Bacardi Wet Dream
How does a young Canadian lad with a taste for flair bartending and a set of eyelashes a horse would envy make his way to the Cayman Islands? Jono Firstbrook is only 23 years old, but he’s already visited more countries than a number of people twice his age have discovered, and his skills behind the bar are getting noticed by patrons and in competitions both here and abroad.
Jono was born in Ontario, but his family moved to Vancouver when he was three thanks to his father’s work with the airlines. Math was his favourite subject in school, yet when he moved on to Kwantlen University, he pursued a diploma in Marketing Management. He was an ambitious young man; in fact when he was 14 he started up his own lawn-mowing business and counted many neighbours as his clients. At the age of 18 he took a three-week course in Fine Arts Bartending (who knew such a class existed? I wonder what Michelangelo liked to drink?) and got a job at the Ocean Beach Lounge as a busser.
Two-and-a-half years later he decided he had had enough of this particular position and he went on to a couple of other restaurants and lounges as a server/busser before landing a bartending spot at the Space Lounge in downtown Vancouver. It was here that he found himself working beside two of the best flair bartenders in Canada – Ryan Baldwin and Ivan Cheu. So confident of his skills after one week was he that he entered his first competition in Kelowna, BC and despite placing dead last, he was hooked to the thrill.
After five months Jono had saved enough money to follow his dream of travelling to some exotic countries for a spell. He went to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. He trained with some bartenders on the island of Koh Samui (all very Karate Kid – wax on, wax off…) for a couple of weeks and then moved on to Melbourne, Australia working between The Lounge and The CBD Club. Nine months later he was on his way to the Hawaiian Islands, backpacking and soaking in the culture. It was just the work-free vacation he needed.
Upon returning home to Vancouver he was hired by two private companies – Extreme Bartending and Bartenders Guild – organisations that offered flair bartenders for private parties, weddings and special events. At the same time Jono was providing instruction in all things flair. He was a pretty busy guy!
When Jono had been working in Australia, he networked extensively, and somehow this led to a trip to Cayman Brac in November 2009. He bartended at the Alexander Hotel for three months before heading back to Vancouver and the Space Lounge for the Winter Olympics. Snow can have limited appeal, so once the athletes left Canada, so did Jono. He came back to the Caribbean, and this time landed on the main island of Grand Cayman in March 2010. A brief trip home garnered him the coveted Bottleslinger Trophy in the Pinnacle competition – his first win, and the first win for a Canadian in this annual event. He returned to Cayman in the summer and can now be found at the Attic and O Bar nightclub in Queen’s Court Plaza on West Bay Road.
What does Jono like about bartending? The social aspect, the excitement and of course, the flair. He is constantly studying new techniques and then presenting them to an enthusiastic audience. He is definitely a showman at heart with a penchant for creating great drink recipes and his future plans are still going to revolve around a bar – he hopes to travel the world as a professional flair bartender. Sounds like the life to me!
Visit Jono at one of these popular establishments and see how that three-week course so many years ago has certainly put him on the right path. You might say he’s turned bartending into a fine art. WH