Meet the incomparable Brian Grant. With 20 years in his back pocket in the bar industry, he can school you with stories of what he’s seen and done in and around the Downtown, Yaletown, and Gastown neighbourhoods of Vancouver. He can also school you in a boxing ring, as he is an absolutely beloved and revered coach at Eastside Boxing, and a big part of the annual boxing charity event, Aprons for Gloves. Intimidation need not apply though. In everything he does, Brian is engaging, patient, and inspiring, whether he’s yelling his pep talk in your corner during a boxing match, or pouring your favourite drink at his extremely cozy lounge in East Vancouver that doubles as his distillery for Resurrection Spirits. Starting from the bottom, he has crafted a life in this industry through perseverance and humanity, and he continues to give and give and give some more. A big cheers to this legendary Vancouverite!
Laura: OK. Hi Brian! I don’t even know where to begin, since you’ve got quite a history in the hospitality industry. So let’s start in the now. Tell me about what is going on in your world these days?
Brian: Working hard at Resurrection Spirits Distillery making spirits we are proud of, and fun cocktails!
L: How would you describe the Vancouver bar scene? What makes it different from other cities that you’ve travelled to, or worked in?
B: I think Vancouver has been very progressive. In the last 20 years I have seen it go from really backwoods-y to being on the world stage.
L: You’ve worked the wood in some pretty awesome spots around Vancouver. How did it all begin for you though? Tell us about how you got to where you are now?
B: I started working behind the bar as a 19 year old at Jericho Tennis Club on the west side. I had worked there as a dishwasher from the age of 14, then a busboy, some kitchen work, and finally the bar. I found an old cocktail book there and it got me more and more interested in bartending and cocktails. From there on, I continued working in various restaurants, bars, and clubs, including Granville Street, Yew Restaurant (Four Seasons), Voya (Loden Hotel), and Pourhouse Gastown, just to note a few.
L: What inspired you to open Resurrection Spirits Distillery and Lounge? Was it always destined to be a distillery and a lounge, or did the idea start somewhere and grow into what it is now?
B: As a bartender in 2009 at Pourhouse, I decided that I was going to make some of our own bitters. I needed a high proof base to make bitters with and I could not buy a suitable product in BC, so I decided to make one. Having been a cocktail bartender for 20+ years, and distilling for 10 years, I was really just putting two skills that I had developed together under one roof.
L: What is your M.O. when building your team of bartenders in the lounge?
B: Passion—people that love what they do and have an interest in knowledge.
L: What’s your favourite cocktail on your list?
B: Well, if we don’t love it we don’t put it on the list. We also change the list five times a year. But I guess I always have a favourite… from this list I think it is “Follow the White Rabbit.” It tastes like the white rabbit candy from our childhood and is garnished with an edible rice paper rabbit…
L: Bartending has evolved so much over the last decade. How do you feel it is different from when you started to now?
B: Yes the last decade *cough cough* thanks for being polite. In my 20+ years it has changed a lot. Vancouver went from average cocktails with cheap ingredients in the 90s to one of North America’s best cocktail cultures—there are great bars and bartenders throughout the city today.
L: Do you think it’s hard for new bartenders to break into the scene? Any sage advice on how to wet your toes?
B: It can be, but with the shortage of hospitality staff in the city, we are willing to train the right people. Want to cocktail bartend? Read books and find a good mentor.
L: Did you have a mentor?
B: I had quite a few mentors. It has always been the way I learned best. All my best skills are learned this way, especially since distilling, bartending, and then of course boxing, don’t really have schools. Barry Jones was my first bar mentor; with distilling, I was inspired and taught by Laurent Lafuente.
L: So boxing! You are a boxing coach at Eastside Boxing, which organizes the legendary Aprons for Gloves charity boxing event. In fact, you were working at Pourhouse when the whole idea conceptualized! What was it like watching this transpire?
B: It has been one of the biggest parts of my life in the last eight years and has been amazing to work with so many great people from our community. Seeing the people that the gym and AFG have helped is really special.
L: The late nights are not always easy to juggle. In fact, it was Eastside Boxing and Aprons that kept me sane. How do you keep balanced outside of work?
B: It can be tough, I try to exercise on the regular and take some time for myself. Boxing is a great outlet and it keeps me happy.
L: Any exciting events coming up at Resurrection that we should know about?
B: Yes, we have a food truck with Doug and Lindsey from DL Chicken Shack that is set to open soon which will expand our food options. It’s called Catchweight Fish ’n’ Chips! Check it out @catchweightyvr on Instagram.
And of course, we book out events at Resurrection Spirits, such as birthdays and Christmas parties.
L: Amazing. Thanks for chatting Brian!
Dog or cat? Dog, but I like cats, too
Negroni or Boulevardier? Boulevardier (made with Resurrection Pale Rye)
Most overhyped bar trend? Trends come and go…I like most of ‘em.
Most despised bar term? None. Ok, maybe “curated”… lol but I’m pretty sure we have written that at some point.
Most underutilized spirit? Absinthe. But we are going to make one soon…
First drink you ever had? Rusty Nail
Pinot or Cabernet? Pinot
Go-to hangover cure? Barney’s on Main, Deep Cove “Smooth Criminal” Stout, and Smoked Salmon Eggs Benny.
High school prom song? probably ICE ICE Baby…hahaha
THC or CBD? THC
—by Laura Starr