The engaging educator

‘Knowledge is meant to be shared,’ says Bacardi’s Kevin Brownlee

As Bacardi Portfolio Ambassador, Kevin Brownlee shares his love of all things cocktail. Photos courtesy of Bacardi

Countless bartenders have arrived at their profession from unlikely origins, but Kevin Brownlee doesn’t consider his career trajectory odd. He believes he simply traded one education role for another. A former public-school teacher, he transitioned from sitting behind a classroom desk to standing behind a bar after realizing his greatest love is hosting, as well as constantly improving his knowledge of spirits and cocktails. Honing his skills in revered Vancouver dining rooms such as West, Pourhouse and AnnaLena, he subsequently won multiple awards, including first place in Grey Goose’s Pour Masters competition. Brownlee is now Portfolio Ambassador for Bacardi.

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The whisky whisperer

How Reece Sims shares her love of the water of life

As the Whiskey Muse, Reece Sims shares he love of wine, beer, cocktails and, above all, whisky. Photo courtesy of Reece Sims

When Reece Sims graduated from the University of Victoria, in 2009, with a Bachelor of Commerce, she thought she might go on to become a lawyer. Instead, after tenures in marketing for the fashion and architecture industries, a part-time bartending job at a Vancouver pub led to a multifaceted career in which she shares her love of spirits, wine and beer. Under the name the Whiskey Muse, Sims provides accessible education about “the water of life” to curious consumers (especially women) in their 20s and 30s—a demographic typically overlooked by distillers in favour of deep-pocketed older men. Most recently, she launched Stave+Still, a whisky-themed jewelry collection.

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From necessity, transformation

In our new column, Kelowna bartender Harry Dosanj reveals how his unlikely career was born

Bartender Harry Dosanj pours a cocktail in the well-stocked whisky bar he established at Kelowna’s Hotel Eldorado. Behind him, cocktails age peacefully in oak barrels. Hotel Eldorado photo

Harry Dosanj is a multiple-award-winning bartender who has twice ranked among Canada’s best bartenders in the Diageo World Class competition. His accomplishments are especially impressive given that before moving to Canada from Southampton, England, with his family in 2009, his interest in alcohol didn’t extend beyond an occasional beer. Here, Dosanj—who recently celebrated his second anniversary at Kelowna’s Hotel Eldorado—shares the story of his unlikely entry into the bartending profession.

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The Bon Vivant

Our man-about-town discovers that taking a seat at the bar is a social act, even for the solo sipper

Ryan Mitson Illustration

Earlier this year, for no apparent reason, multiple stories were published about the stigma of eating in a restaurant alone, each of them offering counsel as to why no one should feel self-conscious for doing so. I appreciate these pieces having been written, but I don’t understand why they need to exist.

I’ve never felt self-conscious about dining solo. I’d argue, in fact, that it’s often a superior experience to dining as part of a couple or a group. Without the pressures or distraction of conversation, one can fully appreciate a meal, consume it at a preferred pace, and get lost in a book or people-watching or whatever private reveries help the mind relax and the heart sing.

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The Bon Vivant

The patio scene isn’t for everyone, including our man about town

Ryan Mitson Illustration

In many ways, I’ve always been hilariously unsuited to Vancouver, despite having lived here for the best part of 20 years. While I enjoy observing nature from the distant vantage point of a high-rise apartment, actually venturing into it makes me anxious and irritated. I look upon the lifestyle cults surrounding yoga, spinning and clamshell salads—ostensibly expressions of joyful living, yet deadly serious—as if they were the Republic of Gilead.

But what situates me permanently at the fringe of the party that is this city (this beautiful, very expensive party) is my habitual response to the arrival of summer. When everyone else rushes hysterically into the streets, as if drawn by the promise of eternal youth and free poké bowls, I draw the blinds and cower until nightfall.

I don’t want to be this person, but I have no choice: I’m a ginger.

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The Bon Vivant

Cocktails, our man-about-town discovers, are not just for the rich, or even the pretend rich

Illlustration by Ryan Mitson.

didn’t pull up a stool to a proper bar—by which I mean one whose stock-in-trade is cocktails, and whose staff is formally schooled in the art of same—until my early 30s. A variety of reasons contributed to this delayed milestone, including having been raised in a near-teetotal household, in a small city whose population overwhelmingly prefers beer, coupled with early teenage drinking experiences (usually at a suburban house party or in some miserable pitch-black field) of the sort that seem contrived to ensure one never wants to drink again.

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