by Andrew Morrison | In what I think went down as the most memorable and exciting bartending competition that Vancouver has ever witnessed before, Boneta barman Ben de Champlain defeated The Keefer Bar’s Dani Tatarin yesterday to win the title of Scout Magazine’s 2012 Bartender of the Year. And boy is my palate still tired. All told, local titans of the trade Mark Brand (Save On Meats, etc), Steve Da Cruz (Tacofino), Ron Oliver (The Diamond) and David Greig (L’Abattoir) and I must have judged some 60+ drinks on the say, which made for some good times indeed and bellies full of drunk bread. It was an incredible turnout – standing room only – and a superb thing to see our local bartending community out as one to celebrate their very best talents.
From the outset, this tournament was designed by bartenders for bartenders. It actually began a month ago on June 4th, when over 30 of BC’s top barkeeps wrote a 50 question entrance examination (just like school). One exam was given at the Diamond in Gastown, and another was served to a group of keeners across the Strait in Victoria. It was not at all an easy test. It was specifically designed to favour booze nerds of the most bizarrely devoted kind. Of course there were some sneaky questions among the serious ones. These ranged from essential intel, like “What time does Gyoza King close on a Saturday night?” to totally obtuse poseurs of urban legend, such as “In which Victoria neighbourhood did a cougar once famously break into a basement suite?”
A couple of weeks later we announced the 16 bartenders with the highest marks. They were, from 16th to 1st: David Bain of Diva at the Met and Josh Boudreau of Victoria’s Veneto (tie); Ryan Malcolm of Victoria’s Sauce; Alistair Bell of Revel Room; Dani Tatarin of The Keefer Bar; “JS” of Tableau Bar Bistro; Jay Browne of Calabash; the irrepressible “H” of Jules Bistro; Brendan Brewster of Victoria’s Fiamo & Svelte; Brooke Levie of The Marina in Victoria; Jon Smollensky of Hawksworth; Marc Smolinski of Max’s; Gez McAlpine of The Keefer Bar; Josh Pape of The Diamond; Ben de Champlain of Boneta; Simon Kaulback of Boneta; and Shaun Layton of L’Abattoir. A tough field, indeed.
Fast-forward to yesterday, where the 16 gathered to first blind test 5 spirits and make an original cocktail which was judged blind (we were sequestered in the back room behind a curtain). Some of the drinks in the latter challenge were outstanding. Others, not so much. Still, the level of commitment from the competitors was made very plain. Once the scores were added up, we had to eliminated the lower half of the field. Those who remained were Josh Pape, J.S., Marc Smolinski, Simon Kaulback, Brooke Levie, Dani Tatarin, Alistair Bell, and Ben de Champlain.
Now we entered the most gruelling part of the competition: a no hold’s barred series of timed, head to head smackdowns. In twos, the eight bartenders were presented with chits of four drinks to replicate a real world scenario. Some of the these were familiar (eg. Mint Julep, Sazerac), while others were less common (eg. Mary Pickford, Clover Club). Points were awarded for style, speed, and accuracy/taste. When the smoke cleared, we were left with Pape, Tatarin, de Champlain and Bell.
In the next round, Tatarin took out Pape by a close margin and de Champlain laid waste to Bell, setting up a final that was more riveting than any competition I’ve ever been involved in before (it made the Black Box challenge at the Canadian Culinary Championships look like a bag of dead dolphins). Dani was the first to finish, which gave her some points, but she dropped the ball on a couple of drinks, letting the turtle thwart the hare. Ben took his time to both entertain (in his own inimitable way) and concentrate, and ended up with a series of cocktails that swayed every one of the judges. It was a hard won thing, and he owned it like a fucking boss.
In addition to winning our 2012 Bartender of the Year title and a framed award designed by Glasfurd & Walker, de Champlain took home a holiday package put together by our good friends at Tourism Kelowna. It includes two nights accommodation at the very gorgeous Clarance House, two tickets to the always amazing Okanagan Feast of Fields, and a round of golf for two (with power cart) at the Graham Cooke-designed Harvest Golf Club. He also gets $600 cash, a lovely pair of sneakers from Alife, a whole bunch of glassware, and the respect of his peers and the city at large.
