5 of Vancouver’s Top Bartenders Spill Their Drinking Secrets

Get to know these five Vancouver bartenders – wise, fearless curators of the refined buzz – and start sipping on a whole new level

Credit: Adam Blasberg

Get to know these five Vancouver bartenders – wise, fearless curators of the refined buzz – and start sipping on a whole new level

Ever wanted to know where and what the professionals drink? BCLiving chatted with five of the city’s premier barkeeps to find out where and how to get buzzed in Vancouver.

Go behind the scenes of our photo shoot with five of Vancouver’s best bartenders

Learn how to stock your bar cart like the pros

Credit: Adam Blasberg

Cooper Tardivel, Hawksworth Restaurant

Years bartending: 18

Sit down at Cooper Tardivel’s bar and you’ll quickly realize he possesses that certain je ne sais quoi that all of the best bartenders exude: he makes you want to be his friend.

Now based in Vancouver, the affable two-time Halifax Bartender of the Year aims to give every customer a unique and memorable experience.

“Every guest requires and deserves a customized host – and that challenge is truly rewarding,” says Tardivel, who thrives off providing beers and spirits that are “tailored to the moment.”

Tardivel, who has slung drinks across the globe, doesn’t just get by on charm alone. The head barman at Hawksworth has a deep appreciation for the finer subtleties of cocktail creation. “I love the genius behind classic cocktails and the craftsmanship behind quality spirits.”

And when it comes to having a drink – no matter the when, where or what – Tardivel is always game. “I never feel guilty about drinking – I’m a Maritimer.”

Favourite drink: “If I’m feeling brave, a margarita. In my opinion, it’s the hardest drink to make well, and the easiest to screw up. However, I usually just drink straight spirits.”

Favourite booze trend: “I loathe any and all trends. By their very definition they are fleeting and deserve none of my attention.”

Least favourite booze trend: “Bartending as fashion; snobby bartenders; molecular mixology; bartenders wearing chef coats (it is highly insulting to actual chefs); bitters geeks and vodka haters.”

Where to drink: “Granville Room is usually my after-work spot.”

Signature drink: The Prototype 1.0
“It’s a rum cocktail, incorporating Brugal 1888 Rum, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, Taylor Fladgate White Port, lemon juice, yuzu juice, honey syrup, chilled espresso and an egg white.”

Credit: Adam Blasberg

Wendy McGuinness, Chambar

Years Bartending: 9

Looking for a friendly ear while you sip your drink? You won’t do better than Wendy McGuinness, who has the innate ability to make you feel like you’re the only person at the bar. It just so happens she sees the social side of bartending as a major perk.

“Bartending gives me the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life and push them out of their comfort zones to experience new and exciting flavours.”

Having spent two years exploring the cocktail scene Down Under, McGuinness returned to Vancouver in 2013 recharged and with a whole new appreciation for the gig – just in time for Chambar’s announced expansion into a new space. It’s serendipity at its finest – an expanded space for a bartender who, despite her success, continues to strive for more.

“I love being able to come into work and truly look forward to my night ahead. Every night is different and exciting.”

Favourite booze trend: “It’s exciting to see Vancouver microdistilleries emerge into the spirit world. West Coast-inspired spirits from Long Table and Odd Society Spirits are something all Vancouver bartenders should be proud of.”

Least favourite booze trend: “Too many ingredients in a drink. I think that cocktails need to be a perfect balance.”

Favourite drink: “Negroni or Boulevardier. I really enjoy Citadelle Gin for my Negroni.”

Where to drink: “I often find myself at Wildebeest. They make spectacular cocktails and I love the energy in that room.”

Signature drink: Apropos
“It’s my variation of a classic gin martini. I’ve chosen Odd Society Wallflower Gin, Martini Bianco and Moscato Grappa stirred with Meyer lemon and poured over spiced chamomile-flower ice.”

Exciting News
Chambar’s new location (opening this summer) features a patio. Drinks al fresco!

Credit: Adam Blasberg

Josh Pape, Wildebeest

Years bartending: 10

Behind the bar, six-foot-one Josh Pape is an imposing figure. But don’t be intimidated – this quiet giant can disarm you with a 100-watt smile and an intriguing drink suggestion.

“I try my absolute best to make people the best drinks I know how – every time. I ask a lot of questions and listen to their answers in order to satisfy individual tastes. It matters to me that people like the drinks I make for them.”

The former Vancouver Bartender of the Year tended bar at both Chambar and The Diamond before opening Wildebeest alongside business partner James Iranzad in 2012, and his love of the job has only grown.

“As a bartender, I enjoy having the ability to contribute to – and guide – a cultural shift in how people perceive a profession that I love. I enjoy changing the way people view booze and drinking culture.”

