The Bartender’s List- Shaun Layton


I have this annual tradition of going out for a fancy meal on my birthday. When I lived in Montreal, I celebrated at the likes of Au Pied Du Cochon, Leméac, Moishes. Each year was a different but equally as delicious locale. But since 2012, the tradition has changed. Because for my past 3 birthdays, there has only been one restaurant I want to go to and that restaurant is L’Abbatoire.


To celebrate my 29th, my then boyfriend (now husband) reserved a table for two and we both came prepared to eat. My cocktail enthusiasm, however, had not yet come to fruition. As such,  I wasn’t anticipating the level of bar program I would encounter that evening and I was about to get seriously schooled in the art of drinking well.

Enter Shaun Layton. The man runs one of the most excellent bar programs this city has to offer and has the experience and numerous accolades to back it up: Western Living’s Top 40 Under 40, previous Bar Manager at George Lounge, current Bar Manager at L’Abbatoire, Vancouver Magazine’s 2010 Bartender of the Year (I could go on for quite some time).


It’s a testament to his skills and creativity that I distinctly remember the cocktail I ordered on our first visit to the restaurant (as does the husband). An El Camino and a Fourth Regiment. And I was completely blown away by both. Things got a little foggy thereafter (what with my laughably low alcohol tolerance), but I’m almost certain we also indulged in a Meat Hook, a Slaughterhouse, a Donald Draper and a Clover Club Refashioned that evening.


L’Abbatoire is no longer a place reserved to birthdays (although I still go annually to celebrate). Shaun’s creations are far too amazing to only partake in once a year. He is consistent, he is detail oriented. He is creative and skilled and truly makes some of the most exciting cocktails I’ve ever had the privilege of tasting. Without further ado, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce the formidable Shaun Layton.

1) How long have you been bartending?

Since I turned 19

2) Where are you currently working?

 Bar manager at L’Abattoir, bar cocktail consultant,writer for Scout Magazine

3) What was your first sip of alcohol?

 A beer while fishing with my Dad, way to young haha

4) If you could only have a 5 bottle bar, what would they be?

Tanqueray 10 gin, Cocchi Americano, Highland Park 18, Willet bourbon, and Campari

5) What is your death-row drink?

Gibson Martini at Duke’s Hotel in London, might just have two though

6) What is one rule you wish all patrons would follow that you’re not allowed to make?

Please don’t use the “M” word. Bartender please.

7) Other than your own, where is your favourite bar to go for a drink?

This is a loaded question so going to stay away from local bars. For a dive Big Mario’s in Seattle, for food Swan Oyster in San Francisco, and for cocktails Death and Co. in New York.

8) The album that would capture the feel of your dream bar?

A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders

9) The one cocktail book that should be behind every the bar?

Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s new book “The Bar Book”- a no BS book about Bartending, thats all. And he’s a funny guy

10) The one non-cocktail book that should be behind every bar?

An Encyclopedia. No more “google it” to settle debates. Pick up a book people.

11) Three words that best describe your approach to cocktails

Attention to detail.

12) Most unusual drink request?

Back in the Yaletown days… “You don’t know what a Faux-jito is?? Haha- it’s a mojito with goose bro!”

13) If you could make a cocktail for anybody, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you make them?

Joe Pesci – Cutty and soda

14) If you weren’t a bartender, what would you be?

2nd base for the Toronto Blue Jays, or something in the whiskey industry

15) Free-pour or measured?

Measured for cocktails, free pour for drams

16) If your shifts behind the bar had a theme song, what would it be?

Eric B. and Rakim – Don’t Sweat the Technique

17) Who currently has the best bartender facial hair in town?

Ben de Champlane

18) Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail- Great performance or Greatest performance?

He was pretty good in The Outsiders….

19) One drink on your current cocktail menu that everybody needs to try.

The Avocado Gimlet is so Vancouver, and our most popular drink these days

20) What is your favourite three-ingredient cocktail and how do you make it?

Hanky Panky

 45 ml London Dry gin

45 ml sweet vermouth

12 ml Fernet Branca

Stir, cocktail glass, orange peel garnish


Massive gratitude to Shaun for the interview and huge shout outs to Joann Pai of Slice of Pai for helping with this shoot. Your talents never cease to amaze. Cheers!