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One-on-One With Kevin Demers

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If you are in Montreal, you don’t need an introduction to Kevin Demers. More than a bar owner or a bartender, Kevin is a man who lives for his community, gathering the industry and the city together, every time he gets a chance. For Montreal’s 375th anniversary, Kevin launched the Montreal Cocktail Initiative bringing together 15 of the city’s most influential bartenders to create a “modern-day classic” representative of the city. The Montreal Cocktail can be seen on menus throughout Quebec and is quickly gaining recognition by other communities around the world.

Kevin’s unique views on cocktails had him selected to compete at the national level for Bacardi Legacy and Maker’s Mark Julep competitions, and three times at the Canadian finals of Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender, where he was crowned National Champion in 2014.

You can find Kevin at his Montreal establishments, The Coldroom and El Pequeño when he isn’t speaking at events such as the Toronto Cocktail Conference.

Get to know the less serious side of Kevin Demers in this exclusive interview:

Tell us about the first cocktail you ever created?

The first cocktail I created was a revised creamsicle, back when I was 20 years old, made it without cream so that my friend could have one without farting all over the place… he was lactose intolerant.

What spirit do you most enjoy working with?

That’s an easy one – Gin. I’m known as Mr. Bombay in Montreal.

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

Learn how to be a bartender before being a “mixologist”. Bartending is an art form, you need to be able to smile all the time, talk to everyone, literally be a chameleon. I feel most people forgot that a while ago when the mixologist trend showed up, now it’s coming back that it is all about the client. Look up when your making a drink, have eye contact, engage in interesting conversation. and above all, try and listen.

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

Funny I am working on a seminar that focuses on work-life balance. One of the main issues is working 12-15 hour shifts, 4 days a week and you just burn out and change jobs every 2 years because you are not happy. Here’s a secret it is not the job it is your work schedule. I think its important for owners to understand that they are running their team into the ground with that old mentality. I believe shorter shift, make your staff understand that there is more than just work. Enjoy life and you’ll see that you won’t get tired of where you work and what you do. So I’ve learnt that proper sleep, not to stress for nothing, eat right (as best you can), and above all have activities outside of work (in my case, learning new skills like a new language and the art of cooking).

What’s your all-time favourite cocktail?

favourite cocktail is a daiquiri. simple classic and sexy.

Where do you find inspiration when creating cocktails?

Food. I love understanding how to combine flavours. Now working with spices to round out our cocktails.

What one cocktail book would you recommend to new bartenders?

Updated cocktail book – Jim Meehan’s Bartenders handbook, old school – Death and Co. cocktail book

What’s your most essential bar tool?

Rag. I have OCD. so having a clean and organized station and cleaning down the clients’ areas are number one. I don’t have OCD btw, I just like shit clean.

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

The negative stigma’s it still carries to the rest of the world because of a few bad apples. Its a very demanding and tough industry to survive in. It’s always show time and you have to be on your A game at all times. That is very demanding on anyone. So it does take a toll on people, yes some people are stronger than others and I’ve had friends lose their battles to addictions. But not everyone in our industry is like that and even so, they’re still amazing people. They just got lost on the wrong path and it happens in any field.

What do you most admire about the bartending profession?

Everyone in the bartending profession has a hidden talent in something apart from bartending, usually in the creative arts, and it shows in there cocktail menus or way they serve people. I love that about our business.

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

Low abv cocktails, work-life balance and waste management

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

I’m a virgo and love long walks on the beach 😉

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