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Behind Bars: Clive’s bringing European flair to Victoria’s hotel bar scene

Soole, Russell create award-winning cocktails and food at Chateau Victoria
Clive’s Classic Lounge, one of the longest standing cocktail bars in Victoria, took home the prestigious Whisky Hotel Bar of the Year award at the 2023 Icons of Whisky Awards, presented by U.K.-based Whisky magazine. (Clive’s Facebook page)

By John Atkinson

FRESH from an award-winning start to 2023, Clive’s Classic Lounge is focused on continuing to redefine and evolve its European-style hotel lobby bar vibe.

Bar manager Shawn Soole, enjoying his second spell at Clive’s, recently made a whistle-stop trip to London, England to collect the prestigious Whisky Hotel Bar of the Year award from Icons of Whisky Awards — and was himself also ‘Highly Commended’ in the Bar Manager of the Year category.

He’s now looking to double their whisky collection to further stand out from the crowd.

“We change our menus every six months and are continually evolving. Just because we win awards and get nominated, we don’t rest on our laurels. Once you get to the top, you’ve got to keep pushing to be better.

“2023 is the year when everything – I feel, industry-wise – is starting to completely be 100% again, post-COVID. This is the first year of full travel and tourists since 2020 and we’re excited.

“We had a successful Whisky Fest in January and have just launched the new spring/summer cocktail menu. We also have multiple residencies lined up.”

Clive’s opened in late 2008, and Soole joined the team for the first time in May, 2009.

“Clive’s was a British-style pub called Victoria Jane’s for 20+ years — ‘Jane’ is the famous ‘parrot lady’ — and then they decided to do a big renovation in 2008.

“They were looking for a manager and wanted to create a classic-style hotel lobby bar. I said ‘cool’ and focused on helping them create a room that felt like somewhere in Paris, London or Italy. We won a bunch of awards in 2011 and 2012 and since then it’s been a really classic, award-winning cocktail bar.”

Australian-born Soole, who ran cocktail bars Down Under in his early 20’s, says Clive’s stands out by also being a ‘locals’ bar but at the same time, offering “an experience you’d normally have to travel for”.

“We try to transplant that experience to Victoria. I have a team packed with fantastic people and a lot of the techniques we use are very avant-garde and modern. So trying to keep that cutting-edge mentality while still being a classicist-style bar is a nice balancing act.”

In the future, Soole plans to grow Clive’s unique residency program, featuring guest bartenders from around the globe. He also wants to continue to evolve the whisky program and cocktail/food menus and fortify his staff with innovative techniques and equipment.

Q&A (with co-lead bartender Kade Russell):

What’s your signature cocktail right now?

“The Fortune Teller. It’s our take on the classic Crystal Ball and a Pisco Sour riff. The main ingredients are Pisco, Lillet Rose, lemon juice, coconut syrup and some white chocolate. We then top it off with a horchata foam, a mix of rice water, almond milk and cinnamon.

How would you describe your perfect customer experience?

“I love when customers come in with an open mind and an eagerness to learn what we do. People are often glued to their phones nowadays, so it’s really cool when they sit down and we have a decent conversation. I love those interactions, especially when they invite others to join in. It encourages an inclusive environment around cocktails and our creations.”

What makes a great bartender?

“I think someone that’s approachable and people can relate to. Making people feel comfortable coming up to your bar and creating that unique rapport separates great bartenders from the good/average ones. And it also doesn’t hurt if you can make great cocktails.”

What’s been your most memorable experience?

“The collective experiences of hanging out with everyone, cracking jokes and making sure we’re all having a good time. Those positive vibes are infectious. We can cater for up to 64 people, so it can get pretty busy – and that’s when we thrive. We have to be a bit louder behind the bar and communicate more. And that’s what people want to see. Us moving and working our magic.”

To learn more about Clive’s, visit:, 740 Burdett Ave.

Read more: Behind Bars: Big Bad John’s puts the quirk back into the bar experience

Monday Mag met co-lead bartender Kade Russell on our visit. (John Atkinson)