Dave’s not here man

If we have just met, or you found this web address on the back of a coaster please know that I am still easy to find, just not around here very much these days.

I am focusing my online attention on Bartender Atlas.

That site is there so that if you are travelling, you can find a bartender who is into something your are into and can be an ambassador to whatever city you are visiting. And if you are a bartender, you should sign up and be listed so that travelling drinkers can come visit you, and you can be your charming self.

Anyhow, I’m not saying that I am never posting here again, it will just (continue to) be less frequently.


This year’s records


Everyone complaining about 2016 hasn’t been paying attention to a bunch of great albums that have come out this year. Also, it’s not like you flip a calendar page and life is suddenly better and celebrities and pets stop dying. Anyway, there were a lot of albums this year that I really could not stop listening to. Here are some of them and my thoughts about them.

Absolute Power
Absolute Power play a style of Hardcore that makes me think of the late 90’s and early 2000s politically motivated thrash. Think Charles Bronson and Los Crudos. These 16 songs in about 14 minutes make me feel like skating as fast as I can to get to some show at Who’s Emma.

Anthrax- For All Kings
I have never been crazy about Anthrax. I love Caught in a Mosh and Madhouse, because I am a fan of metal. This album though, from beginning to end is both catchy and crushing. They play with tension in mind. Building and releasing it over and over to make this a truly engaging but somehow still simple sounding album. Also, for the booze nerds, there are two songs on this record, one after the other called Evil Twin and then Suzerain. Digging deep on that one, but I think there might be some libation enthusiasts in Anthrax.

Big Lies No Hustle Dry Chinaski– The Skin Graft Icarus
I cannot say enough good things about this guy. His mix of old school boom bap rap music influences and well thought out political diatribes is inspiring. He also has a hype dog. The layers of samples pulled from EVERYWHERE will make your head spin if you are a student of pop culture. The best song is the one where he takes Men’s Rights Activists to task.

PJ Harvey- The Hope Six Demolition Project
I have spent most of my adult life listening to music about anarchy, the destruction of the world and the systems on which it relies, the futility and excesses of modern life and the effects of living without consideration for the earth or any other people living  in it etc… This PJ Harvey album encapsulates all of those very dark themes while focussing mostly on America (her last album “Let England Shake” did the same for England)  and surrounds them with eerie melodies using horns more than she ever has before. The airiness of her voice transforming to soaring notes keeps you involved and the lyrics paint vivid pictures of what she is (and all of us should be) concerned about, what with the world falling apart and all.

G.L.O.S.S. Trans Day Of Revenge
This is 5 song EP by a band of queer and trans people playing some of the best d-beat I have heard in a long time. They turned down a record deal and broke up this year. I don’t care, these five songs rip. The songs with lyrical content about, well, a Trans Day Of Revenge and the Black Lives Matter movement are the best ones.

Tanya Tagaq – Retribution
I’m not a religious man. That said, listening to and really digging into this album elevates you to plains outside of your normal realms. Though this album is almost entirely violin, drums and voice, this is not easy listening. Intense and aggressive at times and almost so quiet you can’t hear it at others, this record takes you on a journey, but only if you let it.


My Love,

I know that we haven’t spoken in quite sometime and I am sorry to reach out with this troubling news.

I first fell in love with you in the summer of 1986. The loudness and brashness of your sound was unlike anything I knew of at the time. My parents loved 60’s bubblegum and boring 70s rock. The horn blasts and somehow equally sultry and cute vocals over top of them was unlike anything I had ever known. I was hooked from then on.

No matter what you have done since then, I have pledged my allegiance. I considered myself a member of the Rhythm Nation when I was 10 years old. By then I had started to develop my own tastes and they included Public Enemy and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Those horn blasts that I had first heard from you were now the base of what I liked most in my ears.

Around age 13, when I started making mixed tapes, you always had a spot. Every other 13 year old boy I knew bought the tape or CD just because of the art, where your then boyfriend was covering your breasts. A bold move for a pop star at the time. Maybe a cheap marketing move, but the record that was behind that cover was outstanding. At times a smooth and soulful and other times aggressive. The lyrical content introduced my 13 year old self to a lot of ideas I had only heard dirty kids on playgrounds and basketball courts talk about before, but you made it sound poetic.

