This is Justin Carrier-Gobeil from Chicoutimi.
Justin was born and raised in Chicoutimi. When he was little, he wanted to study dinosaurs and to be a palaeontologist. Yes, even I wasn’t sure that I knew what the word meant so imagine how impressive it was when he was saying it at five years old.
However, Justin did not study dinosaurs and rather worked in service for as long as he can remember. He started at a McDonalds as a teenager and ended up making cocktails quite randomly. One day he was supposed to have requested time off from his job at McDonalds to help his sister out for a week. His sister was managing a bar in town and was short a busser. He completely forgot he had made this commitment and had to lie to his boss to own his promise to his sister. Of course, the boss found out about it and fired him. It turned out to be quite a positive change in the end as it allowed him to discover the world of bars. What was supposed to be a replacement turned into a job and later, a passion.
At first, he worked as a busser for his sister and eventually got a bartending position at the Bar à Pithon. He really got into cocktails when he met Ron. Ron was the manager of Sous-Bois, one of the best music venues in town along with Le Bar à Pithon. They started to sit at each other’s bars and developed a friendship. At that time, Justin was already passionate about beer and whiskey, but cocktails for him were cheap G&T and martinis. Meeting Ron, he had his first Negroni and realized that cocktails could actually be good. Then Ron started talking to him about vermouth, which Justin thought they all tasted like crap. Ron made him discover quality vermouth and when Justin was convinced that vermouth could be good, his barriers fell and he opened himself to really dive into classic cocktails. He kept on drinking them and discovering new ones when he would go to Sous-bois, while offering them and exploring further when he was behind the bar at Bar à Pithon. That’s how he discovered all the classics and fell in love with the trade. Justin’s personal Maslow pyramid is quite simple: bonne compagnie, bonne chaire et bon vin. Bartending thus appears to be quite the perfect job for him.
Justin worked with Ron at le Gros Luxe in Chicoutimi for a few years, where they were both passionate about cocktails and managed to build quite an impressive back bar. They had a bigger selection of Fernet than most bars in Montreal. Of course, there weren’t many people to drink it but that’s not the point... They had great Fernet !! (It's every bartender dream!)
We chose to tell the stories of Justin and Ron back to back because Justin was definitely the pupil of Ron and together they were pretty much the only two people passionate about cocktails in Chicoutimi for a while. Eventually, and particularly with the Gros Luxe opening its doors in town, more and more people grew fond of quality cocktails but to be frank, it’s still not what most people drink. Overall, listening to Justin praising the balance and deliciousness of the Vieux-Carré for 5 minutes in Ron’s kitchen definitely touched a sensible cord in me. We felt very privileged to spend an entire afternoon sipping on cocktails with the two cocktail OG of Chicoutimi. This is exactly what this project is about and we are very happy to share their stories with you.
A little bit more about Justin…
The three words that describe him best: voluble – curious – laugher
One thing he has achieved on his life bucket-list: He had his heart broken. When he was younger, he remember thinking that he really wanted to experience a break up and have his heart broken. He was tired of listening songs about it, watching movies about it, looking at arts that talked about it without understanding what it actually felt like. Of course, when it happened he highly questioned why on earth he ever wished that for himself.
One thing he has yet to achieve on his life bucket-list: To leave Chicoutimi and travel. He has never left his birthplace and bartended at a hostel bar for years. He has friends all over the planet and one day it will be time for him to go and see the world.
What he likes most about bartending: The routine and the absence of routine. The fact that it’s always the same without ever really being the same. That you always to prep and be ready for anything, and you never know how it’s actually going to go.
What he likes least about bartending: The rhythm of life. It’s a constant struggle with your addictions. Bars are lively, they flash in the dark, they are stimulating, it’s very easy to get lost in this world. He always tried to follow what his dad used to tell him: “Justin, I love alcohol too much to one day be stuck having to restrain myself from it.”