DRINKER | On Crafting The Classic Los Angeles Spring Cocktail, The “Brown Derby”

April 15, 2014 


by Shaun Layton | As the seasons change, so do our choice of cocktails. With Spring is upon us, our tastes go from dark, strong, and stirred cocktails to those that are bright, refreshing, and shaken. Enter the Brown Derby cocktail…

Hailing from Hollywood in its golden years, the Brown Derby is one of only a few memorable drinks to have graduated from Southern California. Though not widely known for having a craft cocktail scene, LA did indeed have one, and if you know where to go, it still has one (avoid the “gimme a Goose and Red Bull, chief!” places that are a dime a dozen and check out place like The Varnish, The Roger Room, and Seven Grand).

The Brown Derby cocktail was named after the the famous hat-shaped watering hole in Hollywood that was founded between-the-wars by Wilson Mizner. The funny thing is that it got its name at another joint – the competition, so to speak – another LA celeb hotspot called The Vendôme Club, where stars like Canadian-born Mary Pickford and partner Douglas Fairbanks were regulars (they both also have cocktails named after them, but that’ll be another article one day). Legend has it that one night, Herbert Somborn, an ex-husband of Gloria Swanson, remarked how one “could open a restaurant in an alley and call it anything. If the food and service were good, the patrons would just come flocking. It could be called something as ridiculous as the Brown Derby…”

The Savoy cocktail book has a cocktail called De Rigueur that predates the Brown Derby and has the same ingredients, so purists (and nerds) may call the latter a copy. But you know what? It’s got a great story, so I’m sticking with it. Learn how to make it after the jump… Read more

DIVE BARS | On Cold Beer & 80′s Mash-Ups At The West End’s Mythic “Bayside Lounge”


The magic words “a good dive bar” might sound a little oxymoronic to most people fond of nights out, but we tend to like dive bars just as much – if not more – than cocktail bars. This new series will shine some light on bars in Vancouver that are great to drink in on any day or night of the week but are all too often overlooked on account of their decor, “dive” reputation, or location (usually all 3).

by Shaun Layton | Hidden upstairs above the corner of Denman and Davie is The Bayside Lounge. Their website claims that The Bayside is a “trendy martini bar” and “the place to see and be seen in Vancouver”. It’s statements like these – so incredibly way off! – that make me love the place.

First things first, any bar or restaurant that publicly claims to be the place “to see and be seen” is instantly taken off my radar, as they usually end up being the gathering places of Hummer-driving Ed Hardiots, bottle service chicks, and Jager bombers. Yes, you can get “martinis” here, but this is a victim of the “Martini List” craze I talked about in my Martini article. I’ll stick with a G and T or a cold beer, thank you very much.

There are many reasons why I love the Bayside, and not one of them involves food or drink. Don’t get me wrong, they have a decent list of pub-style appetizers that go great with cold beer, but it’s the neon sign that still glows all over the room on late nights that I love. I love that they’re open until 2am every night and until 3am on weekends. And I love the hell out of the sunken circular bar (one of the coolest in the city). I know a few of my barkeeps who have dreamt about taking over the bar and not changing much. It sort of reminds me of the legendary Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. Though this one doesn’t slowly rotate in a circle while you sip a Sazerac, it’s still pretty swanky. I’ve even heard that there used to be phones on the tables…for what reason, I have no idea. The huge windows and banquettes that surround the room and offer a million dollar views are real beauties and probably vintage 1980′s. The stories they’d tell! Fair warning: it can be pretty magical to day drink here.

Exhausted industry staff, myself included, like to go to The Bayside after work, especially those times when all you need is a frosty beer and something deep fried. The best is the late nights when you look around the room and see the mixed bag of people it attracts while listening to a DJ spinning appropriate 80’s mash-ups. The staff are as classic as the decor, with most of them having been there for a while (they’re always prompt and personable).

And don’t forget about the view. It’s definitely one of the best in the city as it overlooks English Bay from an elevated vantage point. Overall, The Bayside is a great spot to relax with a sunset and watch all the people waiting in line for over an hour to sit at the other nearby restaurants that serve basically the same food. If only they knew!