Truth be told, I had so much respect for you that when Velvet Rope came out, I didn’t really listen to it, I knew where my tastes had evolved to. That said, anyone tried to talk shit, I had your back.  At the time I only liked Bad Religion, No Means No and SLAYER. I liked knowing you were doing your thing though.

By the time of the wardrobe malfunction, I was kind of surprised you were even still performing. I had assumed that you would rest on your laurels of having more number one singles from one album than anyone in history.

Over the last 10 years, my tastes relaxed in rigidity and revisiting your early work reminded me of why I fell so hard for you in the first place. The thing is, the relaxation of my tastes also introduced me to a lot of newer artists that, like yourself (almost certainly influenced by you) were bad (nasty?) women that didn’t take shit and managed to make songs that everybody loved. Then you put out Unbreakable and I felt validated. That album was a logical culmination of everything you had done so far. I was lucky enough to see you on that tour and it was one of the best stadium shows I had ever seen.
But you know all this. This is not why I am writing.

I am writing to let you know that I think I need to leave you. It is no fault of yours. I have fallen for another. You see, in 2003 a friend of mine told me to give the girl from Destiny Child’s solo album a listen. I heard the song Crazy In Love and was floored. But big deal right, it’s one song. Sure it’s the best song since your brothers recorded I Want You Back, but one song, right? This woman had a few hits (“If” and “Together Again” and “Escapade” sized hits) and pushed some envelopes (a video for each song on an album, that video with the robot hand, marrying the biggest rapper since Tupac) and I knew what she was up to, but she was no Janet. Then in March this year I woke up at about 10:15 after a night of work to see that there was surprise Beyonce album. Every single tweet and facebook status I read said something about Beyoncé – Lemonade. By 10:23 I had a Tidal account and was watching as Lemonade shattered what I had ever thought pop music could be. Since it came out people have talked about the black power undertones and the feminist overtones and is it a break-up album and blah blah blah. None of that matters. What matters is that this is maybe the greatest confluence of talent, marketing and art I have maybe ever seen/heard. I know that it was a team of people that all believed in this woman, Beyonce, to be the face of the most enthralling, well thought out pop album maybe ever. I rank Lemonade among Purple Rain, I Get Wet, Reign In Blood, Fear of A Black Planet, The Shape of Punk To Come and Rhythm Nation as a perfect album.

I know you’ve heard it, and I am sure you understand that I now pledge allegiance to Queen B.

You will always have a special place in my heart Janet.


P.S. Did she just say “When he fuck me good, I’ll take his ass to Red Lobster”?


Against Me! – Shapeshift With Me

I may be the only person that likes every new Against Me! record more than the last. Laura Jane Grace has gone from jangly, sloppy folk punk, to a slick radio rock phase and now, with the rhythm section that she has, has decided to write a bunch of punk rock songs that slide from abrasive fugazi influence all the way to a pop rock reminiscent of Green Day b-sides. Watching a band and songwriter progress for the last 15 years is rewarding in it’s own way.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – The Skeleton Tree

This is another of those “I think they get better with every album” things, but with Nick Cave, there has never been something I won’t listen to. While his albums are always on the sad side of angry, this album finds Nick Cave in a truly spooky and ethereal mood. Somehow the guys who put out all the saddest songs made something sadder. And it’s entrancing and entertaining too.

De La Soul- And the Anonymous Nobody

There are a lot of reasons this album is great. The main one being that there are no lifted samples on this record. No stolen bass lines or horn blasts. The bass lines and horn blasts that you hear were all recorded over the course of however much time in a studio and then those jam sessions were farmed to make the beats on this album. Besides that, the songs are great and the guests are numerous and impressive.

More you should listen to if you like the stuff already listed:
Rihanna- Anti (Cyndi to Beyonce’s Madonna?)
NOFX- First Ditch Effort (their slowest record ever and somehow the best one in more than a decade)
Tragic Hearts- Drugged Out On Danger  (Pop-Punk with soul)
A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here, Thank you 4 Your Service (duh)
Sect- S/T (Straight Edge Hardcore played by all the guys that made you love Straight Edge Hardcore 20 years ago)
Haymaker- Taxed, Tracked, Inoculated…Enslaved (this sounds like what a real fist fight feels like)
Greys- Outer Heaven (noise/art rock)
Belvedere- Revenge of The Fifth (that thing where your old friends put out an album way past their prime…only to show you they are still in their prime)

Can you believe I am DJ’ing a wedding in August?