Everyone here at Scout would like to thank our amazing hosts and the staff at The Keefer Bar; the tireless tournament coordinators, David Greig and Keenan Hood; everyone on the Island who helped facilitate; all of the judges (you poor dears); and everyone who got their asses to Chinatown on a holiday to watch it all go down. I had the most fun I’d had in a while, and I’m already looking forward to next year.
The GOODS from the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association
Vancouver, BC | The Canadian Professional Bartenders Association (CPBA) is both proud and excited to congratulate Danielle Tatarin, of The Keefer Bar, and also the CPBA President, on winning 2011/2012’s coveted “Bartender of the Year”, awarded annually by Vancouver Magazine. This award’s recipient marks the first female bartender recognized since the award’s inception in 2006.
With an enormous smile and her generous hospitality, Danielle welcomes guests and peers alike into an environment at The Keefer Bar, where east meets west. Natural mood enhancements, Chinese apothecary tinctures, and “feel good” remedies line the shelves, complimenting her innovative and acclaimed cocktail bar, as being one of the most unique and progressive in the Pacific Northwest. Danielle is a solid team leader and can often be seen doing pre-shift time trials with her Bartenders, not just for speed, also for ultimate accuracy and optimal cocktail balance. Leading not only her own Keefer Bar team, Danielle is leading the Canadian Bartending community towards greater connectivity and unity through tireless efforts in the Provincial expansions of the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association. Aimed at bringing together Bartenders from all across Canada to support and encourage education, improving skills, and promoting healthy lifestyles.
In 2011, Danielle won the Southern Comfort Society’s cocktail competition, as well as placing in the top two with the Appleton Rum competition. In the same year, Danielle also generated momentum with the development of the CPBA Ontario Chapter of Bartenders, while tirelessly continuing to develop our chapter here at home. With Directors and Bartender members engaged with all levels of Bartending, from Halifax to Victoria, the CPBA is certainly amongst one of her greatest achievements in 2011. Danielle has won top spots in several local Vancouver cocktail competitions, including Aha Toro and Cabo Wabo equila, as well as an international win in 2010 when she won first place in the World Giffard Iron Mixology Competition.
The Keefer Bar’s incredible success is synonymous with Danielle’s name – she is a true working Bartender and can be seen nightly in the trenches with her staff, building the business from the ground up. Everyday the Keefer bar continues to evolve, record-breaking shifts happen regularly, while the quality of her team’s product and service never suffers.
In July 2012, Danielle will be presenting a Canadian and Asian themed seminar, while co-presenting two other seminars at the famed Tales of the Cocktail Festival in New Orleans. This year marks a milestone 10th anniversary for this world-class festival. Last year showed an impressive attendance of 22,500 people and this year is said to easily top that figure. Read more
The GOODS from The Keefer Bar
Vancouver, BC | The Keefer Bar in Chinatown is looking for a part time prep cook. The ideal candidate will be a clean, organized, punctual and efficient multi-tasker who is Food Safe certified. The pay is $13/hour + tips. Drop off resume in person Tuesday through Friday (4pm to 6pm) or email danitatarin [at] thekeeferbar [dot] com to set up an interview. Learn more about The Keefer after the jump… Read more
News from Scout supporter The Keefer Bar
Vancouver, BC | Starting tonight and running every Tuesday leading up to the Tales of the Cocktail, The Keefer Bar will host Learn it, Drink it!, an informative and interactive crash course in mixology. From 6:30-8:30pm, acclaimed bartender Dani Tatarin will feature four cocktails and walk guests through their history as they mix and taste. Drop in at any time to learn a cocktail or come to experience all four! Cost is $40 to experience all four drinks, which includes cocktails, take home recipe and gift. If coming in for partial class cost is $12/drink including recipe and gift. All featured drinks are on special from 8:30pm-1am for $8. It’s great way to explore new cocktails and learn a bit about the history behind the classics. Read more
Have you ever been to a Pecha Kucha night? It’s that thing where the city’s most innovative and creative people are invited up on stage in front of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people to share the things that inspire them during a talk and slideshow. It’s awesome, invariably insightful fun, and they’re happening all around the world, even here in Vancouver (thanks to our good friends at Cause+Affect).
