This is Keegan McGregor.
Keegan is 30 years old and lives in Halifax. He is originally from Moncton in New-Brunswick, spent 8 years in St-John Newfoundland and has been in Halifax for 4 years now. Keegan studied classical music and used to play guitar, mandolin and bass guitar in musical styles such as heavy metal, death metal, bluegrass, country and rock and roll. For many years, he had a dream to be a rock star but when he arrived in Halifax, he realized that he was burned out with music and decided to become more serious with cocktail bartending.
Keegan started to work in hospitality when he was 19 years old. He used to be a musician and got a job as a bartender in a music venue in Moncton with the hopes that it would help him develop his music career, which it did. He worked there for 3 years, making contacts in the music industry, slinging beers and pouring shots to rowdy crowds. Then he moved to Newfoundland to pursue his career in music. He worked in music venues, managed gastro-pubs and eventually was the bar manager of an oyster house.
Keegan got into cocktails because he was kind of forced into it. When he got the job that he wanted at the oyster house, the chef there was from Ottawa and knew how popular cocktails were becoming, so he highly insisted that Keegan made some. If at first, he was reluctant, he turned out loving it and being quite good at it. However, it was really when he moved to Halifax that he decided to dive into it. When he realized that he was burned out by music, he wanted a new passion, a new focus. And cocktails turned out to fulfill that need. He realized the infinite depth of the world of cocktails and dived right in. Unfortunately, it was also at that time that his dad passed away, so he spent his first 4 months in the city reading books and going to bars to taste cocktails he had never tried before. He learned about spirits knowledge, brand knowledge, understanding citrus, acidifying juices, making quality syrups, etc. After that, he worked with Lindsay Jones and Tomas Yeo for six months. They took him under their wings and really helped him grow.
This led him to start working at Field Guide, where he is now the bar manager and offers a very impressive cocktail menu, including 20 rotating cocktails as well as a non-alcoholic, a barrel-aged and a milk punch program.
To conclude, we also wanted to highlight the fact that a part from offering an original and very solid cocktail menu, Keegan has a very natural approach to hospitality that truly transpires to people sitting on the other side of his bar. As per usual, we always try to go visit the people we meet for this project in their work place. When we visited Keegan, I was supposed to go bar hoping around the city for the night and visit a few other bartenders. However, Keegan and the rest of the team at Field Guide were so genuinely nice and hospitable that I ended up staying at the bar for the entire service and had such a fantastic time that I almost forgot about covid-19 and the big plexiglass between me and them. Looking at him swiftly moving while getting slammed behind the bar, taking the time to make me discover old forgotten classics and keeping such a nice and positive attitude reminded me of how special it feels to be taken care of by a true professional bartender.
A little bit more about…
The three words that describe him best: odd ball – caring – laid back
The most magical place he has ever been to: Cuba, specifically the Havana area. It was his first international travel, and got a chance to meet the community, the people and learn about their history. He got the opportunity to meet a farmer who lived behind the Havana club distillery, who made them a meal that was probably the best one he ever had. They picked mangos and bananas from the trees, had chicken that was slaughtered that morning, everything was so fresh and delicious and magical.
The cocktail that changed his life: A martini made by H at Giftshop in Toronto. He did it tin in tin, built the martini and stirred for like 10 minutes. When he poured it, the temperature was at -7 degree Celsius. The texture was absolutely incredible. It was then that he understood what it could mean to perfect a drink.
One thing he has achieved on his life to-do list: He never really tried to set big goals, it’s always been more like setting small goals for himself. Last year he wanted to make the regionals for World Class, he ended up making it to the finals. When he was younger he always wanted to go on tour and he managed to do it dozens of times. And that was great until he even played a stadium.
What he likes most about bartending: The camaraderie between everyone and the friendships he has made across Canada. The community aspect of it, the hospitality. It’s a great way to make friends, having random chats with people. In five minutes, you get a glimpse into someone’s life and that’s super interesting.