Also, be on the lookout for a podcast that me and my friend Pat will be putting together called “Your Favourite Band Sucks”

Because you keep asking…


It’s been a while, I know.
There is a new A Tribe Called Quest record, there is a new Metallica record, there is a new Planes Mistaken For Stars record.


The Bartender Atlas Toronto Tour was a success and took a lot of planning. Serendipitously, the Harbord Room closed less than two weeks before launching into that project full time.


As I have been out and about a lot since the Harbord Room closed, and even before, people have been asking what my next move is going to be. I have been fortunate enough to work a Star Trek party (DREAM COME TRUE), a Day of the Dead party, helped a cute spot come up with fall cocktails and worked with a brand on some cocktail development stuff.

The truth is, I don’t know what my next steps are. If you have any ideas for me, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am spending a lot of time on Bartender Atlas (and have some concrete plans surrounding it), but this doesn’t proclude me from offering your guests “Red or White”, helping your staff learn the difference between Scottish Whiskies from different regions or making 650 of the same drink for your office holiday party. I have never judged a cocktail competition…hint.

All my contact info is here.

Thanks for asking. Talk soon.



I have started working at Chantecler as of December 1st! Come see me. I will practice my french.

Guest Spots

Sorry about the silence.
I have been spending my online time at Bartender Atlas, if you were curious.

Guest spots are exciting. A real chance to exchange information from person to person without needing a glowing rectangle. In 2012 I took myself on a tour of a bunch of different bars in Toronto to see what everyone in the city was doing. Then it dawns on me that I have been writing on this blog for 4 years now. Ouff.

Anyway, for the first time in my bartending career, I find myself in a place and position where I can start hosting guest bartenders. Tomorrow (Wednesday August 31st) Shane Ely will join me behind the bar at The Harbord Room from 10 until…well, until we’re done.

Shane and I met when we were assigned to the same cabin at Camp Runamok last summer. Since then he has moved from Banff to Vancouver where he spends his nights making drinks at Nightingale and The Granville Room. He competed in a Jack Daniel’s competition that had him present his drink as though he was in a silent film and is currently part of Grey Goose Pour Masters.

The best part about guest spots is that you get a chance to see someone else’s style and check out their influences. I know when I watch a bartender from another city or country make drinks, I think of it like listening to a record by a new band. “Oh, that kind of has a Sonic Youth quality but with a Bad Religion backing vocal and Green Day pop hook” or whatever.

The exchange of information through personal discussion and working in alien environs is one thing that I believe makes for a better bartender.

Come watch Shane and I learn from each other.

Patios are stupid

Sumer time! Huzzah! Warm weather and less clothing and no need for mass transit because we have bikes.

Despite the fact that at various times in my career, patios have made the difference between me getting the nice coffee from the good coffee place and me settling for Tim Horton’s, I think eating on a patio is dumb.

It’s going to smell bad. If it is hot out and food gets spilled there is no way to fully clean it up before the next person sits. Then there will be flies or bees or both. I don’t even care if they land in my food or my drink, they gotta eat too. They land on my neck or my face while I’m trying to catch my napkin before it blows off of my always wobbly table and I feel like the world is just ridiculing me.

Wanna read a book or newspaper? Too bad, the breeze will ensure you read the same sentence 4 times, or that a leaf gets directly in the light you need to see the book.

We have come a long way to make it so that we don’t need to eat outside.

Let me be clear though, drinking outdoors is the best.


Fare & Provisions

Almost immediately after taking on the bar manager job at The Harbord Room I got an e-mail from the people at The Drake General Store. The e-mail concerned a project called Fare & Provisions, where several chefs in Toronto were going to make a condiment or ingredient to go with a very special whisky.

© Jessica Blaine Smith | http://jbsmithphotography.com

The whisky is Wiser’s Last Barrels. It is the closest thing I have ever tasted to a bourbon…made in Canada. God damned delicious is a pretty good way to describe it. I was asked to come up with a cocktail and a feature ingredient to be used with this whisky.

