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Jessica Blaine Smith and Josh Lindley, co-founders of Bartender Atlas & Toronto Cocktail Conference

Now that we have presented you Jess and Josh’s stories, we thought that you would like to learn a little bit more about Bartender Atlas and how it came to be.

Bartender Atlas was born in May 2016. At that point, Jess and Josh had known each other for over 20 years. Josh had done pretty much all the check list of bar related jobs. On the other hand, Jess had been shooting photos forever and wanted to switch her focus in terms of what style of pictures she was taking. They reached that point where they needed a project and Bartender Atlas is what came out of it.

Traveling had always been a big part of their lives. Every year, they would go to new cities and of course, explore their bar scenes. Doing so and going to the world’s best bars, they realized that down the line, what really mattered most was the interaction with the bartenders rather than the rate on such lists. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a space for them, the focus was almost always on the bars rather than on the people that make those bars so great. They decided to create Bartender Atlas as a way to put that connection together with the people rather than the space.

From the very beginning, Bartender Atlas was an inclusive platform for bartenders to promote themselves. More than an online community, Bartender Atlas organizes many events year-round. They work with smaller and bigger brands. They organize trips where they connect bartenders from different markets. And they are the ones behind Toronto Cocktail Conference (TOCC).

The whole TOCC adventure started a little over three years ago. Bar Institute was in communication with them because they wanted to organize a Bar Institute Toronto. However, at the last minute, their immigration papers didn’t go through and they reached out to Josh and Jess to take over for them because they couldn’t run the show. On such a short notice, Jess and Josh saved the show and managed to make it all happen. Coming up with TOCC was a huge step for them. It brought them a lot of attention and gave them more legitimacy in people’s minds. TOCC has connected and inspired bartenders across Canada, while contributing to put Canada’s bar scene on the map. Overall, both Bartender Atlas and TOCC continue to grow and by doing so, continue to contribute to our community and make it grow.

It was really important for us to showcase them since they achieved to build an inclusive community focused on the people, which gives us all the more reasons to stay connected and love what they do.

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