Favourite drink: “I’m quite partial to an Americano (the cocktail, not the coffee). I try to order it politely but that rarely works out, so I’ll often end up slapping the bar until the bartender notices me.”

Favourite booze trend: “We’ll be seeing a big influx of lower-alcohol cocktails soon – mainly wine, vermouth or sherry based. This is fun because these are generally satisfying, full-flavoured alcohols that prevent people from getting too sloppy. It also means patrons can enjoy an extra drink or two per visit.”

Least favourite booze trend: “Bartenders who wear suspenders, fedoras, waistcoats and the like. Oh, and curly moustaches.”

Where to drink: “I love going to see Ron and Simon over at Mamie Taylor’s.”

Signature drink: Horseradish Sour
“London dry gin, lemon, horseradish, honey, egg white, black pepper – the horseradish is a prominent part of the drink, but it’s really well-balanced because it is just a classic sour recipe.”

Credit: Adam Blasberg

Jay Jones, The Blackbird

Years bartending: 18

If we played a game where you had a drink for every bartending honour Jay Jones has been awarded, well, let’s just say you’d have a tough time walking a straight line. But the very first bartender inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame isn’t in it for the hardware. Instead, he says it’s the relationships he’s built behind the bar that are the true reward.

“I’ve learned something from everyone I’ve ever served or worked with. Some of my best friends in the world started out as a guest at my bar. In an increasingly digital world, bartending embraces real interaction. Bartending will never lose its humanity or sensory satisfactions.”

At the end of the day, literally and figuratively, Jones is someone you want serving you a drink. And isn’t that what really matters?

Favourite booze trend: “Hospitality. I’m incredibly sad that I’m mentioning this as a trend when in fact it is the cornerstone of good bartending. A gracious personality and attentiveness are the qualities that truly endear a bartender to a guest.”

Least favourite booze trend: “The worst trends are the ones that limit creativity and experience. Synthetic flavours patronize our palates, leaving no room for inspiration from the bartender. Things such as candy-flavoured vodka push us back into blander times and snub the taste of real spirits.”

Favourite drink: “After work, I’m a beer and Scotch guy, but when it comes to cocktails I gravitate to the classics – it’s hard to beat the martini. I like mine wet: two measures of London Dry Gin, one measure of dry vermouth, stirred to chill and garnished with a Cerignola olive.”

Where to drink: “David Wolowidnyk at West Restaurant has been making magic for many years. Lauren Mote at Uva is sensationally creative and a legendary host.”

Signature drink: The Four Horsemen
“It’s a firm drink, made from rich Bourbon, Sicilian Amaro, French syrup and Caribbean bitters. The end result is a decadent balance of virility and elegance – power and sensuality.”

Credit: Adam Blasberg

Lauren Mote, Uva Wine + Cocktail Bar

Years bartending: 14

Watching Lauren Mote behind the bar, it’s easy to picture her on screen or performing in a Broadway play – her personality shines through so strongly that it feels like a spotlight should be fixed on her at all times.

“I love that I am onstage, and my team is onstage. Yes, you’re only as good as the last cocktail you’ve made, but the experience is the genuine reward in bartending.”

Mote, who has won bartending awards on the local, national and international level, has been on fire lately. In 2013, she became bar manager at Uva and also had her Bittered Sling cocktail bitters and culinary extracts line named Producer/Supplier of the Year.

All in all, things are going pretty damn well for Mote. “Business and goodwill has dramatically increased, and this is a great accomplishment.”

Where to drink: “I really try to support as many people and establishments as I can. My top picks are: West Restaurant, Chambar, L’Abattoir, Yew Seafood + Bar, Fairmont Pacific Rim, Wildebeest, Homer St. Cafe and Bar, Blue Water Cafe, The Blackbird, The Keefer Bar, Hawksworth and The Morrissey Pub.”

Favourite drink: “Give me a Negroni, a Martinez or an Arsenic and Old Lace cocktail – make it properly and I’m yours.”

Favourite booze trend: “Complexity within simplicity. It’s sort of the doctrine we employ at Uva Wine + Cocktail Bar right now, too. The most beautiful creations exist using the perfect balance of very few ingredients.”

Least favourite booze trend: “I think trends, both strong and weak, exist as a stepping stone toward greater accomplishments in the industry. I’m just not interested in paying over $20 for a cocktail.”

Signature drink: Charentes Chanson
It’s a balanced blend of cognac, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Okanagan Spirits Framboise Eau-de-Vie, Kensington Aromatic Syrup and Bittered Sling’s Malagasy Chocolate bitters.