Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:
My job is to provide guests with the highest level of professionalism and service to the full extent of my ability. Tailoring the experience to each of their specific needs and leaving them with an uncontrollable desire to return.
How did you start your journey as a bartender?
Having worked in the service industry from the age of 14, I had always admired the bartender’s position. After many years of dishwashing, cooking, expediting and serving I was finally given a chance to pour a few beers at a local brew pub. My lone Monday day shift wasn’t the most glamorous, but it gave me a taste of the excitement and I fell in love. I found a craigslist ad for a bartending position at Veneto Lounge, an up-and-coming cocktail joint in downtown Victoria. I fired up my resume and wildly embellished my bartending experience. Yes! I got the job. It was time to do some serious research and step up to the plate. Having not known much about the craft, I was incredibly nervous. My current mentor Simon Ogden (CPBA BC VP) was hired a short month after me and well… the rest is history. Here I am today nearly 6 years into my career at Veneto and I’m not about to slow down now.
What’s the next bartender trend that you see about to emerge in the bar industry?
With the craft beer and distilling scene expanding exponentially, I’d truly like to see more bars that put a stronger emphasis on the local. I know that’s a hard sell with whiskey for most locations, but we can at least stop importing vodka and just make our own. I feel like the next thing I’ll see are gin bars with a master distiller and a “fresh sheet” of spirits. Since we are bringing in a trend, let’s put one to death shall we? Barrel-aging cocktails has got to go. I feel that barrel-aging ingredients that are already barrel aged is like taking a chef’s perfect medium rare and tossing it in the deep fryer.
What’s the best part about your job? What is the most challenging part?
Same answer for both: the people. Whether it is customers or colleagues, they both present challenges. To confront these challenges with grace is what defines a true Jedi bartender. That being said, the people also perpetuate my love for this industry.
Do you have a definitive or signature cocktail style?
I’d like to think I don’t, but I know whenever a cocktail is on the pass my mentor knows damn well which one is mine. Big, bold and boozy I suppose. I try to step out of my comfort zone and I’m often awarded total freedom from my customers. But cocktail telepathy is the goal here. I don’t want my guests drinking what I want them to drink, I want them to drink exactly what they want even if they had no idea they wanted it.
What the most memorable moment working behind a bar?
A man that appeared to be homeless walked into the bar. Ratty hair, second-hand tracksuit, rotting teeth, and a foul odour, he met most of the criteria for someone I shouldn’t serve. My heart told me otherwise though. I let him sit down and then introduced myself. He tells me he likes to be called “The Dive Master.” He ordered a drink. I treated him with the same respect I would treat my own mother. He showed me respect right back. I poured his Crown & Coke and he puts $100 down. I get his change and he tells me to keep it. At this point I am happy about my decision to serve him and this is where it all starts to unravel. He proceeded to grab a lemon from my bowl and throw it at a guest across the restaurant. As I’m about to ask him to leave, he tells me to charge him for that table’s entire bill. It was around $300. Just when I thought it was over he ordered a shot of our most expensive whiskey for every person in the bar including himself. He lifts up his shot and tosses it over his shoulder. I bill him for the $300 table and the whiskey, which was Pappy Van Winkle if remember correctly, he pays with cash and tips $1200. He lights a cigarette in the bar and walks slowly out of the building. I don’t know who he was and I never saw him again. Dive Master, if you’re out there, next drink is on me.
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