2016-2017 Finalists – Vasili Panagopoulos

Name: Vasili Panagopoulos
Venue: Highwayman

City: Halifax, Nova Scotia

1. Where are you from?
Halifornia born and raised

2. How long have you been a bartender and how did you get into bartending?
I have been Bartending for just about a year now. I got into bartending as a by-product of hanging around others who were pushing the envelope and developing the cocktail culture here in Halifax.

3. Where/when was your first gig? How many bartending jobs have you had?
I mean technically highwayman is my first real bartending gig. Before I only filled in when needed behind the bar, but even when I wasn’t bartending I would be watching the bartenders working and picking up little tricks of the trade.

4. How did you get involved with your venue?
Two of the owners, Michael and Adam were good friends of mine. Once they had told me they were opening a place of their own with Field Guide Owners Ceilidh and Dan I immediately was interested. I graduated university before they started the hiring process and they offered me a position.

5. What kind of cocktails do you serve at your bar/restaurant? What cocktails are your favorites?
At Highwayman we serve pretty much everything from classic cocktails to custom creations. We encourage people to let us know what type of flavour profiles they are into and let us do the rest. My favourite cocktails depend on the day and what I feel like drinking. I’ve been really into both using mescal in stirred cocktails as well as using sherry in stirred cocktails.

6. What turns you on about bartending, what are the new trends that are exciting you?
I think what turns me on about bartending is the creative freedom of just asking what someone is looking for in his or her cocktails then gaining their trust after they have the first sip of whatever you make them. That and I find more people are interested in gaining an understanding of what we are doing behind the bar to make their drinks. It’s always fun to have conversations with people where you feel like they leave both satisfied with the product you make them as well as passing on the knowledge you have, so that when they come to the bar the next time they have a better understanding of what they are into and looking for.

7. What’s your cocktail-making style? What are some of your favorite cocktails to make?
I don’t know if I have a particular style yet, I’m more so working on refining and perfecting the basics so that naturally my style will come with time. In terms of being a bartender I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what I can do.

8. What spirit is sexiest to you? Why?
Tequila, because it is so versatile

9. What do you drink as a shot?

10. What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
Agave, Mole Bitters

11. Which bartenders have been inspirations for you?
Sasha Petraske has been a big influence. Recently I read his book regarding cocktails and just love his discipline and attention to detail. More locally I think that a lot of the more experienced bartenders like Matt Boyle and Jeff Van Horne really had a massive influence on me as a bartender. Their advice during the lead up to the Finals for Made With Love in Halifax was invaluable and I really look up to those two as well as many others and of course Michael and Adam.

12. If you could work in any bar in the world for one night where would it be?
Milk and Honey

13. Where do you head on your night off?
Home or to the studio, I write and record a lot of music when I am not at Highwayman so I don’t get out much.

14. What’s your favorite cocktail to order at a bar?
Burnt Gin Martini

15. Do you have a funny bar story to tell us?
Too many funny bar stories, but what is said at the bar stays at the bar.

16. What is the most ridiculous cocktail request you had?
A Muff Diver? is that what they are called? I don’t think we made it anyway.

17. What got you into MADE WITH LOVE and how do you feel about the National Finals?
I helped Michael when he won the competition in 2013, which is what sort of opened my eyes to competition bartending. Thankfully he returned the favor and helped me when I won this year in Halifax. I’m pretty excited about the new format for this year and the theme. I think glam-trash is right up my alley; I may have even used that term to describe myself recently.


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