Matt Bryan: Stirrin’ & Shakin’ at Bymark

There’s a lot more going on than just making fabulous cocktails and savvy bartender moves.  We sat down with Matt Bryan, head mixologist from Bymark to find out more about the industry, celebs and what it’s like working with Mark.

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When did you know you wanted to work in the restaurant industry?

Since I was a child I was always interested in food and cooking. Originally, I wanted to be a chef. I learned how to cook and bake with my mom and step mom and loved the idea of making something with my hands that would make people happy. I am not sure where the transition into the front of house mentality came into play, but being the centre of attention was right up my alley, being a bartender you get to have that everyday.

What goes into setting the cocktail menus? How often does it change and where do you get your inspirations from?

Seasons are the biggest thing for me.  We usually do big menu changes in spring and fall and make minor adjustments in the summer and winter. So looking at a particular menu change I look at what flavors and ingredients are seasonal and fresh. I pay attention to whats trending in the cocktail scene via liquor, flavors, glassware, techniques etc. I come up with tons of different flavor combinations and cocktail ideas on paper first then test them at the bar. Also, you can’t forget about clientele from place to place. A cocktail that sells out the door at one may be the least favorite at Bymark. I am inspired by all sorts of things. When I travel I find out new flavors and ingredients. Chef Brooke McDougall always has some cool new things to try coming through the kitchen. Sometimes its a new toy like when we got our sous vide set up at Bymark. Lets try sous vide infused cocktails or vacuum sealing orange slices with a Negroni cocktail.

If you could pinch-hit at any other McEwan restaurant, which would you choose and why?

I love going into all the other restaurants and meeting all the people that work for the company. A lot of people that I used to work with at Bymark years back and lots of new faces. But to be honest Bymark is my home, they are all like my family there. I guess if I really had to choose it would be the grocery store just for something different.

Who’s the coolest celeb to belly up to the bar at Bymark?

That’s a tough one. A-Rod and Kate Hudson were in one time they were super chill and very nice. Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones was scary big, but cool dude. Loved his tequila.

What was your first meeting with Mark McEwan like?

Meeting?  Like sit down and talk? Matt Montis and myself had a pretty fun night with Mark at Bar Chef to chat about cocktails and the direction of the cocktail program for the company. It was pretty rad, I was a bit nervous but we ended up just chatting about cocktails and drinking a lot of bourbon which are two things I really enjoy doing so it was great.

If you were at home or at the cottage, what is your “go-to” drink?

If I am at home an old fashioned with American rye preferably Bulleit. If I am at the cottage then beers. I am lazy at the cottage.

If you weren’t a bartender, what would you see yourself doing?

Probably be a ski bum out west somewhere.

What kind of personality does it take to work at Bymark?

Fun, be able to roll with the punches, be able to laugh at yourself, energetic, adaptable.

What is something that not many people know about you

I am addicted to ice cream

~ R A P I D   F I R E   R O U N D ~

Dogs or Cats – cats way easier

Wakeboarding or Snowboarding – snowboarding

Beer or Cocktail – both depends on the time, or back to back or whatever

Summer or Winter – both have there perks

Tacos or Ybor Meat- tacos

Burgers or Sandwiches – isnt a burger just a glorified sandwich?

iPhone or Android – Android

Skateboarding or Rollerblading (lol) – really?

Cocktail Deeva & Bourbon at #LiquidLab

Dee Brun from Cocktail Deeva hosted our first #LiquidLab series last month for 6 invited media guests. Below is an excerpt from her post.  Cheers!

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[FROM LEFT TO RIGHT] Nadine Anglin, Zoomer Magazine – Alexandra McEvers, Toronto Financial District BIA – Zach Bussey, Zack Bussey Show – Matt Bryan, Mixologist – Dee Brun, Cocktail Deeva – Andrea Chui, Food Blogger – Andrew Dobson, dobbernationLOVES

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I love Toronto…I love the vibe, the people and yes…the views.

Toronto has some great ones…

One of my FAVES is from the patio at Bymark right in the heart of the city…you get a view of Toronto’s Mountains..

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I had the pleasure this night of hosting a fab new event that ByMark will be hosting starting in the fall called Liquid Lab. 