IMG_6220Shaun Layton has helped to maintain a top notch bar scene in Vancouver for ten years, and since day one at Gastown’s L’Abattoir, where he is the Bar Manager. He also runs his own consulting company, designing bar programs and training staff locally and as far away as St.John’s, NFLD. Layton has competed and travelled throughout the USA and Europe, touring distilleries, breweries and bars. He was recognized in 2012 as the Bartender of The Year by Vancouver Magazine.

DRINKER | Building An Excellent Home Bar, 5 Bottles And 1 Quality Cocktail At A Time


by Shaun Layton | Something that I often get asked about is the building of a home bar. Depending on how much you drink at home, or how many deadbeat roommates you have, this can either take a long time to build or be done in a few trips to the liquor store. What I tell people is this: build you’re bar 1 or 2 drinks at a time.

This is the first in a series of posts on building a home bar, five bottles and one drink at a time. I will also provide some tips along the way, so please let me know (@shaunlayton) how your own home bar came together, share thoughts or photos, or ask any questions you like.

The brands I choose aren’t necessarily the best in their respective categories. I’m just trying to use unique, readily available, and cost efficient brands. So here we go…

1. Broker’s London Dry gin - A good London dry gin, which means a classic style of gin with a heavy juniper profile. I choose Broker’s because it has great value ($27.99) and it’s great for classic-style drinks like the Negroni.

2. Dolin Dry Vermouth – Essential for classics like The Martini. I choose Dolin, my favourite of its category. Located in Chambery, France, it’s been a producer of fine fortified wines since 1821. Dolin is well worth the $28.00 price tag. Tip: this is a wine, so please keep it capped in the fridge! You will have to go to a specialty store like 16th St. Liquor in West Van or Legacy liquor in Olympic Village to find your bottle.

3. Campari - A “potable” Italian bitter which is great for cocktails, or sipped on the rocks with a splash of soda and a slice of orange. At $26.99, a bottle should last you a while. People either love or hate Campari. It’s also fashionable, so a lot of who don’t particularly like it pretend to.

4. Rittenhouse rye – A good rye is essential for classic cocktails like the Sazerac. For me, American rye is best when mixing drinks. Canadian whiskeys are great in my opinion for sipping. Rittenhouse ($44.99) is 101 proof so it has a strong presence and spicy finish – ideal traits for a proper drink.

5. Angostura Bitters – The essential bottle of bitters for any home bar ($12.00). You will find this in any decent bar anywhere on the world. Seriously, if the bar you walk into doesn’t have any, turn around and start running! Literally hundreds of cocktails call for these bitters, which are made in Trinidad.



A strong, bitter, dry, bold cocktail. Serve to gentleman with beards and ladies who like Negronis.

45 ml Rittenhouse rye
25 ml Campari
25 ml Dolin Dry Vermouth

Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass then strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with lemon twist.

IMG_6220Shaun Layton has helped to maintain a top notch bar scene in Vancouver for ten years, and since day one at Gastown’s L’Abattoir, where he is the Bar Manager. He also runs his own consulting company, designing bar programs and training staff locally and as far away as St.John’s, NFLD. Layton has competed and travelled throughout the USA and Europe, touring distilleries, breweries and bars. He was recognized in 2012 as the Bartender of The Year by Vancouver Magazine.

DRINKER | On Delicious Maraschino (The Adriatic Liqueur, Not The Freaky Garnish)


by Shaun Layton | The history of classic liqueurs is often more interesting than that of the cocktails they’re mixed into. Such is the case with Maraschino (Mar-a-skee-no), a liqueur distilled from Marasca cherries. It has nothing to do with those ghastly cherries of yore that sat atop cheap birthday cakes and still sit in the garnish wells of dive bars. The liqueur – said to be a favourite sip of Napoleon – is commonly made by distilling Marasca cherries, aging it in Finnish ash vats for around two years, then adding sugar and water to about 32% ABV (alcohol by volume). The famous straw wraps encasing the bottles were introduced in the 19th century to prevent breakage on ships (cases of the stuff were found in the wreckage of the Titanic).

