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Introducing Vancouver’s next generation of bar stars

As a hotbed of cocktail culture, Vancouver is home to seasoned bartenders who have wowed on the world stage—and to those who are now stepping up their careers. Here’s an introduction to the next generation of local bar stars, five up-and-coming mixologists to seek out the next time your thirst needs quenching.

Peter Johanson. Leila Kwok photo

Peter Charles Johanson

Bar manager, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

Johanson was first drawn to bartending as a way to pay for all the time he spent on the other side of the pine during university. With a degree in forensic chemistry from his native England, he appreciates the science behind cocktails. Before coming to Vancouver, he gained experience at several hot spots in Whistler and at the Grand Cayman Ritz Carlton.

He’ll have: A Negroni or Black Manhattan.

Signature drink: Negroni—“always equal parts with Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, but I use a blend of vermouths that create a much more balanced cocktail. I feel that vermouth is a much-overlooked part of a Negroni that can make or break it,” he says.

Ingredients he can’t live without: Campari, sweet vermouth and gin. (“Shocking!”)

Sarah Hawkins. Photo courtesy of St Lawrence Restaurant

Sarah Hawkins

Bar manager, St. Lawrence Restaurant

Hawkins earned her stripes in Toronto and Alberta before joining St. Lawrence in 2018. She became hooked on bartending because of its inherent creativity: “I have always been fascinated with storytelling, and most spirits and cocktails have wonderful stories attached to them,” she says. “I also love the interaction that bartenders have with their guests. The detail in having higher seating so that the bartender and guest see eye to eye creates a mutual respect and bond over food and drink.”

She’ll have: Beer with a side of bourbon, or a Sazerac made with a nice rye or Cognac.

Signature cocktail: “One signature aperitif that I am proud of is our herbes de Provence vermouth. Chef started a salts-and-spice line, and I wanted to tie one of the spice blends into the bar program. You can have the vermouth on its own on ice with a twist of lemon or in our signature martini.”

Ingredients she can’t live without: “Give me a base spirit, a modifier and a bitter so I can make a cocktail. Cognac and gin reign as our base spirits. Noilly Prat Rouge or Lillet would be our most needed modifiers. I couldn’t make many of our cocktails without the French bitter liqueur China China. It is great in our version of a Negroni called La Réplique.”


Guilherme Ayrao Teixeira de Castro. Photo courtesy of Cardero’s

Guilherme Ayrao Teixeira de Castro

Bartender, Cardero’s Restaurant

A former personal trainer in Rio de Janeiro, de Castro moved to Vancouver from Brazil in 2016, working at the Tea House in Stanley Park before landing at Cardero’s. After working several front-of-house positions, he jumped at the opportunity to train as a bartender; he enjoys being able to create something unique out of seasonal ingredients.

He’ll have: A Bourbon Sour.

Signature cocktail: “I like to play around with sour drinks,” he says. “I use bourbon a lot and play around with amaretto, tequila and Aperol.

Ingredients he can’t live without: Bourbon, lemon and sugar.

Zaymayne Lindsay. Photo courtesy of The Sandbar

Zahmayne Lindsay

Bartender, The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant

Lindsay moved to Canada from Jamaica to study physics, and while in college, met the team he now considers family at The Sandbar. “After I started my part-time position in 2016, I became interested in bartending because I wanted to improve my communication skills by learning to provide an outstanding guest experience. And I wanted to learn the craft because I was intrigued by the endless creative possibilities in making cocktails.”

He’ll have: A classic Whisky Sour or any variation thereof.

Signature cocktail: “Since I enjoy Whisky Sours so much, I wanted to introduce a Jamaican twist, so I came up with a Grapefruit Whisky Sour with fresh ginger, lemon and peppermint. Nothing beats a cocktail like this one in the wintertime.”

Ingredients he can’t live without: Angostura aromatic bitters, fresh limes/lemons and Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Laurel Nixon. Photo courtesy of Laowei

Laurel Nixon

Bartender, Laowai

Nixon admits she kind of fell into her job, though she can recall being seven or eight years old and wanting to imitate her aunt, a bartender, who would set up cocktail ingredients in the kitchen at family gatherings. “It was always fun for me to put flavours together and make the drinks as pretty and colourful and quirky as possible, then bring them out like a gift,” she says. “I’m 25 now and bartending still sort of feels like being a kid making potions. There’s something almost childlike and nostalgic about some bars and the way bartenders curate cocktails. It’s like a combination of potion making, party throwing, visual artistry and storytelling.”

She’ll have: “A good, spicy mezcal Margarita. The smokier the better.”

Signature drink: “I’m so new as a student in the cocktail curating world that I still have a lot to learn about the craft. I do feel really lucky to be working in a lounge with a lot of really knowledgeable career bartenders [including managing partner Alex Black] who encourage me to experiment, provide constructive feedback, and take time to walk me through the philosophy behind their creations. I love that I’m exposed to different spirits, like baijiu, and they want me to think outside of the box.”

Ingredients she can’t live without: Spirit, sugar and citrus.

—by YVR Barfly

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