This is Evan McNeil, from Halifax.
Evan is 29 years old. He is originally from Calgary and now lives in Dartmouth. About eight years ago, Evan moved to Halifax for school. He studied undergrad in jazz music and finished his degree in political science and environmental science. After his studies, he thought that he would get into urban planning and green infrastructures. He actually found himself working at a small hidden cocktail bar called Noble (Middle Spoon) that changed everything for him. Today, he is the Atlantic Territory Manager for Sovereign Canada and also bartends at Dear Friend.
Evan started in the hospitality industry in 2010 as a busser at an Earls, a classic Western Canadian chain. His trick was to walk as fast as possible all the time so that he looked very busy. Pretty clever move since he was upgraded as a bar back rapidly. Many years passed until he found himself working at Noble in Halifax. At that time, he was an oyster shucker at Press Gang. One of his friends was visiting from Calgary and he decided to take him to that secret little bar he heard about. When they sat there, Evan was amazed and spent all night talking to the bartender. Before he left, the bartender offered him to come back the next day with his resume. That bartender was Jenner Cormier, who was actually leaving Halifax the next day. He hired Evan as his last move as the general manager of Middle Spoon. This is where he learned most of his foundations as a bartender and truly fell in love with the cocktail world. He never looked back since.
Years later, Evan was curious to explore another facet of our industry and this is when he met Jon Smolensky, owner of Sovereign Canada Wine & Spirits agency. Jon was looking for someone to take care of the Atlantic provinces and Evan wanted to be that guy. That collaboration was cemented on a very long night for Evan and a successful bunch of lobsters to take home for Jon. At that time, none of the products of the portfolio were available in the Maritimes, so it has been quite an adventure for Evan to get them there. Working with Sovereign made him learn not only how to work with brands and represent them, but also understanding the in’s and out’s of the liquor boards and what the process is to actually applying and put on shelves products. More recently, Evan has been learning more about the marketing side of things. He takes care of their social media pages, does the marketing for the monthly spirited sessions, writes the newsletters and so on.
Earlier this summer, Evan launched his company called Big Wheels Bar, an online store specialized in bitters. These little bottles are hard to get your hands on in the Atlantic. Furthermore, retailers aren’t convinced yet that bitters are worth purchasing. Evan created Big Wheels Bar as a way to get things out and make it easier for people to get their hands on these little bartender’s essentials.
Overall, whether it be with Big Wheels Bar, Sovereign Canada or Dear Friend, Evan is involved in the community at many levels and has extensive knowledge of the inner workings of our industry. We can tell that he is genuinely committed to the betterment of our community and to be frank, it was more than a pleasure to get to know him better and spend time with him.
A little bit more about Evan...
The three words that describe him best: quirky – relaxed – energetic
The most magical place he has ever been to: Oaxaca, on a trip with Sovereign and Kutch mezcal. He was essentially thrown in the back of a pickup truck. They drove through agave fields and mountains where families were distilling and they would cook for them and it was amazing.
One thing he has achieved on his life to do list: Having a dog.
What he loves most about being a sales representative: Similar to bartending, it’s about working with people, creating relationships and offering a service.
An advice he would offer bartenders that want to explore that side of the industry: Learn how to use Excel and create systems. Learn how to say no. When you are asked too much, you can say no.