Interview with Shaun Layton

Shaun Layton has been voted and recognized as Vancouver’s BEST COCKTAIL MAKER for 2012 by you our readers. Here is my Interview with Shaun Layton who is the Bar Manager at L’Abattoir restaurant .

What do you love about being a bartender?

Having a busy bar, converting new guests into regulars, and having fellow bartenders from other cities sending people our way. Essentially being a good host, cocktail creation and everything else comes second, always. Though I love making classic cocktails, learning about spirits, and creating new cocktails.

How long have you been working at L’Abattoir?

I signed on about three months before we opened, it was really hard to keep the secret for a while! I’m happy to work with such an All Star cast.

Why do you think people voted for you in the Vancouver Foodster Awards?

Good question, I think my witty and sometimes offside comments on twitter must have helped, haha. I didn’t even know I was in the running so I’m flattered! One thing I always take pride in, is that over 80% of the time you know where you can find me on the bar, so as well as being known in the media, I’ll also be the one making your drink. If I’m not there, I’m more than confident my fellow staff will create a great experience for you as well.

What’s the secret to a making a good cocktail?

Keep it simple, and start from the ground up. Learn how to make all the great classics first, than go from there. Use fresh ingredients, quality spirits, and don’t over complicate things. If you like a French 75, try that formula with a different base spirit, or citrus and go from there. The classics are classic for a reason.

What are you drinking now?

These days I love a great IPA, a glass of Albarino, and for a cocktails a Tanqueray 10 Gibson, a Cocchi americano and soda, or a Manhattan (American rye)

What is your favorite dish to have with your favourite cocktail at your restaurant?

Well it would definitely be Chef Lee Cooper’s veal sweetbreads on brioche with sauce gribiche and veal tongue. Perhaps the first course on my death row menu, paired with our Meathook cocktail. The Meathook apparently gets ordered all over the city now, haha. It has Rittenhouse rye, Punt E Mes vermouth, Maraschino liqueur, and Ardbeg 10 yr whisky. Big and bold flavours!

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

My first bar job was at The Keg when I was 19. This was great training at that age, much more valuable than bartending school. I first got into cocktails at The Ocean Club in West Van, and than really made a mark at George in Yaletown. I have been fortunate to compete and travel in bar events and distillery tours all over the world, touring bars and distilleries is the best way to get inspired and see whats going on in the industry outside Vancouver.

What skill do you think people must have when working at a bar creating cocktails?

Being a good host! My favourite bars are ones where I can get a cold beer or an Old fashioned, and I don’t get frowned at for either. I’ve seen some amazing bartenders who can’t necessarily have a great conversation, or cut a patron off politely, move a guest over one seat to make room for a couple, etc. Qualities like that you can’t necessarily teach, some bartenders have it or they don’t. From there, read, travel, and work where you would want to hang out, and with who you’d like to learn from.

What interests do you have outside of the bar business?

I’m a huge sports fan. I played competitive baseball and soccer growing up in North Vancouver. Now I like watching NFL and Major League baseball. I love travelling, have trips to New Orleans and Islay, Scotland coming up. I also really enjoy getting 20+ like for my photos on InstaGram.

Visit Shaun at the bar at L’Abattoir restaurant, 217 Carrall Street, Vancouver

By: Richard Wolak