This is Mike Norbury, from Victoria, head bartender of the Double Tree Hotel by Hilton in Victoria, which includes Bartholomew’s Public House and an upcoming cocktail venue soon to be opened.
Mike is 31 years old and is originally from Edmonton, Alberta. He lived there until he was 8 years old and moved to the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, about one hour from Victoria, where he spent his late childhood and teenage years. He now lives in Victoria with his one-year-old Doberman called Tyson.
Mike started in hospitality the year after he graduated from high school. He had moved back to Edmonton to explore his roots and landed a job as a barback, which he did for about a year. When he moved back to the Island, he continued his journey in hospitality working as a bartender in sketchy dive bars for a while, and then decided to move to Whistler. Finding a full-time job and a reliable source of income turned out to be very difficult, so after a while, he decided to move back home again and that’s when he got a job at a pub called The Craig Street Brew Pub, where he ended up working for seven years.
It was while working there that Mike happened to watch a Netflix documentary called Hey Bartender. The film is about a bar back moving to a bartender position at Employees Only in New York. It made Mike realize that there was a lot more to bartending than what he already knew. He started bringing a cocktail program to the bar where he worked, but it was a very high-volume place and cocktails didn’t really fit with the pace of it all. One day, one of his regulars brought him a book called Cocktail Culture, written by Shawn Soole. It made Mike realize that there was this whole cocktail scene in Victoria and so he decided to move there.
Getting into the cocktail community was pretty difficult at first, but eventually, Mike found himself taking part in something called Bartending Bootcamp, a local initiative where the community would do a spirit tasting and cocktail competition. The tradition goes that when it’s your first time, you have to compete. And so he did, against nonetheless than Shawn Soole himself. Of course, Shawn won, but Mike did very good for himself and was offered a barback position at Fox Trot, the city’s best cocktail bar at the time. That was his entrance into the Victoria cocktail community, one that he is now very much part of. After working at Fox Trot, he bartended at Veneto and also started to get into a lot of cocktail competitions. He won some and did very well in others, but overall what he took from them is that he was at the same level as other bartenders he really admired. It allowed him to gain more confidence in his bartending skills and helped him grow as a bartender.
Today, Mike is the head bartender at Bart’s Pub and is also working on another cocktail venue in the same hotel that should be ready to open in September. He still competes and still does very well, he’s currently in Patrón Perfectionists Canadian top 10 finalists. If you don’t know him already, we highly recommend you check him out and pay him a visit next time you’re in Victoria. We sure look forward to sitting at his bar again.