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BEHIND BARS: Tag team ‘tenders driving the Barts’ bar

Matt Chaffe and Curtis Kidd keep locals and tourists cool during the summer season downtown
Bartholomew’s English-Style Pub bartender Matt Chaffe, left, serves up an Empress Lavender Gimlet to Monday Magazine publisher Ruby Della Siega, as fellow bartender Curtis Kidd awaits the next order. The two tenders hold down the fort most evenings at the downtown night spot and restaurant. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

Bartholomew’s Pub in the Doubletree Hilton Hotel and Suites is a Victoria icon, not only for its presence in the city’s music scene, but for its reputation as a great place to meet old friends or enjoy a meal or a beverage.

This day follows that trend, with longtime Black Press group publisher Penny Sakamoto, Monday publisher Ruby Della Siega and veteran Black Press staffer Jennifer Blyth joining me for cocktails, served up by fellow bartenders Curtis Kidd and Matt Chaffe.

These two have been manning the bar here for two years and 18 months, respectively. Curtis got into the trade about nine years ago, after running a downtown café with his family and before that mixing drinks at parties. Matt has been at it roughly seven years and loves the social aspects of the job, with its mix of locals and tourists.

To start, Matt offers to make Jennifer a Whiskey Sour. She looks worried when told it contains raw egg white, but relaxes somewhat when Matt tells her it’s simply a binder for the other ingredients. “It’s a classic liquor-forward cocktail with a little sweetness,” he says. Jen drinks it and smiles, noting that “the lemon balances out the bourbon very nicely.”

For myself, Curtis concocts something he calls Candied Tequila. He’s not personally one to imbibe this Mexican spirit, but worked hard to create a cocktail he actually enjoyed. Anchored by Cazadores Reposado tequila, it also includes a delicious mix of apricot brandy, Amaretto, lime juice and honey syrup.

Ruby goes fancy and orders an Empress Lavender Gimlet, which uses the distinctive blue Empress 1908 gin and takes on a lavender shade upon serving, with lemon juice and lavender syrup added. “A tart and refreshingly dry drink,” Ruby proclaims.

But let’s hear more from the boys, whose answers here are a compilation:

Your claim to fame/best up-the-sleeve trick or technique? I make a fantastic bourbon sour, Ramos gin fizz or other variations of sours. The ingredients are simple, but getting the ratios and technique down can be quite difficult.

What’s hot right now? It’s summertime, so drinks like sangria, mojitos and prosecco cocktails are quite popular, and a well-prepared old fashioned continues to be a staple. Also hot right now is using natural ingredients like tinctures, or using plants, seaweed or moss for garnish.

What traits make a good bartender? Being able to work quickly, with flair or style, and making good suggestions to your customers. It comes with experience, but a “good” bartender is very attentive, has excellent time management and is well organized or “tidy” behind the bar.

What’s your signature drink? Curtis: (see Candied Tequila above) Matt: I love making sours. Finding that perfect balance between sweet, sour and tart, in a liquor-forward cocktail.

What are you drinking these days? Curtis: If I’m hanging out, probably a nice summer ale or very hoppy IPA; a bit later at night Negronis will suit me just fine. With dinner probably a nice deep red wine, I lean towards Italians, particularly a sangiovese varietal. Matt: Sours mostly. I really love finding new variations of them

Best memory from behind the bar? Probably my happiest moments are after those busy, cocktail-forward weekend nights. Knowing we crushed it and the night went smoothly is a constant good memory.

Bartholomew’s English-Style Pub

777 Douglas St. –


Check out who else Monday Mag has covered recently:

BEHIND BARS: Learning about the versatility and nuanced flavours of sake

BEHIND BARS: Nothing common about this place

BEHIND BARS: Get ready to be Empressed

BEHIND BARS: Taking a trip down Mexico way

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