Clive’s Classic Lounge gets the global nod
Clive’s Classic Lounge is no stranger to success. The award-winning cocktail bar in the Chateau Victoria hotel frequently ranks as one of the best in Victoria, the province, and across Canada; and this year, it’s gotten an international nod too.
Harry Tham and Shawn Soole of Clive’s Classic Lounge/ Photo: Ryan Hook
Clive’s Classic Lounge is no stranger to success.The award-winning cocktail bar in the Chateau Victoria hotel frequently ranks as one of the best in Victoria, the province, and across Canada; and this year, it’s gotten an international nod too.At Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky ceremony in London, England last week, Clive’s Classic Lounge won the 2023 Whisky Hotel Bar of the Year award; and, manager Shawn Soole was named Bar Manager of the Year.
Clive’s remains one of Victoria’s shining examples of internationally acclaimed hospitality, and clearly, it’s no accident. It’s always been an ambitious bar, and Soole, in part, can be credited for it.
The 42-year-old moved here from his hometown of Brisbane, Australia in 2006, and under the leadership of Solomon Siegel he started to establish a craft cocktail culture in Victoria.
Since Solomon’s closed in 2009, Victoria has embraced craft cocktail culture and Soole has become one of the go-to cocktail bartenders: first at Little Jumbo, and now at Clive’s Classic Lounge. He’s worked at Clive’s for almost a decade and splits his time as a consultant for bars and restaurants around the world. Soole is committed to hospitality and optimistic about its future, especially at Clive’s. He runs a small team of eight and likes it that way. As the lead, he provides something to his staff that he only got from his burning curiosity and books: formal training.
“Training and education are the biggest intangibles that restaurants don’t tap into. People always say, ‘what if they leave?’” he tells Tasting Victoria. “But, what if they stay? Don’t you want the best?”
Left to right: Who Runs the World, Sidecar, and Negroni/ Photo: Zoë Ducklow
At his behest, the cocktail crew of mostly twentysomethings is thoroughly educated (primarily from the Edinburgh Whisky Academy) on spirits. Soole often gathers the crew around a projector for education sessions and even lists employees’ credentials on the menu.For what Clive’s offers, it’s not easy work either.Known for its inventive cocktails made from a vast array of fresh ingredients and top-notch spirits, there’s a ton of preparation the team has to do ahead of service. Almost every ingredient is sourced locally, and Clive’s offers unique garnishments like Earl Grey ice cubes.This week, I, along with Westshore reporter Zoë Ducklow, tried Clive’s Who Runs the World—a refreshing La Gritona Reposado tequila cocktail with blood orange oleo, lime yuzu soda, and rimmed with a light dust of tajin. The cocktail was created by Cara Macleod, a Clive’s bartender who was inspired by the all-woman team that runs the La Gritona distillery. For every Who Runs the World sold, Clive’s in collaboration with Chateau Victoria, Reserva Brands, and La Gritona will contribute $7.50 to the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.
Who Runs the World/Photo: provided
Remarking on how clear the ice is, Soole says even that is unique. “Today I spent a couple hours cutting up ice cubes, inch by inch.” Soole says Clive’s imports 300-pound directionally frozen ice slabs from Vancouver, and the crew often spends 3-4 hours per day carving it for service.It’s clear Soole instills in his staff what he’s learned for over two decades: refinement to the highest degree. Now, he’s training a new batch of expert bartenders who will continue the award-winning work—and not just to represent Clive’s, but Victoria writ large. In March, lead bartender Harry Tham will compete at Vancouver Cocktail Week. “When I was 24 years old, I was not doing the stuff he does,” Soole says.
Harry Tham and his hard work/ Photo: Zoë Ducklow
This is a detail-oriented cocktail bar, one that not only serves Victoria but the cocktail community across the world. Award-winning bartenders often guest bartend at Clive’s, and Soole says the hope for bringing them in is to put Victoria on the map. “We want to be the new Vancouver.” That road doesn’t seem so hopeless if Clive’s is around.
And between the bar and its manager, there’s a long list of awards. With a dedicated team of bartenders striving for that same success—like attending popups in Montreal and Lisbon—Clive’s can surely look forward to more feathers in a hat that’s already brimming with success.