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Behind Bars at Vis-à-Vis

Cam Paton talks cocktails and tending bar

Monday Magazine’s cocktail taste testers have a single mission for the Behind Bars column, brought to you on these pages every month: it’s to take readers on a journey through the lounges, bars and public houses this island has to offer.

And while we yearn for the days to truly set off and explore the world again, Behind Bars has presented right-here-at-home local establishments with an international flare. From Friends of Dorothy Lounge (think Kansas) to the Tequila/mescale specialists at Café Mexico and Tug Eatery’s oh-so-British “cuppa” gin drink, the team has bar-hopped on your behalf, one drop, one drink at a time.

Yes, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it…So, where to this fine September evening?

The map was rolled out, the blindfolds donned and we landed in a lovely little Parisian bistro café, right in Oak Bay Village. Vis-à-Vis beckons patrons in for a little tête-à-tête, as it were. The rustic-feel, brink-lined walls, giant black board menus had us reaching for our berets as we transported (in our minds and taste buds, at least) to the Left Bank in Paris.

And this is no stretch of the imagination. “Afternoon in Paris” is a Vis-à-Vis house specialty, made vibrant by bartender Cam Paton with Empress Gin, St. Germain Simple Syrup and lots of lemon. The reaction? “Garçon! Round two, s’il vous plaît.”

Next on Cam’s magnifique list was a cucumber and rosemary gimlet. Again, the gin—this time infused with cucumber—plus freshly squeezed lime and that simple syrup, served up in a traditional gimlet glass, and topped with a sprig of rosemary and a slice of cucumber. Honestly: très bien!

Vis-à-Vis isn’t just just a pretty French name. Known for its charcuterie plates and fine wines, it’s a must-visit for an evening or Happy Hour. Wear that beret and imagine—à bientôt!

Let’s hear what Cam Paton has to say.

Best up the sleeve trick?

To be yourself and treat people the way you want to be treated. Also please dry shake your egg whites.

What’s hot right now?

At Vis-à-Vis, it’s our lovely selection of wines. But in Victoria it has to be the Shaft.

What traits make a good bartender?

Someone with the ability to provide outstanding customer service, while also being knowledgeable about drinks, maintaining cleanliness, having good time management and, most of all, having respect for your customers and fellow staff members.

What’s your signature cocktail?

It would have to be the cucumber and rosemary gimlet. The flavours are so refreshing, I find it goes very well with this heat!

What are you drinking these days?

I seems to find myself drinking lots of margaritas this summer, but if I’m not drinking a marg, you’ll probably find me having a Lucky Lager.

Best memory behind the bar?

There’s honestly too many! I have met so many amazing people in this industry, I look forward to the new memories and cherish the old ones.

Find Vis-à-Vis online here.