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One-on-One With Shawn Soole

Originally from Australia, Shawn Soole moved to Victoria over 10 years ago. From the moment he moved to British Columbia, he was involved in the community, helping his new home city to evolve into a world-renowned cocktail destination. The venue he founded—Little Jumbo—made some big waves! Little Jumbo was recognized as a Top 10 Best New International Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail (2014) along with a Top 4 Best New Books for Soole’s Cocktail Culture: Recipes & Techniques from Behind the BarenRoute Magazine’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants in Canada (2014 and their Top 15 Favourite Bars in Canada (2014), as well as winning Silver Medal at the Vancouver International Wine List Awards.
In 2014, Shawn left Little Jumbo and started his consulting firm, S2 Hospitality. The firm has, among other projects, managed the creation and branding of Stump Gin with Phillip’s Fermentorium and Sheringham Akvavit & Legend’s Distilling Naramaro. Soole partnered with Brad Holmes of Ulla to help with the rebrand and relaunch of Olo Restaurant in 2016 and consulted on the design, construction and relaunch of Victoria’s Café Mexico, where Soole stayed on as general manager until July 2017. Café Mexico now boasts one of the largest collections of tequila and mezcal in Canada along with an authentic Mexico-inspired cocktail menu.
Shawn Soole continues to share the love for his art by contributing to Victoria’s cocktail culture while speaking and teaching across Canada and the globe at gatherings such as the Toronto Cocktail Conference.
Get to know him better through this interview:

Tell us about the first cocktail you ever created?

Oh… that was too long ago and most likely very embarrassing.

What spirit do you most enjoy working with?

I don’t think I have a favourite one. I love everything for different reasons – Akvavit and gin in the summer months, bourbon and scotch in the winter.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to a young bartender?

Self Educate – take the initiative to learn everything yourself.
This industry is great and open about sharing knowledge, but you need to take the first few steps to it.

What do you do to ensure that you have a good life work balance?

This is something I have only just started to work on. My wife ensures that I keep in mind more than ever.

What’s your all-time favorite cocktail?

Old Pal! I love Negronis but the Old Pal is that underdog that delivers on so many levels.

Where do you find inspiration when creating cocktails?

Everyday life, the ride to work, my morning coffee, a flavour that I may experience for the first time and want to recreate.
I think inspiration comes in the weirdest spots and times.

What one cocktail book would you recommend to new bartenders?

Difford’s Guide! Recipes keep getting added but never taken away so it is a totem of information.

What’s your most essential bar tool?

A good peeler… Weird, I know! But it’s the last tool that you use before the cocktail is served to the guest, so it should be a good one!

If you could change anything in the hospitality industry, what would it be?

The mentality. It seems like it is a stepping stone for a lot of people, but that’s not true for all.

What do you most admire about the bartending profession?

The community! We are like a big family.
Like every family we are tight but have our issues as well. I think we always have each others backs regardless of the past and that means a lot.

What three trends do you see shaping the cocktail world over the next year?

No more trends, let’s just make great cocktails!
If they happen to be barrel aged, bottled, on tap, molecular or otherwise, sure! But let’s make sure that at the end, the drink is a solid drink.

Tell us about something we haven’t asked. Anything!

Shoutout to my industry peeps in Victoria, BC and the loves of my life – my wife Jill and daughter Mila.

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