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Gastown is either the most hopping quarter of the city or the most self- satisfied, or both. The concrete’s always exposed just so. Hats of all descriptions are worn, with and without irony. Sideburns rule. Which is to say, Gastown can seem very foreign to those who don’t know the secret handshake. That’s why this Bartender of the Year, Boneta’s Simon Kaulback, is a star—whether you show up at his bar in APC or GWG, order a Sazerac or a vodka tonic, he follows the bartender’s cardinal rule: make customers a drink they’ll love. An Ottawa native, he lit out for London a dozen years ago, hell-bent on being a top chef before shifting gears and bartending through Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. Arriving in Vancouver six years ago he was pretty confident about his prowess behind the bar, but working with legendary old-school bartender Ron Oliver made him realize that even though he could pour a drink, he didn’t know jack about the craft of bartending. Since then he’s moved around (Century, Nu, Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar) and worked under three former Bartenders of the Year. Three years ago he launched his own cocktail program. And his program at Boneta is very, very good, with a strong emphasis on the classics and an occasional messing with the tried-and-true. There are some phenomenal bartenders in town who floored busy rooms with their creations this year, but for being an island of professionalism in a sea of scenesters, the award goes to Simon Kaulback.