At the time of getting this e-mail I was on a pretty big tiki kick. Whisky and tiki don’t often work (but when they do, look out!), so I was leaning toward spice and fruit combinations. Cinnamon and Grapefruit are pretty good pals, and I figured Honey would tie them together. So I made this.

© Jessica Blaine Smith | http://jbsmithphotography.com

Wilcox syrup, named after Kathi Wilcox, but put into a cocktail with a Canadian Whisky (David Wilcox anyone?) and lemon juice makes for a nice spicy whisky sour I called the Lost Bearcat.

The best news is that you can buy a jar of my Wilcox Syrup at Drake General Stores right now! If you don’t get your hands on any, that’s cool, I will have some behind the bar at The Harbord Room when we change the cocktail menu in a week or two.

© Jessica Blaine Smith | http://jbsmithphotography.com

Photos by Jessica Blaine Smith

Demon In The Sheets

The last cocktail on this list is one of my own. Sandy insisted that I include one of my own. She is full of good ideas.

I only worked officially with Hendrick’s Gin for 9 months. It is a short stint for a brand ambassador, but some things are not meant to be. That said, I still love the gin and the philosophy behind Hendrick’s.

It also worked out that while Evelyn Chick was in charge of The Harbord Room, I sent her a few of the last cases of Quinetum in the world. I am using what’s left for my contribution to the O.G.T.O. Cocktail list.

Essentially a bitter gimlet, this drink is Hendrick’s Gin, Quinetum Tonic Cordial, Lime juice and a muddled piece of jalapeno.


There is something that I would like to add to this entire list of drinks by the people I see as inspiration in Toronto. The 8 bartenders on this list that I am calling Original Gangsters are by no means the only 8.

I asked Jen Agg to be a part of it and she thought the idea was great. As she has always been with me, she was supportive and even though she was in the middle of opening a bar in Montreal she sent me a recipe. The only reason that her drink isn’t on the cocktail list is because I didn’t have access to the proper ingredients. If you are going to make someone else’s drink, you have to make it perfectly.

This is the same reason that Frankie Solarik doesn’t have a drink on this list. Again, I reached out and he loved the idea, but the way that he has built Barchef doesn’t leave room for interpretation.

Kevin Brauch, Gavin MacMillan, Christine Sismondo, Elan Marks, Paolo Dalla Rosa, Gord Hannah and countless others came to mind when I was thinking of who in Toronto shaped the way this city drinks.

There are a lot (A LOT) of bartenders in this city making drinks now that I love too and that are working intently to keep running with what has been laid out before them. If you want to find me outside of the Harbord Room, I will be sitting in front of one of them.

Endless English Summer

This one breaks the rules a little bit. The rest of the cocktails on the current cocktail list at The Harbord Room are from Toronto bartenders who over the last 8 years have contributed to the growth of cocktail culture in this city, not this one though.

The Endless English Summer was created by my friend Evelyn Chick. Evelyn moved to Toronto only a year and a half ago from Vancouver and she was the bar manager immediately before me at The Harbord Room. Her and I had met several times before her moving to Toronto (cocktail competition trips and Tales and my visiting Vancouver) and when she first moved to this city, she stayed at my house for a few weeks until she got set up.

This drink though, whoa. Beefeater Gin, Salted Pernod (“I want to bathe in that stuff!”- Liz Campbell), Fino Sherry and her Green Park Cordial. She won an international cocktail competition with this beast. She deserved it. And that’s why this drink stayed on the list when she passed it off to me.


The Lady Sniper and Ronald Clayton

Dave Mitton owns The Harbord Room. He gave birth to this place and trusted me and my Toronto Legacy Cocktail List idea. He spends most of his time travelling, preaching the gospel of Wiser’s Whisky. Both of these drinks are his creations and they are both boozy and delicious.

The Lady Sniper is made with equal parts Tromba Tequila Blanco, Cynar and Yellow Chartreuse.

The Ronald Clayton is named after Dave’s grand dad or uncle or someone else from Moncton. It is made with vanilla infused Lot 40 Whisky, a sweetened tobacco tincture and maple bitters.