Interview with Shaun Layton


George Ultra Lounge | Vancouver

I understand you won Canada’s first ever Beer Mixology Competition held at The Refinery on August 17, 2009.

Would you consider yourself a Bartender or a Mixologist or both? And why?

Definitely a Bartender!!  I’m not a fan of term mixologist. I like the term cocktail Bartender, or classic Bartender. People like myself who take great pride and have a lot of respect for the history of our profession. I think our trade is being seen again as a career, and not someone who’s just pulling pints while pursuing there acting career.

How long did it take you to create your cocktail for the Mixology Competiton? And how did you go about sourcing the ingredients?

Well, I had the drink in my mind for about a week, although originally I was going to make it with gin. The night before the comp. I experimented at my home bar. I tried it with a more citrusy gin, than a Genever style gin. Both were good, but I thought I could make it better. I than tried it with one type of bourbon. This was better, so I tried it with Rogues Dead Guy Whiskey. This one was my favorite, I got the newly released bottle from a friend who visited the distillery. I got the Amer Picon (which is one of the best things ever) when I was in France recently, as well as the bitters I used.

Describe the cocktail you created including the ingredients for the 2009 Whistler Beer Mixology Competition that was recently held in Vancouver.

This drink was a take on the Ramos Gin Fizz. I made it with Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey from Oregon, a syrup I made with Whistler Black Tusk Ale, fresh lemon and lime juice, egg white, Angostura Orange bitters, Jerry Thomas Bitters, and Orange flower water. These ingredients were shaken like the classic for about 4 minutes(thanks too all who shook it as we passed it around the room) than poured over ice. This was then topped up with Whistler Honey Lager, the finishing touch was a drizzle of Amer Picon over the foamy drink, this was inspired by the classic french drink of beer with Picon, a favorite of mine.

What other Mixologists championships have you competed in? and where were they held?

I’ve competed in quite a few, all over Vancouver and recently represented Canada in France  in the Giffard world cup. As well as The Whistler beer comp., other recent victories include the Bombay Sapphire National cocktail competition, and the Giffard BC cocktail competition.

What was your training like and how long have you been a leader in this industry?

I’ve been a Bartender for about 8 years, and have always taken my job seriously. I would say I’m mostly self trained, and have gained a lot of knowledge and experience from my travels. Also working and hanging out with the great Bartenders in this city has inspired me a lot.

What drew you to beverages and in particular, to mixology?

Well I always liked the service industry and working with people. I found myself behind the bar, and loved it. I always put 100 percent into what I do, so I was always reading books or attending competitions to add to my knowledge of the craft.

What goes into creating a new cocktail? What inspires you?

If it’s for a menu, or a competition, i think every drink should have a story behind it. If you read about classic drinks, you’ll find that almost all of them have a story, either reflected in the name or the ingredients. So when creating a new drink I’ll usually start with a base ingredient, and work from there. I think you must make the drink and least 5 different times to perfect the ratios of ingredients. I love classics, so sometimes I’ll take that and turn it into something that is totally my own.

What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?

Right now I’m all about the fine details. By this I mean using proper tools, finding antique glassware, stirring and shaking tecniques, etc. I think the whole “mixology” thing is still around, but I think the classic style is what is coming back. The whole molecular thing has come and gone, and Bartenders are now focusing on spirits, bitters, tinctures, and different types of ice for different cocktails. This is big in Europe and the US right now as well, so instead of being a couple of years behind their trends we are right there with them.

Who are your mentors?

Working with Darryl Mcdonald at The Ocean Club a few years ago was my first experience with a proper bar program. Guys like Jamie Boudreau, Nick Devine, Jay Jones, and David Wolowidnyk were great for our scene in the early years.

What are some of the trends that you’ve been seeing in the country or in Vancouver specifically?

The one thing we don’t have in our favor is ingredients. There is such a horrible selection for spirits in BC. It’s funny the extremes some of us go to getting these ingredients. It does show how creative we are though, finding ways to make great cocktails, without having all the necessary ingredients, adapting to what we have. it seems that everybody in the city is all about custom ice right now, its great to see a couple of kold-draft ice machine in the city now!!

If you weren’t a bartender/mixologist, what would you be doing?

I really enjoy traveling, so I think somewhere in the travel and tourism field… or a Pro Baseball Player haha.

By: Richard Wolak

Leave a Reply