The story-telling format lends itself well to every cut of life, so with that in mind the folks at The Bacchus Group and Buffalo Trace Bourbon have put together an evening of their own – Wednesday, January 19th from 6:00pm (sharp) to 9pm – to celebrate Vancouver’s thriving cocktail culture. It is called Spirits and Culture: A Thinking and Drinking Event, and it all goes down at The Diamond in Gastown. Then and there, seven well known personalities from the local spirits scene will each present a talk, using 20 slides of their choice apiece to weave their personal narratives. Read more
News from Scout supporter The Keefer Bar
Vancouver, BC | Celebrate the New Year at The Keefer Bar! Burlesque beauties will help ring in the New Year with tipples and tassles, Chinese tapas, Piper Heidsieck Champagne and other delights of the orient! Get Shanghai’d without having to worry about crimping sailors. Limited tickets ($35) are available at The Keefer Bar. Call 604.688.1961 or email email@example.com for more information. Read more
News from Scout supporter The Keefer Bar
Vancouver, BC | On September 23rd and 30th, The Keefer Bar will host Sweet Sip Thursdays with the fabulous Vancouver based burlesque troupe Sweet Soul Burlesque. The nights will feature a list of classic cocktails from the pre-Prohibition Era to compliment the “old school” burlesque performances at 10pm, 11pm and 12am. Read more
The Keefer Bar is now a proud member supporter of Scout. We will be publishing their news and press releases on our front page and hosting a page for them in our list of recommended places to check out. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support of our little website. Click ahead to read on or jump directly to their Scout page. Read more
A hearty congratulations to bartenders Dani Tatarin of Chinatown’s Keefer Bar and Justin Tisdall of Market for placing 1st and 2nd respectively IN THE WORLD at last week’s prestigious Giffard International Cocktail Competition in Alger, France.
Way to represent Vancouver guys!
Word is Cam Watt’s long awaited, Battersby Howat-designed Keefer Bar (starring the bartending prowess of the lovely and talented Dani Tatarin) has finally opened just a stone’s throw from Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Chinatown. Scout broke the news of the effort back in August. The bill of fare sees cocktails and pan-Asian street food, the latter’s provenance and quality unknown to me. I suspect it’ll play only a minor role in the festivities, as I do believe the room is liquor primary. Could be wrong though. Either way, Dani makes fine drinks, so check it out. Break a leg.
I’ve been doing research for a new Van Mag story this week and it has been keeping me in and around Chinatown. One space that I’ve been really interested in is The Keefer, a completely renovated building at 135 Keefer (the same block as Bao Bei). When Scout first broke the news of its coming back in August it was going to be a boutique hotel. They’ve now changed the concept to include just four boutique luxury short term rental suites – the sort of digs movie stars and big wigs enjoy. The owner, Cam Watt, gave me a tour last night with bar manager Danielle Tatarin (one of my favourite bartenders, lately of DB Bistro). The Keefer Bar is still very much a tangled mess of construction, so much so that it didn’t warrant a photo. What stoked me on the visit instead was the finished penthouse suite, complete with Douglas Coupland tripping the light fantastic on the walls, a glass-bottomed pool ceiling, and just about the nicest rooftop deck I’ve ever seen…
You’ll find a few extra shots in the following thumbnail gallery
They’re looking at having the entirety (including the bar) finished and ready for prime time in late January or early February. If you’ve forgotten what the renderings look like, take a look…
The Canadian Professional Bartenders Association (CPBA)
#900–555 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC
Facebook | Twitter | Web: www.canadianbartenders.com
President: Danielle Tatarin, The Keefer Bar
Vice-President: Simon Odgen, Veneto Lounge at the Hotel Rialto, Victoria
Vice-President: Brad Stanton, Hawksworth Restaurant
Treasurer: David Wolowidnyk, West Restaurant
Secretary: Robyn Gray, the Hotel Georgia
Director: Lauren Mote, Kale & Nori Culinary Arts Inc.
