VANCOUVERITES: Five Minutes With Dani Tatarin Of “The Keefer Bar” In Chinatown
by Michelle Sproule | Danielle Tatarin, the President of the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association, has had a very good year. She was named the 2012 Vancouver Magazine Bartender of the Year in the Spring and came 2nd at Scout’s Bartender of the Year tournament earlier this month. She’s also just returned from the famed Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, where she presented a seminar on Traditional Chinese Medicinal Ingredients in mixed drinks. Dani currently runs the wood and well at The Keefer Bar in Chinatown, where she and her cohorts incorporate house-made syrups, tinctures and bitters into classic and contemporary cocktails.
Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live in East Van: I love it here – community, lots of big trees and cheaper rent than downtown.
Name the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? Fries dipped in ice cream
Default drink/cocktail of choice? Tie between a Martinez and a Vieux Carre.
The Vancouverite that you admire most and why? The ladies who run the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. They work tirelessly to help the women and children of the DTES.
Your role models? Charlotte Voisey, Audrey Saunders, David Wolowidnyk, Brad Stanton, Lauren Mote, Cam Bogue, Cam Watt, and Bestey Johnson.
Favourite breakfast? Purple rice and almond milk with Strawberries or blueberries (healthy) or the Avocado Benny at Roundel Cafe.
The historical personalities, both good and bad, that fascinate you the most? Ada Coleman, Elvis Presley, Aldous Huxley, Hippocrates.
The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair? I wore it in a big curl at the top of my forehead once. I thought it looked pretty cool at the time but now I see pictures and laugh at how stupid it looked!
What are the three things you’d like to change about Vancouver? Provide more help to the residents of the Downtown Eastside (mental health care, education, jobs, homes). I find it absurd that there are empty, over-priced condos and people living on the streets. I’d also change liquor laws and take out a few parking meters.
Do you go by mixologist or bartender? Depends what I am doing. I consider myself a bartender first and foremost but the term mixologist is one that has been around since the old days. If I am consulting on a drink menu or crafting drinks for an event then I would not be against having “mixolgist” beside my name as the creator of the drink.
Your go to, no-frills place for dinner? Peaceful Restaurant or The Eatery.
If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you? Edmonton to meet my new niece Emily and visit my pregnant sister Kamiko.
The strangest ingredient you’ve ever had to build a cocktail around? When I first opened The Keefer I was working on the concept of incorporating traditional Chinese medicinal ingredients into cocktails and was perplexed by [things like] mushrooms and sea horses, et cetera, but I figured it out.
The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years? 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye.
What is the best way to get to know a neighbourhood? Walk around, visit the corner stores and smile at people when they walk by.
Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure? New Orleans, Louisiana.
Your major character flaw? Procrastination.
The character flaw in others that you can’t abide? Dishonesty.
What was the luckiest moment in your life? Being born in Canada.
What was the unluckiest moment in your life? Almost being killed by an ex-boyfriend.
The biggest mistake you’ve ever made? Drinking too much whisky recently through the eye of a Chinese Mask before competing in the Scout Magazine Bartender of the Year final.
What is your biggest phobia? Failure.
Where did you go to school? Stony Plain, Alberta.
A summer inspired drink that everyone should make a point of coming in to The Keefer to try? Wreck Beach – gin, cherry liqueur, smoked rhubarb sea syrup and orange bitters. It’s a twist on the Chesterman Beach Cocktail inspired by a recent trip to Tofino where we scavenged the beach for driftwood and seaweed and made a cocktail that distinctly tasted like the beach, in a good way. The saltiness and smokiness of the air when you have a bonfire at the beach came through in a really interesting way.
The strangest talent that you possess? I can wear high heels and shake drinks like nobody’s business behind the bar for 10+ hours.
Shoe of choice? Hightop sneakers (Creative Recreation or ALife).
The different career path that you could have gone on? Personal Trainer or yoga teacher. For a large part of my teens and into my early twenties I was into bodybuilding and worked out a lot. I was training to eventually compete in bodybuilding but I went through some family changes and ended up giving up going to the gym to train to find balance in my life. I ended up finding that in yoga and I think if I wasn’t doing what I am doing now that I’d love to teach yoga, which is what I still may do, eventually.
Your ancestry? Ukrainian & Metis.
Your three favourite films? Never Ending Story, Pulp Fiction, and Shawshank Redemption.
Favourite pizza? Used to be Ham & Pineapple but I have recently limited meat in my diet, so probably Mushroom, Green Pepper & Fresh Tomato.
Favourite herb to work in to a drink? Lavender.
Your most regrettable purchase ever? A PC computer that I got in order to install an accounting program (which I never installed).
What is the best thing about your work? The team I work with is like family. We have fun and constantly strive to be better at what we do. It has been amazing to see everyone grow as bartenders over the last two years.
What is the worst thing about your work? I could be at work all the time if I let myself.
Favourite place to grab a drink on your night off? Calabash.
The talent that you wish you possessed? To be able speak at least five languages.
What are you listening to as you answer these questions? Eureka, Mother Mother, Grimes, Led Zeppelin.
What musical instrument do you secretly long to play? I have always wanted to play the violin but I am now learning how to play guitar.
What sport did you give up and why? I played all sports growing up: baseball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, wrestling and bodybuilding. I kind of stopped playing sports and switched to yoga because it gives me balance and keeps me limber without the risk of getting a black eye or breaking a limb.
What is the game that you’re best at? Volleyball.
What is the one animal that scares you the most? Not generally scared of animals. I would be scared if a cougar was tracking me.
If you had a motto, what would it be? Create the reality you believe you deserve.
Scariest situation you’ve ever been in? Almost drowning in the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia) when our kayak flipped over and we lost a paddle. We were stuck in the middle of the ocean with no life jackets and a half sinking boat for over an hour until a fishing boat picked us up. I couldn’t see the bottom of the ocean and knew that there were sharks in the water so I was completely trying not to freak out while treading water for what seemed to be the longest hour of my life.
Your favourite word? Concur.
Your least favourite word? “Like”.
Your favourite curse word? Its not really a word. It’s more of a phase. I even have a notepad on my desk that says it: What The Fuck?
Three things of no monetary value that you own and will keep dearly until you die? My Punky Loves Punky T-Shirt from my Grandfather, three Buddhas and my baby blanket.
The strangest road you’ve ever travelled? Laos to Vietnam on the weirdest and most frustrating bus trip ever. Was supposed to be 20 hour trip on the same bus but ended up being a 36 hour trip on numerous different busses filled with various things. It was supposed to drop us in Hanoi but the road ended on the outskirts of the city and we hopped onto scooter taxis to get us to our final destination. Definitely an exercise in being patient and calm no matter what happens in life.
Your first memory? It’s a pretty vivid memory for being 2 and a half, but I do remember it clearly: sitting on my Mom & Dad’s waterbed looking at the red lava lamp while my Grandpa told me my Mom was at the hospital and I was a big sister now to my little brother Joshua.
The band that made you love music? The Rolling Stones.
The song that you could listen to on repeat for an hour? Ramble On by Led Zeppelin.
The one place that you have the least interest in ever visiting? Hell.
The first three things that you do every morning? Open my eyes, stretch, drink my tinctures.
When you can’t sleep? Smoke a joint.
What is beauty? Life is beauty. The diversity of the world and the situations we come into each day. Beauty is in the moment, and being in the moment is beauty.