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The Most Important Person in the Room: A Series Profiling Toronto’s Top Bartenders – PT 6 – Toronto Temperance Society: Alex James


There are endless reasons why we go to bars. Whether it’s to catch up with friends, for an important business meeting, or a romantic rendez-vous the restaurant and bar industry is a booming business deeply rooted in our zeitgeist. This series seeks to showcase those who are often overlooked, our silent heroes behind the bar – artists in their own right – who are ready with their jiggers and muddlers for whatever comes their way.

The Toronto Temperance Society is a private member’s club featuring a world-class selection of fine spirits and cocktails. Featuring one of the best selections of liquors in Toronto, a cocktail program and defining itself as “a secret and sophisticated organization,” Temperance is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Non-members may only attend as a guest of a member, making entry that much more appealing and fascinating.


Bev Nine to Five: How did you get into the world of cocktails and mixology?

Alex James: At the age of 25, I was drinking and partying with little regard or understanding of what alcohol actually is. I’ve always been curious about science and history and somehow became obsessed with reading books about how human civilization was shaped by alcohol. It was also around this time that I was coming to grips with a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Nutritional fact sheets about spiced rums and other spirits suddenly became a lot more interesting to me. This all led me on to cocktail history, recipes, and the burgeoning mixology scene growing in Toronto at the time. One thing led to another and 6 years on I’m working at a speakeasy.

BNTF: What is the most exciting part of the job?

Alex James: Working with talented co-workers, interested patrons and bartending peers that challenge me to make a better product. Being part of a very supportive community is for sure the most exciting part of the job.

BNTF: What’s your favourite drink to MAKE?

Alex James: Old Fashioned. Over the years I’ve learned so many different methods of making the simplest cocktail. Each method has its own merit. It taught me not to be dogmatic about one way of doing things.

BNTF: Favourite drink to enjoy yourself?

Alex James: The Daiquiri is by far my favourite cocktail to sip on. It’s simple, easy to make, and you can get it almost anywhere. A crushed bartender will also secretly love you for ordering it.

BNTF: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about the bar industry?

Alex James: I think there is a misconception out there that bartenders and restaurant staff in general are not concerned with the hospitality aspect of our jobs. We above all else want you to have a good time, eat good food and by far have the best drink possible.

You can follow Alex James on Instagram at @alexjamesthebartender

USA, New York State, New York City, Empty bar

By: Susannah Kiernan @susannahkiernan

Susannah Kiernan

Susannah Kiernan is a writer, actress, singer, and comedian who currently resides in Toronto. She has worked extensively in stage, film, and television in Canada and the United States. Her female comedy duo, "L'il RasGALS", writes and performs shows across the country and regularly in Toronto, and were nominated for "Best Sketch Troupe" by Now Magazine. In the summer of 2014, Susannah sang back-up for the band Heart at some of their Canadian tour stops. She is also a graduate of the Fashion Management Program at George Brown and is acting as Managing Editor and writer at Chloe Magazine.

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