This is Matt… Matt is one part of a partnership duo that create the cocktail list for all the restaurants in The McEwan Group, catering to the trends and traditions of classic and contemporary cocktails.

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Matt…for a lack of a better word is FABOOSH. He is the mixologist that runs Liquid Lab, he is a virtual wikipedia of cocktail info. On this night we were paying homage to Bourbon. Matt’s bourbon of choice for the evening, Bulliet Bourbon. Matt gave us all Bourbon 101 all the while creating fabulous cocktails such as this…

BOULVARDIER 

1 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari 

1 oz Sweet vermouth

- add all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir

- strain in a coupe glass, garnish w/ orange zest

But better than the cocktail…was the history lesson we received from Matt both on bourbon and this drink as we watched him prepare it…

Did you know that in order for a drink to be called bourbon, it can’t have any flavor or color additives. Only corn, water, wheat or rye, malt, and the coloring effects of the inside of a charred oak barrel. ….Nope? Me either, but Matt did.

Then it was our turn…Another fab thing about Liquid Lab events, they are HANDS ON…you get to make your very own cocktail master piece…Truly a perfect date night as the event is under two hours long…you still have time for some fun in the city afterwards…or enjoy the great outdoors on their patio…my version of camping…

We went old school at this Liquid Lab and made an Old Fashioned…the right way…

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I would be remiss if I did not talk about the AMAZING food that goes along with the Liquid Lab event… YES..FAB FOOD AND COCKTAILS…guess who is hoping to get invited back to host another one…

This was my plate..yes all of it…and again…I ate the whole thing…SO FABOOSH…

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2 Mini Burgers Topped with Onion Rings

4 Quail Deviled Eggs

2 Jumbo Grilled Shrimp

All the food that was prepared for the event was done so to play off the flavours of the cocktails…Much like you pair wine with food, here it was the cocktails..and it was amazing!

Had to share the scope of how tiny, BUT SO FLAVOURFUL the quail eggs were…I had never had anything like them and I can’t stop thinking about them…

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Be sure to follow The McEwan Group on Twitter and Facebook so you don’t miss the next Liquid Lab series coming up this fall…This is an event not to be missed, a great night out in the heart of Toronto…Who knows…maybe I will see you there…

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For more recipes and to read the full post visit Dee at cocktaildeeva.com or follow her on Twitter.

Written by

Dee brun, RD

OWNER, Cocktail Deeva

Bymark #LiquidLab Series

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Nothing sets the tone for a successful dinner party like a signature cocktail when your guests arrive. But to get creative with your liquor cabinet, you’ve first got to get the basics of mixology down; and where better to learn than at one of Toronto’s most famous after-work drinking spots?

Bymark’s #LiquidLab is a series of evenings hosted by Matt Bryan, bartender extraordinaire hand-picked by Mark McEwan to keep Bay Street’s collective glass full. Matt is one part of a partnership duo that create the cocktail list for all the restaurants in The McEwan Group, catering to the trends and traditions of classic and contemporary cocktails.

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Starting with a different bottle each time, you’ll learn what makes a particular libation special, what flavours go best with it and how to think beyond the basics.

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The once a month series includes evenings dedicated to:

July 13.2013 – Bourbon- “A Night in Kentucky”

September 28.2013 – Gin- “Juniper and Jazz”

October 26.2013 – Rum- “The Pirates of Downtown”

November 23.2013 – Scotch- “Scotch, I love Scotch

December 14.2013 – Tequila- “Appreciating Agave”

January 18.2014 – Vodka- “Exploring Infusions”

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In addition to being greeted with a cocktail and delicious appetizers as you arrive, Matt will take you through the history of the featured alcohol, you’ll have a hands on tutorial, speak about which foods pair well with it and enjoy a third cocktail mixed by Matt during a question and answer period.

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You’ll leave with the recipes for the three cocktails you enjoyed, as well as a special gift to enhance your bar at home.

#LiquidLab is great for a group of friends, a couple who like to host together or just an individual with interest in the most potent of potables. $80 includes everything for the evening right down to taxes and gratuities. Book by contacting Bymark directly at Bymark@bellnet.ca.

[Photos by Paul Aihoshi]