In 1759, Francesco Drioli opened a distillery in Zara on the Mediterranean’s Dalmation Coast (now Zadar in Republic of Croatia). His liqueurs, especially Maraschino, became so popular that he was sending them all over Europe by the 1800’s. Soon enough, other cherry liqueur brands started to surface, among them Girolamo Luxardo (1821), and Romano Vlahlov (1861). Luxardo is the most common among cocktail bartenders today. Unfortunately, the city of Zadar was so heavily bombed during the Second World War that most of the distilleries (and workers) were wiped out.

Giorgio Luxardo, the only surviving fourth generation family member who worked in the distillery, rebuilt the Luxardo distillery in the Veneto region of the family’s home country, Italy. Today, they are one of the leading producers of liqueurs in the world, and the brand is still 100% family-run.

It should be noted that cherry liqueur is still being produced in Croatia. In 1946, on the spot that used to house the original Luxardo distillery, the Maraska brand emerged from the war’s ashes. They are the biggest brand still making the cherry liqueur in Croatia, employing over 150 people.



Maraska | Pronounced nose, stone fruit, overly sweet, subtle finish. Great when used in small amounts in drinks like the Martinez* (Gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino, orange bitters). It’s particularly hard to find at the moment, so pick some up on your next trip across the border.

Luxardo | Dry, peppery, floral, and semi sweet with nice viscosity. Great for a drink like an Aviation (Gin, Maraschino, fresh lemon, creme de violet). This is available in any decent cocktail bar in Vancouver, or at specialty liquor stores (eg. 16th St. or Legacy).


* Go see H at Notturno for a great Martinez.

DRINKER | On Wild Kentucky Pilgrimages And Making The Classic Seelbach Cocktail


by Shaun Layton | When most of the people I know are asked if they like bourbon and Champagne, I know that their answer is going to include a mention of the Seelbach cocktail. The legendary Kentucky hotel that gave the drink its name has a special place in my heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the historic beauty a few times in the past, one of which was with Scout’s editor and some fellow barkeeps four years ago (watch the evidenceo). My head nearly exploded when I first saw the selection of American rye and bourbon inside the main floor bar!

The hotel itself is a lot more famous than the cocktail. The Seelbach was opened in 1905 by brothers Otto and Louis Seelbach. They had a vision of old world European hotels, importing materials from all over; marbles from France, linens from Ireland, and rugs from Turkey. The hotel sits on Muhammad Ali Way, about a block from the museum honouring the pugilist hero from Louisville.

Many notables frequented the hotel, including American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. He adored the place, not to mention its bourbon and selection of cigars. His experiences and run-ins with prohibition bootleggers like Cincinnati mobster George Remus inspired characters and scenes for his masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby”.

The Seelbach has a network of hidden tunnels and rooms, and it was a major hangout for Al Capone and his crew during Prohibition. A cool story on the hotel’s website claims Capone had a large mirror from Chicago sent in so he could watch his back during high stakes poker games.

Until 1995, when a hotel manager rediscovered the recipe, The Seelbach cocktail was all but forgotten. It was created in 1917, and lost some time during Prohibition. The hotel was reluctant to release the recipe until bar legend Gary Regan convinced them to let him publish it in his book, New Classic Cocktails.

The Seelbach
1 oz Bourbon (I use Buffalo Trace)
1/2 oz Triple Sec (I use Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao)
7 Dashes Angostura Bitters
7 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
5 oz Champagne
orange twist garnish

Method | Briefly chill the first four ingredients by stirring on ice, add to a chilled champagne flute, top with Champagne (or a dry sparkling wine), garnish with an orange twist.

The recipe doesn’t call for chilling the ingredients, but I think this is necessary for a cold and balanced cocktail. I really enjoy serving this as a “gateway” cocktail for drinkers who claim they don’t like bourbon. It works like a charm every time. Don’t be alarmed (as I first was) at the amount of bitters; somehow everything magically comes together. Although Peychaud’s can be hard to find, there is no substitute (Bitter Truth Creole is close), so get some while travelling in the US or at The Modern Bartender in Chinatown.

DRINKER | On Where You Can Score A Well Made Classic ‘Gibson’ Martini In Vancouver

February 18, 2014 


by Shaun Layton | I guess I better start this whole writing about liquor and bars thing with one of my favourite cocktails, The Martini. By that I mean an ice cold mix of gin, dry vermouth, and maybe a dash or two of bitters served in a small cocktail coupe or V shaped “martini” glass.

