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Toronto’s best bartenders pouring with a purpose…


Last night we had a chance to experience another premium event at College Street Bar: The Uptown VS Downtown Throwdown.

With all the bartending and mixology competitions  going around Toronto you may wonder what made this one so special. Well, it was not only having some of the best bartenders in Toronto at the same place against each other to find which side of town produces the most talented bar artists, nor the amazing quality of the cocktails presented throughout the competition, it was the unique feeling of seeing bartenders push their creativity and skill to the maximum just ignited for the passion they share for cocktails, bartending and mixology.

Eight bartenders contended in a head to head black box cocktail challenge (ingredients / spirits revealed just before participating) in the following order:

Round 1- Elly Ball VS Erin Petty

Round 2- Rob Montgomery VS Oliver Stern

Round 3- Rob Renda VS Reed Pettit

Round 4- Robin Goodfellow VS Gavin Macmillan

It is worth mentioning that for Elly Ball (proud Bartenderone and College Street Bar talent) this was her first competition ever. After a meteoric rise from student just a few months ago, this young lady has proven herself and consolidated her place as a promising instructor and mixologist.


The final battle took place between Rob Renda from College Street Bar and Rob Montgomery from the Miller Tavern and the decision was given the attending public to decide the winner.

In the end Rob Montgomery was proclaimed champion for second occasion in a row. Downtown prevails as the home for the best bartenders in Toronto


The Uptown VS Downtown Throwdown is consolidating as  the underground arena for Toronto’s best bartenders. A perfect lair for the community to polish their mixology skills with the brightest talents in this city. If you feel you have what it takes to be part of this… we’ll see you behind the bar.

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Bloody Good Spirit Launch Party, Bulldog Gin is finally in Canada!!!


There are some untouchable things for an English; The Queen, The Union Jack and his favourite football team, yet there are few things as sacred for an English as  Gin.

Altough born in the Netherlands Gin quickly became one of the identity symbols for English drinking tradition with the gin and tonic as one of its many flags. Yet despite this extense heritage, until recent times Gin has been one spirit still relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic.

Flavoured with juniper berries and a collection of botanical ingredients, Gin stands out as one of the most versatile spirits; although many people enjoy it straight Gin also offers an unlimited potential for cocktails.

Last night at College Street Bar, we took part in a new chapter on the history of Gin in Canada. Bulldog Gin, one of the most awarded Gin brands in recent years. Made from Norfolk wheat from the East Anglia region, Britain´s purest water from Wales and a distinctive blend of 12 botanicals from 8 countries across the world finally crossed the border and started it´s journey in the land of the Maple Leaf.

With two signature complimentary cocktails and the talent from the College Street Bar staff, the Bloody Good Spirit Launch Party turned out to be a tremendous success. A sexy crowd in the dance floor sipping their Raspeberry Fields Forever and Abbey Gimlet cocktails joined us in the beginning of this adventure. The task ahead is not easy; with a potential market of almost 10 million consumers per year and some serious competition Bulldog Gin has a lot of work to do to conquer Canadian´s hearts and minds. Nonetheless, tasting the cocktails from last night we are sure they will reach their objective and ignite the Gin passion in each and every corner of this country.

See you behind the bar!

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Unveiling the Bourbon secrets with Matt Jones

whiskey 1

Last night, College Street Bar witnessed a mind-blowing presentation of Bourbon and its secrets courtesy of Whiskey Chef Matt Jones and Beam Global. And when I say secrets I mean it. Bourbon is one of the most underrated spirits outside of the US, not only when compared to other more mainstream spirits such as vodka or rum but even compared to its cousins across the pond, nonetheless, as Matt explained Bourbon is a key element of the American cultural heritage, so any self respecting connoisseur has to experience its unique flavor at least once.

For this bourbon adventure Matt displayed five different whiskies in front of us: Jim Beam, Devil’s Cut, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s and Bookers while he proceeded to explain the particularities that make Bourbon what it is

To get started, Matt made us sample a non aged whiskey. This was a unique experience that you will hardly experience outside of specialized events like this, one of the things that stood out the most besides its transparent presentation was the strong corn flavor of the whiskey. Matt proceeded to explain how the wood from the barrels where whiskey is stored not only contributes with flavor but also in the color the whiskey gets, this was an eye opening revelation for most of us who weren’t aware how deeply involved is the process of storage with the final outcome of whiskey.

Afterwards, we proceeded to taste each sample while Matt explained the story behind each of them. Beam certainly prints a unique anecdote to each of its products. The story about the origin of the Devil’s Cut name was just astonishing. I’m afraid I cannot share it here since I might spoil the surprise element for when you join the next tasting but I can say it just tells you a lot about Kentucky approach to life in general.

From the shape of the bottle, to each particular label and of course every flavor and alcohol content of each and every sample, Matt took us through an hour of stories that kept us on the edge of our seats. And if this wasn’t enough to satisfy our palates, one by one, the delicious, southern inspired bites started to appear: Shrimps in Bourbon Sauce, Pulled Pork Sliders and many other delicacies which just made us think this was too good to be true.

If I was to choose one sample from all the ones we had the chance to taste I’d definitely choose Booker’s. Few times in my life I have experienced such an intense flavor, where the spirit is so good you feel your mouth can hardly handle it. Basil Hayden’s also looks like a serious option for something a little softer and smoother.

In conclusion, this Blues n Bourbon evening went way ahead of what I was expecting. A totally charismatic and knowledgeable speaker plus a collection of delicious spirits plus mind blowing delicious food is a combination as likely as getting a Royal Flush in Poker. This is definitely something you have to experience and enjoy like an authentic Kentuckian.

See you behind the bar!

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The world’s top 5 bars in 2012

This question has been around as long as the noble art of drinking has existed: What is the best bar in the world?

Countless debates have surrounded this issue and it’s easy to understand why since there are so many elements involved in defining a bar as the best: service, menu, location, decor, history and of course the quality of the drinks served.

This situation inspired our friends from Drinks International, one of the most respected international magazines on the subject of spirits, wines and beer to find the very best bars in the globe. With an epic effort that involved a poll of 150 contributors, some of the most respected, influencial and knowledgable bar industry professionals in the planet this is as an accurate opinion on the top 5 bars in the world as you will find anywhere.

Here we will display the top 5 bars.



The Artesian is a worthy number on. . At Tales of the Cocktail this year it claimed World’s Best Hotel  Bar as well as the World’s Best International Bartender in Alex Kratena and it is universally accepted  that the bar is properly special.

The cocktail menu has attracted much  of the credit, and with good reason. It effortlessly blends modern innovation  with a classic reverence and each beautifully designed concoction justifies its luxury price tag.



In this bar the cocktail den is carefully dressed with eye-catching taxidermy, exposed brickwork,                    tasteful dark wood ceilings and gleaming bar top.

Low lighting, appropriate music and a sincere smile from the bar staff all contribute to making both                décor and atmosphere here comfortable.



Fruits are carefully selected from reputable markets at the break of dawn and the subsequent design and crafting of these delicate glass accompaniments is something to behold.

A true appreciation of the past imbues all imbibing options here, with a menu divided into pre-Prohibition, Prohibition and post-war drinks.

They also take pride in the spirits, some of which are pre-Prohibition – including an 1863 Hannisville Rye – and share back bar space with all manner of homemade infusions and bitters.

The staff has experience in some of London’s best bars and as a result they provide the accomplished harmony of service and smile with a sexy stir or shake



The Connaught is among the best and rightly so – it is a timeless Mayfair masterpiece and not so long ago enjoyed a spot of renovation that aimed to fluff up its facade. It worked and the outcome was a hotel bar that blends contemporary and classic chic.

Once seated you can wait for the trolley to make things simple, or you can watch the bartenders head back to the bar with your order and perform. Their subtle motions of mixing won’t distract from conversation unless you need them to and the performance is like a silent movie.



Savoy is a bar dripping in reassuring British cocktail history.

From Harry Craddock right through to the current crop of cocktail creatives behind the stick, the American Bar has been hosted by and indeed host to some of the most colourful characters in drinking history and fi red out more than a few enduring classics along the way

The menu is beautifully presented and easy to digest with a happy balance of snippets and succinct detail that doesn’t overload you with technical gibberish. As one of London’s oldest cocktail haunts it should come as no surprise that the American Bar gets it right.


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Tipping Point


Have you ever stopped for a second to think about the fact that there are very few great bars in North America despite tons of good bartenders who have plenty of talent?

The missing ingredient has nothing to do with a lack of options or support; it has everything to do with lack of ambition brought on by lowered expectations

Ask yourself this question. When was the last time you went into a bar and received really great service? If you are lucky, it has happened a few times but not many more.

Believe it or not, tipping too much is one of the reasons of why this happens.

Hard to believe, huh? Let me explain you why I say this:

In most bars, the tip is something that’s up to the client as a reward for an exceptional service. This means that bartenders are motivated to do their best effort every time to keep their patrons satisfied in order to ensure their economic success.

On the other side, bars that add an “autograt” (or automatic gratuity) offer below-average to poor  service while bartenders who had to work for their tips offered better drinks, superior service  and an all around exceptional experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of the automatic gratuity. Many establishments tack on a 15 per cent gratuity to parties of eight or more when tipping is often (conveniently) overlooked.

However, a bartender or server should never be allowed to add an automatic gratuity to a party of less than six. And adding a 15 per cent automatic gratuity to a single drink provides bartenders with no incentive to create great drinks or offer excellent customer service.


Because the bartenders already know they will get their money regardless.

Bartenders are like work horses — they are  motivated by the carrot (the tip) and the stick (job security). If you take away the carrot (the chance of earning a gratuity) and just feed the carrot directly to the horse, they won’t pull the plough (their weight) no matter how hard you hit them with the stick. Without fail, automatic gratuities take the ambition out of taking care of the guest.

The result: Service suffers.

A bartender must remember that the guest determines whether to reward him or not with a tip or gratuity. After all, TIPS is an acronym for “To Insure Proper Service.”

Good bartenders work hard for their money.

They have a very difficult job in that they must possess the skills of a line chef when it comes to mixology and be able to balance that with the people management skills needed to deal with customers who are becoming increasingly intoxicated. An immense amount

of responsibility rests on their shoulders.

However, bartenders who believe they are owed gratuity by everyone who buys a drink have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Tipping should never be mandatory.  Bartending is about driving a party, meeting new people, sharing experiences and creating relationships.

So the next time you’re in a bar and you receive great service, make sure to tip the bartender. And the next time you step behind the bar, remember you’re there to make people happy.


See you behind the bar

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Guest Etiquette or “How to behave at the bar”

There are few places like a bar or a club where your manners and attitude will define you in front of others so blatantly. Sure, everyone is around to relax, have a good time and enjoy a few – or more- drinks and not in a stiff social event.

Yet, fact is people -particularly women- are looking at you, watching every detail and making assumptions about you based on the way you conduct yourself on the bar. -Unless your name is Rob Ford and you enjoy being the centre of attention every Monday for your drunken behavior, here are some tips you should take into account to avoid getting the reputation for being “that douche over there” from the bar staff and patrons.


1) Don’t call the bartender using the expressions “Yo”‘ “Dude” “Baby”, Whistling or Waiving a Debit Card

Bartenders -and people in general – don’t usually enjoy being called names  from someone who they are not familiar with, so don’t use those expressions EVER. As for whistling, unless you are guiding a flock of sheep back home keep your lips either close or on your drink. Finally, unless its a Black American Express, waiving a credit/debit card in front of the bartender is a great way to fan yourself and cool down but definitely not a way to attract the his/her attention. Holding a firm but polite eye contact with your bartender should be enough to indicate you are waiting for service. If it doesn’t work either find a new bar or get new eyes.

2) Don’t touch the bartender/server

People don’t usually feel comfortable being touched by strangers, so do bartenders. If the bartender feels comfortable enough with you to shake hands with you, give you a high fiver or even a hug that’s ok as long as it’s cool with you too, but don’t get that creepy vibe for being the too-touchy guy

3) When you order make sure you are ready to order.

If you want to get the “I hate you and wish painful things upon you” look from your bartender all you have to do is order and when he/she is giving you your drinks and is ready to pay you only have to say “Oh, I forgot… three more pints and another rum and coke”  This being said, PLEASE don’t do it.

4) If you were properly served, tip accordingly

We know that tip is not mandatory, yet you have to understand that tipping is not only a bar ritual, but is also a big clue on how you are as a person. Tipping properly shows you know how to appreciate good service and this will generate a good reputation for you. Typically $1 is an acceptable tip for a beer, $2 for mixed drinks and more if its a complicated mixed drink. Also, the way of tipping is really important: discretly passing leaving the tip on the bar with a “Thank you” should be enough.


This is an awful habit which tells a lot about how little some people value their server’s time and sanity. If your server doesn’t ask you if you will want separate tabs you should indicate this at the beginning of your order.  He/ She will appreciate it more than you can believe.


1) Do not try to skip the line by saying “I know the owner”

This is a classic but it hardly works for two simple reasons a) Most people who use this line cannot tell the owner’s name when asked and b) If you really knew the owner he would go out for you or at least have you on a guest list.  You can skip this uncomfortable situation by making an early reservation.

2) Do not give attitude to the bouncer

No matter how much money or connections you may have, you will never beat the bouncer in an attitude challenge. He is used to take that same attitude over and over again every week and knows how to handle it. Most importantly, even if you happen to see the owner or manager he will most probably back his decision as he is his staff and you will end up annoyed and looking bad in front of the crowd that’s waiting with you. Avoid this situation by respecting the bouncer and if necessary asking for the promoter or manager of the venue. If you offer a good deal (e.g. bring a large group or friends with you) they will usually be friendly to you and let you in.

Go out, try these tips and you will see the difference. And when that happens, let us know!


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Aushentoshan Switch Competition August 12th!

Last night I attended the Regional finals (as a spectator, this time) of the Toronto Heats for the Aushentoshan Switch Competition at Rock Lobster Restaurant in Toronto! It was a great turnout of both industry-folk and friends of the bartenders. I would of been a competitor in this mixology competition as well…probably… but my submission did not get to them in time. Ah, such is life. But I’m glad it turned out the way it did, because I would of gotten WHOMPED at this event. Here’s why:

There were some big names present like Michael Webster of Bar Isabel, Adrien Stein of Rock Lobster, and even David Mitton, known to judge competitions like this, was stretching his competition muscles once again. Alongside these industry leaders were some up and comers like  Adam Vogler and Aaron Male. I was quite impressed with the caliber of cocktails and the choices the Mixologists made for their creation.

In the end, second place was awarded to Michael Webster with first place taken by Vincent Pollard! Vincent happens to be a former student of BartenderOne School. At the event, him and I got to reminisce on how his bartending career as grown and he mentioned that it started when I, personally, taught him. I see and meet a lot of people, so I at first I was very humbled, but I definitely remember Vincent from a Get Into The Spirit workshop he attended one evening at BartenderOne.

That’s how it all starts folks.  I say this to all my students: all I hope is that they take one new idea or concept away from a class/lecture/workshop/bartender training that I, or any one of the BartenderOne instructors, teach you. That’s my passion and my reward, and to see it in practice at Toronto Competitions that I attend is heart-warming. Maybe that sounds a little conceited, but that’s why I became an instructor: to make better bartenders, and it’s happening. Oh, it’s happening. Congratulation All!

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From Dolphins to Bartenders… How did I get here?!?

After a career as a Director of Training for marine mammals and over 4,000 live shows under my belt, I now find myself as the Director of Training at Canada’s Premier Bartender Training School!  But now instead of a team of dolphins, sea lions, and seals, I work with a team of some of the most incredible instructors I’ve ever met! They spend their time helping others learn to bartend. I spend my time supporting them and the students who are in their classes. Who could have predicted that I would wind up doing this? Certainly not me! The bartender training we provide is the best anyone has to offer and I constantly find myself smiling just because I get to be part of this!

Melanie with Sandi and TeriMel, Bean and T.C.

In 1998, which seems like a lifetime ago, I had the pleasure of working with Gavin MacMillan for the first time.  We both worked at Canada’s Wonderland and we were both ball-busting managers in our respective areas. Little did we know that several years later, Gavin would create a bartending school in Toronto called BartenderOne.  After my career training animals, I went on to be an operations and general manager and then to fundraising and special events management. When the time came and there was an opportunity for me to join this incredible company as the Director of Corporate Events and Training… there was no thought in my mind other than YES!  I didn’t know exactly what I was in for but I knew it was gonna be nothing less than fabulous!

For me, working at BartenderOne is exhausting, in all the right ways.  There is so much going on behind the scenes at any given time and I don’t think anyone would know it if they weren’t told. From planning upcoming classes and workshops, to answering calls with questions and taking registrations, to marking and posting test results, to posting classes online and preparing for class… it never stops. Registrations come in 24 hours a day, the phones ring at all hours and the emails never stop. The instructors are in and out of the office, running errands and commuting between our various training locations. And beyond the time they spend as instructors providing bartender training, they also find time to do special events and to work shifts at their respective bars! At the end of my day I don’t get to work in a bar but instead I go home to my job as a mom and my little bartenders-in-training who are 3 & 6 years old. They practice their flair bartending in the bathtub and as soon as they’re old enough, they’ll be in class and getting ready for flair bartending competitions!

There is never a dull moment here since we also do workshops, private events, corporate events and teambuilding events on top of the bartender training that goes on.  We have instructors traveling around the country doing flair training right now. We have instructors shuttling back and forth from Ottawa to open our newest location there.  Never mind all of the events we are doing!  So even though it may seem like we are just doing this bartending school Toronto type stuff… there is so much more to BartenderOne! I love what I get to be a part of here and the amazing team of people I work with.  Over the next few weeks I am going to share some more of what goes on behind the scenes at BartenderOne including what it’s like to work with this crew of instructors and the entire B1 team.  Andrew, David, Ryan, Krissy, Jeremy, Jay, Jair … even the infamous Gavin! They truly are the best and I’m thrilled to be a part of this team!

Until next time…


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Are you hiring???


One of the most important decisions a Bartenderone student faces after graduation is what type of venue to apply to.  One of the first questions we ask all of our students at the beginning of the Masterclass is “what type of venue do you want to work at?”.  On average our students are in their mid 20’s and their instinctive answer is they want to work at a nightclub.  The glaring appeal of working at a nightclub is that it will be little hours, little work, and lots of tips!  In some cases this may be but it is unlikely that you will immediately fall “ass backwards” into a lucrative club bartending job!  That being said, there are many profitable and sought after clubbartending positions in the industry, you just got to find them!  I have worked in clubs for over 5 years and very much enjoy my time working at them, but it is important to expand your mind and your options when choosing  a type of venue to work at. 


One of the most humbling and beneficial experiences I have had as a bartenderwas my time working at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel.  At the time I had been actively bartending for three years, and heading out to Alberta, was very confident with my skill set behind the bar.  I quickly learned that my “nightclub only” experience had only prepared me for a small fraction of what the hospitality industry had to offer.  I was hired as a bartender at a lounge with a 500 person capacity, not intimidating at first glance, but very deceiving as I soon found out!  As the junior bartender on staff I was put on service bar to learn the ins and outs of the menu and the Fairmont style service.  The menu consisted of 35 cocktails and martinis unique to the hotel so it was like starting from scratch with regards to recipe knowledge.  That coupled with the fact that the lounge did not stagger reservations meant that at any given time I could have 500 people walk into the lounge at the same time……translation 500 drinks at once! And not just drinks, labour intensive cocktails and martinis!  Being thrust into this type of bartending setting forced me to really hone the speed, recipe execution, and techniques that I had been introduced to during my time in the Bartenderone Masterclass and Finishing School.  Stepping out of my nightclub “comfort zone” and into a challenging hotel venue setting allowed me to become a much more well rounded bartender.  As a result new doors in the industry were opened for me and I have never looked back.  I currently work as a bartender at a nightclub, instructor/mixologist with Bartenderone, bartender at the Air Canada Centre, and Performance Mixologist (flair bartender) with the Movers n Shakers special event team!  Expand your horizons, try a little bit of everything, and challenge yourself and then and only then will you truly evolve as a bartender!


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Flair Bartender Profile – Tom Dyer

Tom Dyer

Tom Dyer

Age: 26 Years Old
Nationality: England:
Lives: LONDON (England)
Bartending: 8 Years
Flairing: 7 Years

Tom Dyer is one of the world’s best and most innovative flair bartenders.

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