My lovely, talented friend – Carolyn Bruce of Carolyn Bruce Designs – had spoken highly of her daughter often when we were together, so it was great fun to hear she would be at Bruce’s solo event at the Waterfall Building in September. Not only was she going to be there, but she was going to bring her award winning bartender skills to bear and create three unique drinks for the evening. I couldn’t wait.
It didn’t take me long after arriving to wander over and check the bar out. Bruce looked totally relaxed despite the line-up and I loved how she had unusual vessels at her bar to work with. No standard shakers in sight, when she was mixing, she held what looked like an antique. Then there were the three creations she was offering – Around the World by Parasol
(Absolut vodka, Adventure Tea Syrup, Ginger, Lemon and Soda), Exquisite Corpse (Beefeater Gin, Lillet Rouge, Triple Sec, Lemon and Absinthe bubbles) and Tea of Immortality ( Happy Kombucha, Pineapple, Lemon and Angostura bitters). I believe I had the Around the World by Parasol and it was so amazing, I had to have a second!
Since I know only the most basic information about bartending, I thought she would be a great 8Q and I was right. What it takes to stay at the top of this field is a lot more than mixing drinks each night.
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8Q Spotlight Amber Bruce
What is your current career(s) – paid and unpaid?
I am a bartender at the Keefer Bar, an apothecary style cocktail bar in Chinatown, Vancouver. This job encompasses all of my passions. The paid part of the job is being behind the bar full time, taking care of and doing my best to exceed guests expectations. But there is so much more work that goes on behind the scenes, that is mostly unpaid. I frequent seminars, attend and run promotional events, write blog posts, manage a website, compete in cocktail competitions, all this alone could be a full time job. Herein lies the passion that is needed to make it in this line of work. The average consumer these days is very well educated, and up to date on the cocktail scene, so we as bartenders must stay ever more current and forward-thinking to be able to provide a unique experience.
Can you share an interesting thing (or two) about your journey to reach this moment?
I have been able to travel all around the world with this career. In just the last year, I have been fortunate enough to have been sent to Miami, France, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, and I will soon be travelling to Toronto to compete in a national cocktail competition sponsored by Beefeater Gin, for the chance to represent Canada in London for a Global cocktail competition.
What 3 things would you like people to know about you to give them a sense of who you really are?
- I aim to please. I want to give you what you want. Everything I do, from the acquisition of knowledge, to the trial and error of testing new recipes, is all so that I can present something to you that will surprise and delight.
- I really enjoy what I do. That smile on my face while I’m working is genuine, not prescribed by my employers.
- I am so appreciative of all of the help and insight that I have received from the bartending community, that if anyone ever asks any questions I feel it is my duty to pay it forward and give as much information as they want to hear.
Highest moment so far?
Being recruited by the team at the Keefer Bar (www.thekeeferbar.com), one of Vancouver’s best cocktail bars, that was recently announced as one of the top 100 bars in the world. They house a small, extremely talented team with an immense amount of passion and knowledge. I am over the moon to have been welcomed as their newest member behind the bar. I look forward to collaborating and growing in this incredible atmosphere.
What are you working on right now? In the next 6 months?
I am on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association. Alongside Vancouver’s hardest working bartenders, I work to maintain and enhance the local and global bartending community. We organize and run events, host gatherings, connect people, support up and coming talent, and keep our members up to date on what is happening locally, and new trends in the cocktail scene.I am currently working on a seminar with Mount Gay Rum ( http://whistlercornucopia.com/event.cfm?cart&showTimingID=116479) that I will be hosting the Cornucopia Festival in Whistler in November. Hope to see you there!
Who and/or what inspires you?
The best cocktails not only tantalize the tastebuds, but also tell a great story. I find inspiration all around; it can come from anywhere at any time, so I make sure to have a notebook on me at all times.
The premier cocktail bartenders in Vancouver inspire me. I love hearing about their journeys from where they came from to where they are now. They are a wealth of knowledge and have so much experience. I always appreciate when they are willing to share their stories, so that I might learn from their experiences.
How do you personally define success?
To “succeed” is an odd concept to me, because I don’t consider it a finite event. Success is a process, it is on-going. I enjoy and celebrate my accomplishments, but I am constantly striving for the next one. As long as I am learning something, I am succeeding.
Advice for someone wanting to embrace this career?
Get out in the community and get involved. Don’t be scared. Attend as many tastings, seminars and educational events as you possibly can. But also just relax, no one likes a cocky know-it-all. Stay humble and don’t let your ego run amok. Take care of yourself. This job is extremely physical, and bartenders most often don’t have any extended medical, so make sure to listen to your body. Get regular massages, see a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, get good shoes, and stretch.
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