I used to get all worked up when someone would ask to see our “Martini List”, expecting an assortment of neon coloured 6 oz flavoured vodka-based, sweet-on-sweet cocktails. I still want to make an actual Martini List one day with an assortment of proper Martinis and Martini-inspired cocktails.

Examples of great martinis abound across the city. You can find the Vesper (Gordon’s Gin, Vodka, Kina Lillet, shaken and served with a long piece of lemon peel), the Fitty Fitty (Plymouth gin, Dolin dry, and orange bitters, lemon twist), the Martinez (Old tom gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino, aromatic bitters, lemon twist), among many others. But for me it’s always the Gibson, which has an especially cloudy history. One story claims that a barkeep at the Player’s Club in New York was challenged by a patron to improve on his regular Martini. The very resourceful (or uninspired) barman simply switched the garnish from an olive to a pickled pearl onion, and thus the Gibson was born. Another story sees an investment banker during the three martini lunch days who would tell the bartender to make his martini with water and garnish it with an onion so that he could could tell the difference between it and those garnished with olives and stay sober as his clients got hammered, allowing him the advantage when closing deals.

Such tales are what make cocktails and bars so interesting and enjoyable to me. Many are myths, of course, or are so riddled with inaccuracies (the dates are wrong, etc.) as to be comical. But please, never tell me that I’m wrong when I’m telling one, and the next time you overhear a bartender telling his or her guests a story, don’t jump in with a correction. They’re just stories, so put down the smartphone (on Wikipedia) and leave it at that to enjoy the bar and the conversation!

When making a Martini, there are a few key points. First off, get to know your gins. Some are good for G and T’s and some are best for Martinis. Personally, I like Tanqueray 10 or Plymouth in my martinis. Also, keep your vermouth in the fridge (it’s a wine after all). And always stir, never shake, that is unless it’s a Vesper. Oh, and always garnish with onions or olives on the side, because the second they are dropped in the cocktail they change the flavour irretrievably.

I always order a Gibson; a dealer’s choice of gin, dry (I like a bar spoon of vermouth), and classically garnished with a pickled onion or two. The quality of the onion is a big deal for me. I love bars that have great onions, especially those that make their own! In the photos above, you can see some recent evidence of this affection: #1, a dealers choice Martini at the Fairmont Pacific Rim (No. 3 gin with regular pickled onions made ice cold and perfect by barman Todd); #2, a Gibson martini at my home bar, aka Bar SL (Tanqueray 10 gin, Dolin dry, SL’s picked onions); #3, my thermometer spoon, available here; #4, a dealer’s choice Martini at Blackbird (Hendrick’s gin, made with housemade pickled onion strings); #5 a dealer’s choice Martini at Hawksworth (Plymouth gin, Cocchi Torino, w regular pickled onions made by barman Cooper). I’d also recommend that you check out The Pourhouse in Gastown (on live jazz night), South Granville’s West (David Wolowidnyk makes a great Gibson), The Gerrard Room at the Sutton Place Hotel (the room is old and awesome), and, of course, L’Abattoir, where I’d be happy to provide you with my best effort.

Here’s my own Gibson Martini recipe:

60 ml Tanqueray 10 gin
1 barspoon Dolin dry vermouth
2 pickled onions (I might sell these one day, but for now you can just come see me at L’Abattoir)

Add all ingredients with ice to a mixing glass, stir for 25-30 seconds until desired dilution and temperature, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish on the side 2 pickled onions.


OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: “L’Abattoir” Is On The Lookout For An Experienced Bartender


L'Abattoir is located at 217 Carrall St in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood | 604-568-1701 | www.labattoir.ca

The GOODS from L’Abattoir

Vancouver, BC | L’Abattoir is looking for an experienced bartender. Experience in cocktail bartending and fine dining an asset. We are looking to fill a position for 3-5 shifts a week. The restaurant will prove to be a great training ground for those looking to move up and learn from some of the best in the trade. We are looking for candidates in possession of great attitudes and the ability to work in a fast paced, professional environment. All inquiries to shaun@labattoir.ca. Learn more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: “L’Abattoir” Is On The Lookout For An Assistant Bar Manager

August 7, 2012 


L'Abattoir is located at 217 Carrall St in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood | 604-568-1701 | www.labattoir.ca

The GOODS from L’Abattoir

Vancouver, BC | Gastown’s L’Abattoir is in need of an Assistant Bar Manager for 4-5 shifts a week. The successful applicant will be an honest, hard-working professional with experience working in high volume, fine dining, cocktail-forward establishments. He/she will be eager to learn and ready to join a dynamic team that strives for the best in a fast-paced environment. Only career-minded individuals need apply in confidence to shaun@labattoir.ca. Learn more about the award-winning restaurant after the jump… Read more

“CPBA” (Canadian Professional Bartenders Association) Joins The Scout Community

November 17, 2011 

We’ve invited the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association to join our GOODS section as a recommended organisation that is well worth checking out. They’re now proud members of Scout, and as such we’ll be posting their news front and center and hosting a page for them on our curated list of independent goodnesses. We’d like to take this chance to thank them for their support of Scout, and for making BC a more discerning (and tipsier) place to live!



City’s Best Bartenders Sweep The Leg At Chinatown’s “Keefer”

by David Greig | In a dark bar in Chinatown, flecked with some of the first rays of a long overdue summer, a hush fell over the gathered masses. Breaths were held, as two pairs of eyes scanned the bottles lying before them. Years, nay decades, of experience tensed their minds and hands. All was about to be laid on the line in the cause of cash and glory. A judge rose to his feet, ticket in hand…


It was on. The Bar-ate Kid had begun. Read more

GOODS: Gastown’s “L’Abattoir” Hunting For A New Foodrunner To Join Its Service Team


L'Abattoir is located at 217 Carrall St in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood | 604-568-1701 | www.labattoir.ca

The GOODS from L’Abattoir

Vancouver, BC | Gastown’s L’Abattoir restaurant is looking for a competent food runner to work 2 to 4 shifts a week on a flexible schedule. The restaurant will prove to be a great training ground for those looking to move up in the local trade. Minimum restaurant experience unnecessary, but desired. The lucky candidate will really only need to be intelligent with a great attitude, a driven sensibility, and a yen for learning from some of the best in town. Only the brave need apply to info [at] labattoir [dot ca]. Learn more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more

VANCOUVER SPECIALS: Shaun Layton Of L’Abattoir Makes Us A Mighty “Meat Hook”

by David Greig | Welcome to the first sipper in a new Scout series called Vancouver Specials, wherein we take a close look at original cocktails of note that have been homegrown by our better bartenders. Expect travels and drinks from farther afield in rounds to come, but to begin I’ve turned to the fellow next to me at my own bar, Shaun Layton…

“Meat Hook” | by Shaun Layton | L’Abattoir

40ml Wild Turkey 101
20ml Punt E Mes
10ml Ardbeg 10 yr
5ml Maraschino liqueur
Stir and strain into chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with brandied cherry


What was your inspiration? The now modern day classic Red Hook; a drink from NYC’s Milk and Honey, created in 2003. These days, I love drinks that incorporate two spirits, with the Islay whiskey here giving the Meat Hook a nice smoky finish. The name ties back to the restaurant (L’Abattoir meaning “Slaughterhouse”). Where and when would you drink this? I’d drink this during or after a long, leisurely dinner in a room with a blazing hearth, plenty of taxidermy and lots of mahogany furniture. What would you drink it with? Maybe a Montecristo #2 cigar, chef Lee’s sweetbreads or anything with big, bold flavours.


U.K. import David Greig is the Cocktail Editor at Scout Magazine and can usually be found working the wood and well at Gastown’s popular L’Abattoir restaurant when he’s not typing at home or imbibing around town.

Seen In Vancouver #295: A Rapturous Cocktail For An Apocalypse The Never Came

Local barman Shaun Layton created this liquid negotiation with God last night just 23 minutes before the supposed start of the Rapture (6pm, Universal Texas Time). Seeing as we’re all still here, it looks like he saved the world. Attaboy Jesus Shaun!


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