This is Hailey Pasemko, and she’s the managing force behind the bar program at Wolf in the Fog in Tofino, on Vancouver Island. She came highly recommended as someone to speak to (thank you Alex Black!) and for good reason: Hailey began tending bar at 19 and has maneuvered through the industry with precision and agility, consistently pushing herself to learn more, do more, and make this industry her own. She’s a loaded gun, with wine education, bar education, management experience, and now, she’s forging a path as a forager, the fruits of her labour displayed behind her bar, with self made products such as Salmonberry bitters and Nootka rose syrup. There’s never been a tastier reason to hit up Tofino.
Laura: Hello Hailey! Tell me about what’s going on in your world these days?
Hailey: The busy season in Tofino is slowly winding down right now. This winter is looking pretty travel focused with trips planned to both Oaxaca and Thailand.
L: Fun! So you’ve worked in both the Vancouver Island scene and the Vancouver city scene. How would you describe the differences between the two regions in terms of bar culture?
H: Both have a great sense of community in the bar scene. On the island we are quite a bit more spread out which can make tasting events and seminars a bit tougher to organize and attend.
L: You’ve worked in some pretty awesome spots in both places, and now you’re running your own haunt in Tofino. How did it all begin for you though? Tell us about how you got to where you are now?
H: Really by sticking with my craft. I originally got into bartending to put myself through university at 19. I didn’t realize it would become my career. At 23 I decided to put school on hold to pursue a bartending opportunity at the Wickaninnish Inn. Working there was the first time I was ever asked to be creative behind the bar. Realizing that work could also be a creative outlet was a huge shift for me. That was also where I met the team that would eventually go on to create Wolf In The Fog. School is still “on hold.”
L: You seem to be constantly learning and growing though. I understand you are pretty heavy into foraging, and you’ve had the chance to design some cool bar products from local ingredients. Can you tell me more about this?
H: It’s great when our cocktails at Wolf can reflect where we are. Tofino is blessed with lots of natural foods, though many have short growing seasons. When something is in season you have to get out there and take advantage while you can. At Wolf we have found a few products we like to make seasonally such as Salmonberry bitters, Salal berry infused gin (similar to British sloe gin), Nootka rose syrup, and even a pine mushroom infused vodka.
L: It is wild what we can do with the resources at our fingertips.
How about a mentor? Did you have someone that you can lean into along your path?
H: Ryan Dyck was my manager at the Wickaninnish Inn and was the one who pressured me to be creative. He always pushed me to improve my skills and was always extremely supportive. We worked together in various properties over ten years or so. I still call on him for work related advice.
L: Do you think it’s hard for new bartenders to break into the scene in B.C.?
H: Everyone has to start somewhere. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be open to learning, whether that means reading and studying on your own time, or from on-the-job experience.
L: You’ve got a solid backbone in wine education as well…third level ISG? How do you feel this has added to your experience and opportunities in the bartending scene?
H: It broadened my skill set and generally helped with employability. It also allowed me to step into the fine dining scene. Bartenders do need a solid foundation in wine knowledge as well as spirits, as pretty much all bars have some type of wine offerings.
L: Bartending has a pretty wet and wild reputation as a job… particularly for those who have not worked in the industry. What is a misconception people have about bartending?
H: That it is a real profession. That there is a wide range of types of bartending gigs out there. Some can be pretty wet and wild, but ultimately it requires diligence and you have to give a lot of yourself to people every day.
L: What’s your guilty pleasure drink?
H: Probably a Long Island Iced Tea. When made with good ingredients they are absolutely delicious.
L: How about the most memorable drink you’ve ever had?
H: Pisco Sours with the Wolf team in Lima.
L: The late nights are not always easy to juggle. What keeps you sane and balanced outside of work?
H: My Dog! And gardening.
Dog or cat? Dog
Negroni or Boulevardier? Negroni
Most overhyped bar trend? Shrubs
Most despised bar term? Appy
Most underutilized spirit? Brandy
First drink you ever had? Growers Cider
Pinot or Cabernet? Pinot
Go-to hangover cure? Sushi and a Caesar
THC or CBD? CBD
Thanks for your time Hailey!
—by Laura Starr