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John Fairholm, bar manager

 A portrait of John Fairholm, bar manager in Calgary
John Fairholm

This is John Fairholm, from Calgary, bar manager at Ricardo’s hideaway.

John is 28 years old and was born and raised in Calgary. He started to work in hospitality when he was 13 years old, starting as a busboy and working his way up. He studied Hospitality Management and worked at Earls for four years. Working as a manager there, he got to learn how systems worked with the goal of moving on to smaller venues after.

John got into bartending through wine. His grandparents used to make wine in the Okanagan Valley and his passion for wine eventually led him to explore the spirits and cocktails side of things. He was working at a wine bar at the time and he decided that if he wanted to be a good restaurant manager, he should learn how to make cocktails. While reading the New Yorker’s cocktail book, his attention caught on the Bramble cocktail. He made it, thought it was a great drink, and started researching cocktails from there. Eventually, he simply fell in love with bartending.

For the past few years, John has worked his way through Calgary’s bars. After he gained bartending experience for a couple of years, he got a job as the Tasting Room Manager at a local distillery in South Calgary. That job definitely deepened his bartending knowledge. He got to understand every step of the distillation process and how the products were made, which in turn changed his understanding of flavors and how to incorporate them into cocktails. He even collaborated in the creation of a few products including aquavit and a couple of gins. Eventually, he moved from the distillery to his current position at Ricardo’s Hideaway.

Since he got into Calgary’s bar scene, John has been part of the community and has been wanting to help it grow. He organizes monthly pop-ups called Afternoon Tea, where bartenders from the city collaborate on a pop-up cocktail menu and all the tips from the events go to a foundation chosen by the guest bartender. Overall, he’s all about bringing people together, showcasing the city’s talents, and having fun while doing it.


A little bit more about John...

What he likes most about bartending: He simply loves the restaurant industry as a whole, the fact that there are so many roles within this industry. And people. Hanging out with people, meeting people, and connecting with people.

Advice for younger bartenders: Put the work in, take the time, read the books. You can’t just come in and be the guy. You have to put your ego aside, put in the work, learn your way through it and remember to have fun.

One of the biggest lessons that his job taught him: Having fun. If someone in the room is not having fun, then it affects the whole room, so just remember to have fun. At the end of the day, it’s food and drinks, not brain surgery.

One of the most magical places he’s ever been to: He loves to go and explore a new city; new places are magical for him.

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