CPBA Bartender of the Month: Reece Sims

CPBA Bartender of the Month: Reece Sims
April 1, 2018 Amber Bruce

Twitter time — who are you and what do you do (in under 140 characters):

I’m Reece and I am a bartender, cocktail enthusiast, gym junkie, bacon lover and Whiskey Muse founder.

How did you get into bartending?

Oof, it’s a long story. But to try and give you the short version: I worked in Marketing/PR in Architecture, Interior Design + Urban Planning for a number of years. In mid-2014, I yearned for a change and decided to quit my corporate life. Wanting some time off to figure out my next move, I went full “Eat Pray Love” and moved down to Santa Monica for the summer. I came back to Vancouver in Fall 2014 with a vision to start a marketing consultancy. The only problem? I was broke (living in Los Angeles ain’t cheap!). So I picked up at bartending job at a local pub/nightclub and quickly realized how creative, fun and fascinating the world of spirits was. Flash forward to 2018 and I’ve truly been able to marry both of my worlds together, consulting/producing content in the spirits industry by day and bartending by night!

Do you have a definitive cocktail style? 

Over garnishing everything. (I WILL cut your name/initials out of a citrus peel any chance I get!)

Where do you look for inspiration when designing new drinks?

I follow a number of cocktail-related hashtags and people on Instagram. I am constantly taking screen shots of beautiful cocktails or interesting recipes and then researching their flavour pairings. Either that or asking Chris Mosey for a great cocktail name and building out the ingredients from there.

Any local products you are particularly excited about?

There are tons of great local products in the mix these days, however, some modifiers that I’ve been loving in cocktails lately include: Sons of Vancouver Amaretto, Odd Society Spirits’ Creme de Cassis, Legend Distilling’s Naramaro and The Woods Spirits’ Amaro.

Worst drink you’ve ever created?

My friend Jayce, Bar Manager of Clive’s Classic Lounge and I went on a cocktail crawl in Victoria and one of the cocktails on his bar’s list (created by West Bourget) was called “Funk & Seoul”. It contained a kimchi elixir. Inspired by this, I bought kimchi and tried many iterations to make a cocktail with it. None of the results were good. I still have a stomach ache thinking about it.

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

My favourite part of my job is combination of creativity and conversation that I get to do. Creating a memorable experience for guests via customizing their drinks, teaching them something new, or just having a meaningful discussion is so satiating. The most challenging part is the long hours and late nights.

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

Whisk(e)y of course! But more specifically, probably Bourbon or a high-rye Canadian whisky.

Do you have any notable “teachable moments” from behind the bar?

I would think my biggest piece of advice for aspiring bartenders is “it’s not what you know it’s how you make people feel”. Of course it’s important to invest in yourself, your knowledge and your skill sets but providing exceptional hospitality (in your own unique way) amongst guests, coworkers and peers is what’s going to set you apart.

That being said, here are some other overheard gems from friends:

Chris Mosey: “There are two types of drinks in this world, blue drinks and disappointing drinks.”
Liana Madera: “Build stirred drinks first and shaken drinks second.”
Cari Leslie: “At the end of the night, always go through your checklist: phone, wallet, keys, fruit order.”
Jesse Finnigan:
“When in doubt, make it a double.”
Kristi Leigh:
“When purchasing a new peeler for the bar, be sure to also stock up on bandaids.”

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

My first bartending job was at the Blarney Stone in Gastown and two of my co-workers, Tanner and Robyn and I decided to take a trip to Ireland together. As we ventured around the country and eventually arrived in Belfast, we were determined to visit the iconic Harp Bar, which is housed in the original headquarters for The Old Bushmills Distilling Company. When we arrived and sat at the bar we ordered boilermakers (which consisted of Harp and Bushmills of course!). Feeling rather audacious, I asked if I could look at the bar setup behind the bar, and the bartender said “yes, in fact you can pour the beers and whiskeys back there too. Less work for me.” It was a pretty epic moment.

What’s your go to drink to mix for someone who doesn’t typically drink cocktails?

If I absolutely had to choose I guess I’d say a Paper Plane (equal parts Bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino + Lemon). However, I try not to have a “go-to”. I’d rather spend the 30 seconds asking the guest a few questions and catering a drink (or drink recommendation) to them.

Favorite local bar? Favorite bar abroad?

That would be like choosing a favourite child! For me it’s all about the people. I love going to visit friends at their places of work. After all, the people define the bar, the bar doesn’t define the people. Abroad (ish), I was pretty blown away when I had the opportunity to visit Bar Chef (in Toronto) this past year.

On a night off, what are you doing?

I might go out for a drink with friends on the rare occasion but I’m usually at home researching cocktail ideas, ideating content for YouTube videos, editing photos/video, or designing flavours wheels/infographics related to Whiskey Muse. Producing short weekly videos takes a lot more time than you’d think! That or maybe I’m just slow.

Your dream boilermaker? (Can be anything you like!)

My dream boilermaker of the moment would be either Parallel 49 Tricycle Grapefruit Radler with Red Breast 21 or a Lonetree Cider with Glen Grant 18.