Director: Jay Jones, Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver
Director: Trevor Kallies, The Donnelly Group
Director: Colin Turner, Cin-Cin Ristorante
Director: Shaun Layton, L’Abattoir
Director: Gerry Jobe, Raudz Regional Table, Kelowna
Director: Cooper Tardivel, Hawksworth Restaurant
Director: Shawn Soole, Clive’s Classic Lounge at the Chateau Victoria, Victoria
(biennial elections process by paid CPBA members)
About The Canadian Professional Bartender’s Association
The Canadian Professional Bartender’s Association was formed in 2009 in order to standardize professional Bartending across Canada. Our monthly meetings and events provide our members and supporters with a forum to exchange news, techniques and innovative ideas. We involve liquor brands and other related businesses to help forge lasting connections with the bartending community, using nothing less than passion and cooperation. We are a Non-Profit organization registered in BC (S-55806); all funds received go towards events and educational programs for Bartenders across Canada.
The CPBA is an amplified voice for bartenders. Through national solidarity, our dialogue with provincial liquor licensing agencies becomes more approachable, making the products we need readily available for all bartenders. Our website aims to be a virtual hub to connect bartenders across the country, and provide an educational platform for our members. Through this network we are able to evolve as a community, and become the best ambassadors in our profession.
The CPBA was created to build bonds between Bartending professionals across our nation – working together to raise Bars and Bartending quality in every community. Further to these goals, the CPBA looks to make Canada an active country member of the IBA (International Bartenders Association). Currently, the CPBA has provincial chapters in British Columbia (est. 2009) and Ontario (est. 2011). Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Quebec chapters are in development.
About Our Memberships
The Canadian Professional Bartenders Association is a group of Bartenders formed to exchange of news, techniques and ideas between members to encourage high standards and advancement of the profession of Bartending in Canada. We are a Non-Profit organization registered in BC (S-55806) all of the funds we raise go towards events and education for Bartenders across Canada.
Our head office is BC based and we will work to form Provincial chapters. The CPBA is working to become a member of the International Bartenders Association (IBA) with the goal of giving Canada international representation in the global Bartending community. If you are a Bartender in Canada you are an eligible member.
• Subscription to Imbibe Magazine
• Knowledge, Education & Career Opportunities
• News and Updates from the industry
• Yearly Competition + exclusive competitions throughout the year
• Health / Benefit Plan: Health & Dental, Travel Insurance, Critical Illness
• Apprenticeship program (in the works)
• The opportunity to guide and influence the craft of Bartending in the Canadian community
1 Year Membership: $75 ($0.21/day)
3 Year Membership: $150 ($0.14/day)
The Canadian Professional Bartenders Association (CPBA) invites all interested liquor brands and other companies to join our community of industry professionals as an Associate Member. Associate Membership to the CPBA provides a direct link to the people who sell your product, the bartenders themselves. This partnership will further strengthen relationships between liquor suppliers and purchasers while connecting the people behind bars with the brands and products they pour. Associate Members are given an opportunity to co-host official CPBA events and invite Brand Ambassadors, distillers and company representatives to speak directly to the community of committed bartending professionals.
• Logo placement on CPBA website, links to your brand website
• Access to the CPBA website resources
• Invitation to monthly CPBA meetings hosted by the CPBA committee and attended by CPBA members, guest speakers and fellow industry professionals
• Opportunity to invite your brand ambassadors, distillers, winemakers to speak at monthly meetings
• Opportunity to showcase products by sponsoring a vendor table at monthly meetings
• Receive monthly newsletter from the CPBA
• Opportunity to participate in the annual CPBA cocktail competition, plus several events & exclusive competitions throughout the year
• Work one-on-one with a CPBA event planner
Fees: $250 Annually per brand for CPBA BC Chapter Associate Membership.
Manager: Danielle Tatarin
Creative Director: Free Lee
Assistant Managers: Keenan Hood & Jennine Banks
About The Keefer Bar
The Keefer Bar is a place where you can come to escape the rush and unwind in a unique atmosphere where cocktails, food and music are in harmony. The intricately designed cocktail program focuses on Apothecary style drinks created to soothe ailments and balance one’s mood. Ingredients for the Asian influenced small plated food and specially crafted drinks are sourced from local Chinatown markets and herbalists. Bar Manager, Danielle Tatarin and Creative Director, Free Lee work with their team to develop the exceptional atmosphere and unique house made tinctures, bitters, syrups and teas to incorporate into the pre-prohibition influenced drinks.