Interview: bartender Shawn Soole (Clive’s)

Bartender Victoria


We do features twice a week. On Fridays, we do something called the Homage Cocktail Friday, so we take cocktail lists from a famous bar somewhere else in the world. Last week we did 1105 in Copenhagen, we’ve done bars like Door 74 in Amsterdam. We’ve done bars from all over the world.

On Saturdays, we used to do something called Dead Bartenders Society, which used to be taking cocktails from bartenders who had passed, and doing cocktails from the 1890s and 1920s, which is a lot of fun, but you quickly realize how many dead bartenders there are, so we started something called Experimental Mixology, which is really Nate’s sort of night. He comes up with a theme, and the one he just did was Canadian Content, so every single cocktail was based around Jasper, or stuff like that.

The cocktails we’ve put on the menu that have been really popular have been our Antiki section. During summer, we do Tiki and Antiki. We do the classic Tiki style, the ones that don’t get looked at in most places. Then we do something called Anti Tiki – Antiki – which is basically Tiki drinks that have the same principles as tiki, but then have an ounce of Fernet Branca in The Tar Pit, or Cynar and Strega in the Riki Tiki Tavi. We do Tiki with interesting ingredients that you wouldn’t normally see in Tiki drinks. The most popular ones right now – because it’s summertime and we want to do something a little bit different – we do the whole mugs and everything, and we do them properly, from scratch.

Who are some other bartenders who you really respect in the industry, and how come?

In this city, you’ve got Katie and Josh and Simon over at Veneto, with Solomon helming over there. We’ve got a lot of young bartenders in this city because their bars aren’t cocktail bars, they’re pubs. So you’ve got Vincent over at Canoe Club, you’ve got Ryan over at Glow. These guys, they’re not in typical cocktail bars, but they’re trying to push the envelope when it comes to cocktail culture in their specific bar. The hardest thing in Victoria is that managers and operators aren’t always open to cocktails, because they think cocktails take too long, so on and so forth. If you come here on a Friday night, we do 300 cocktails on a busy Friday night, and all our ticket times are under five minutes. You can do it properly if you set yourself up. Those guys are doing really good stuff.

I just did a consulting gig over at Sauce restaurant, on the corner of Wharf & Yates. Steven is one of the owners over there, and he brought me in to help on the cocktail menu. They’re doing some really cool stuff. Steve’s taken to cocktail geekiness like a duck to water. He’s read like 15 different books in the last couple months just based on cocktails.

Where and what do you like to drink when you’re not working?


What kind and where?

Usually local, as much as I can, anywhere I can get it. I dream of Fernet Branca, and if I drink cocktails, it’s always a Negroni or a Toronto. This harks back to a long time ago. It has nothing to do with the bartenders in this city. I got named one of the best bartenders in Australia in 2004, just before I got over here, and after that it changed my life in a good way and a bad way. I couldn’t walk into a bar without being asked if I like what they’re doing cocktail wise, so I stopped drinking cocktails. I got tired of being asked. I just moved to beer and spirits. I’ll drink anything neat. I’ll try anything once or twice, but cocktail wise, I always prefer spirit forward and always like my Torontos, my Manhattans, and stuff like that, over anything else.

Cocktails Victoria
Soole uses a Tuthilltown Spirits rye barrel to age his Blackthorn Cocktail – Tanqueray gin, Dubonnet Rouge and Kirsch – for five weeks. The Toronto spends six weeks in a rum barrel and incorporates Forty Creek barrel select, Fernet Branca, a dash of sugar syrup and Angostura bitters.

So if you could only get one more cocktail?

One more cocktail would be a barrel aged Toronto. We brought some Tuthilltown Spirits rum barrels up and barreled up three gallons of Toronto. If that was my last cocktail ever, that would probably be it.

How come?

It’s delicious. The Toronto’s good as it is, but we tweaked the recipe a little bit before putting it in the barrel, and the rum just makes it amazing. The barrel aged Sazerac we’ve got coming up shortly is probably the second cocktail I would try. We just put 47 liters of Sazerac into a 2007 California Zinfandel barrel for the last eight weeks. We’re launching that in about a week and a half. When that comes out, that will be a massive seller. We’ll have a big party for it and everything. 47 liters of Sazerac in B.C. is like $1900, that we’ve had sitting in a barrel for like two months. From the research that I’ve done, no one’s ever done a red wine barrel aged cocktail because red wines have too many different issues. There are too many different volatiles that can screw up the cocktail to start with, but ours has gone okay. Ours has come out really, really nice. I’m looking forward to pouring that and bottling that all up in the next couple weeks.

What cocktail would you recommend that people make at home, and how would you make it?

A Negroni’s the easiest thing in the world to do. A Negroni’s equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. It’s the perfect introductory cocktail to people at home because it’s slightly bitter, slightly sweet and dry. People can enjoy it without feeling like they’re drinking a massive gin martini. They can enjoy it. People ask me, what cocktail do you drink at home? Beer, or a Negroni. Traditionally, I get home at like two in the morning, I can get a decent size pint glass, fill it with ice, three ounces of gin, three ounces of Campari, three ounces of sweet vermouth, stir with my finger, sit on the couch for two hours and don’t move, and just sit there on the couch and watch television.

Any type of vermouth or gin in particular?

I’m a purist in the way I like my Tanqueray. I like a nice ballsy, juniper-forward gin. I like Plymouth for different cocktails, but think every gin has its place. Campari, and Cinzano. You can never go wrong with Cinzano. You can go high end, Carpano Antica, and stuff like that, but in B.C., if you spend enough time here, you’ll see that Carpano Antica is $65 a bottle, so it’s an expensive bottle to use. Punt e Mes is 32. Using those two ingredients in your cocktail, you quickly realize that it will cost you $100 for a month of Negronis. It’s easier to keep it at a $12 bottle of Cinzano.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

[…] Interview: bartender Shawn Soole (Clive’s): […]

Leave a Comment