Juniper Kitchen & Bar’s beverage manager, Shaun Layton, talks about travel inspiration, creating a Gin-forward bar menu, and how to make the perfect drink to cool off in summer.
We are enamoured with Juniper Kitchen & Bar. The thing is, there are scores of places in our rapidly transforming city that are just as creatively designed, with as much thought put into the menu, and that promise to forever etch Vancouver into the global culinary scene. Why then are we writing another piece about Juniper? (Read our 15 Minutes With Juniper Chef Sarah Stewart here.) Because Shaun Layton is in a league of his own. From his custom Search and Rescue denim Apron, to his accessible demeanor behind the bar, we simply had to come back and capture images, a short video, and his words.
Contest: Scroll to the bottom to enter to win a $50 Gift Certificate to Juniper Kitchen & Bar
We arrived early one afternoon bearing gifts (a box of Cartems Donuts, because we’re cool like that). Shaun was already prepping behind the bar, getting ready for what would likely become another full house at Juniper. He had just returned from an epic tour of Mexico where he sampled the world’s finest Mezcales and Tequilas — which can only mean one thing, Mezcal and Tequila inspired drinks coming to Juniper.
Settle in with a drink to find out what inspires Shaun, then scroll to the bottom of the page to watch our video feature, and enter to win a Juniper gift certificate.
You have helped create the cocktail menu at some of the most lauded Vancouver restaurants. How do you keep menus entirely unique and different? I think traveling is the best way to get inspired. Sometimes cities can get redundant with similar style cocktails. Traveling always opens your eyes to what else is going on around the globe. When I travel I always check out other bars. Also, meet a good bartender and ask them where to go in the city, they usually have better recommendations than concierges and the Internet.
What inspired you to create the cocktail list at Juniper? The vision was to create relationships with local purveyors. Meeting the distilling and brewing community has been really cool, and creating cocktails around those products has been enlightening. Also, travels to Europe in the summer inspired me a lot, especially Barcelona, where the gin and tonic is king.
The gin and tonic list is outstanding. Will it evolve and change with the seasons? Thanks! The G&T’s are our best sellers, people love them! We sold over 1,000 in our first week. They will change seasonally for sure. Creating the flavour combinations is exciting.
Are there any gins out there that you are eager to add to the list and why? I would love to get Monkey 47 from Germany, Junipero from San Francisco, and Caorunn from Scotland: three very different gins that would add some variety to the back bar.
With all the thought and care you put into the cocktail menu, does it bother you when customers order drinks off the menu? Sure doesn’t! People can have whatever they want – as long as we can make it, it doesn’t bother me.
For first timers to Juniper, what cocktail do you recommend for the Gin lovers, for the beer lovers and for the cider drinkers? For gin lovers try the Rad-ish, made with Ampersand gin, radish, dehydrated lemon, pink peppercorn and Lemon tonic. Then get into one of our Martini variants. For beer, try one of our big formats – we have a growing selection. It’s a trend that hasn’t taken off in BC, but is a great way to try rare, cool bottles. For cider, we are one of few places that has Sunday Cider from Bestie, it’s delicious!
How did the leather and canvas bar aprons come about? I did a story last year for Scout Magazine on Search & Rescue Denim. Will, the owner, and I got to know each other when they did an apron for me. I thought they would be the perfect people to work with on this project.
What might surprise readers to learn about you? When I’m not working and am out, I usually just drink beer. Also, I really love NFL football, and MLB baseball. I’m not a hockey fan.
What are some restaurants or bars in other cities that are outstanding and we should check out? So many. Here are a few:
Rome’s Dar Poeta. Florence’s Volpe D’Uva. Duke’s, Savoy, NOLA, and Trailer Happiness in London. Swan Oyster in San Francisco. Portland’s Kachka and Pepe le Moko. Canon in Seattle. Bobby Gin and Quimet & Quimet in Barcelona.
How did you get to the place you are now? Always working hard and knowing the right time to make a change. I’ve had the advantage of always having a good team around me.
At what age did you figure out this is what you wanted to do? I would say around 24, when I started working at George.
And what do you recommend for readers out there who dream of one day doing what you do? Start off by working at one of the chains. They are the best place to learn the ropes, and you’ll know pretty quickly if this industry is for you or not.
Who/what inspires your craft? The network of bartenders that now reaches around the globe. With social media, it’s really easy to keep in touch and see what everyone is up to.
Tell us about the perfect chewable ice pebbles. We have a Scotsman ice machine, you don’t see them here in Vancouver. They are perfect for drinks like Juleps, Mojitos, Mai Tai, etc.
When you’re not drinking at Juniper, where do you go and what’s your poison? I have been going to Mamie Taylor’s a lot after work. For me its a beer and whiskey if it’s been a long night. Strangefellows Talisman, and a shot of Greenspot.
Where do you eat and drink on your days off? I love to go to La Mezcaleria, Via Tevere, and Espana, to name a few.
What’s your fave Brunch spot in the city? Depends who’s showing NFL. Score on Davie, if that’s the case.
Do you throw incredible cocktail parties at home and how can we get invited? Haha, not really, though the home bar is pretty huge. I drink beer and wine at home. But when doing consulting work the home bar is pretty amazing.
Can you share a favourite at home cocktail recipe? Negroni Spagliatto is a Negroni minus the gin, topped up with Prosseco. It just means that you have to finish the bottle of bubbles that night.
Enter To Win
Haven’t sampled Shaun Layton’s cocktails at Juniper? This is your chance to drink a G&T on us. We have partnered with Juniper to offer one lucky winner a $50 Juniper gift certificate to spend any way you choose – but we recommend at the bar!
Here is how to enter to win. Note that the more of these entries you submit, the greater your chances of winning.
- Follow @LikeVancouver on Twitter and tweet the following: Win a $50 @junipervancouver gift certificate. Follow @LikeVancouver & RT to enter http://bit.ly/1WVz9D8 (1 entry)
- Follow @LikeVancouver on Instagram, Regram our Juniper contest post and tag it @LikeVancouver and @junipervancouver. (1 entry)
- Like us on Facebook then comment and share our Juniper post. (1 entry)
Contest starts on Monday, May 9 and closes Friday, May 20 at midnight (PST). A winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries.