period of soul-searching. I realized I’d always wanted to be a bartender, and I thought I’d give it a serious shot.

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

Trying to follow trends is a great way to always be playing catch-up. As far as the consumer, dark spirits, especially scotch and bourbon, are experiencing their hayday. Vermouth and amari are also becoming more popular. I think bar programmes have been changing in response to this. When it comes to using innovative ingredients or techniques, a lot of it has been done at this point. I think what sets a bar apart is the execution of its concept and the customer service and ambience that surrounds the beverage.

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

When you have a really seamless service, or get through a really big rush, there’s a huge feeling of satifaction that you accomplished something. Also getting to know so many members of the Vancouver hospitality community has been a pleasure. I find it all to be a challenge in a sense: there are so many different skills that are important that there’s always an aspect of your drinks or service that could be improved on.

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

I find myself frequently working with rye, tequila, mezcal, and gin, but that’s more due to their versatility. I’ve been on a sherry/aperitif/digest kick recently; as patrons become more comfortable with those categories, I’m provided more opportunities to explore the really unique flavours these products can lend to a drink.

Do you have a definitive cocktail style?

No. I’m definitely still honing my craft. Every week I change the way I do something. That whole “10,000 hour” rule applies to bartending as much as any other trade.

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

My first shift at the Diamond’s old speakeasy, the Elk Room. After beating Josh Pape’s door down, I got a trial shift back there in 2012. I walked into a room I did not know existed and discovered a gorgeous bar filled with ingredients I had never heard of. In there, “H”, bar manager at Notturno, told me to “light the candles, take a shot of bourbon, and then work.” It was so hectic and crazy, I knew that this was the professional direction for me. H almost took my head off with a few dramatic pours, he taught me tons of obscure cocktails (first drink he taught me, the Algonquin. Seriously, I memorized the recipe thinking someone might actually order one of those one day), and I had a blast. 

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

I’m just going to keep my head down. Work hard, grow into my new job at L’Abattoir, support my bar team and try to improve the service and drinks I offer as best I can.


Brought to you each month by our friends: