Bartender of the Year 2010

It was January 2008 and George Lounge in Yaletown was listing. Nick Devine, the watering hole’s mixology magician (and our 2007 Bartender of the Year), had departed to open his own place. And when it was announced that Devine’s replacement would be a diminutive 27-year-old kid who grew up on the North Shore, things looked dire. They don’t anymore. What the principals of George immediately recognized is that Shaun Layton is the Doogie Howser of mixology—taking his bartender course before he was of legal age, then setting up shop behind the bar at the West Van Keg as soon as he turned 19 (“I can literally make a Keg-sized caesar in the dark.”) But it was at George that he put his stamp on the list by bringing back beautifully made classics—Old-Fashioneds, Negronis, Aviations—made with hand-chipped ice in his collection of antique glasses (and offering, for those who are interested, a side course on the drink’s storied history). He also turned out to be a whiz at competitions, winning the Giffard and the Bombay Sapphire. But his real legacy may be the extent to which he’s putting Vancouver on the world map. A voracious traveller, he can’t visit London or Paris—or anywhere, it seems—without patronizing every bar in town. As a result he’s developed a global network of like-minded cocktail savants, several of whom he invited back to Vancouver to tend bar during the Olympics. For those three weeks, the jam-packed George was a festive variation on the theme of international competition. The winners? Everyone who raised a glass and sipped.

Editor’s note: Layton recently departed George and to join the team at L’Abattoir in Gastown (in the original Irish Heather location) which will open later this summer