Photo by Alexa Cude
In today’s fast-paced world it’s not uncommon to feel a bit lost in the shuffle when finding a career. Go to university, get a graduate degree, intern, network, and hope to land the job of your dreams. Recent stats suggest Canadians will work roughly fifteen different jobs — in a multitude of fields — throughout their careers. As trends come and go one thing is as constant as our coastal wind: Roy Clorey will always be a bartender.
Originally from Cape Breton, in 1963 at the age of 21, Roy found himself in Halifax. He’d heard the old Nova Scotian Hotel was hiring bartenders, so he decided to try his luck and apply. He got the job that very day. It turned out he liked the work, so he kept that same job for the next six decades. When he started behind the bar, The Beatles hadn’t yet released an album in North America, and it would still be half a decade before Apollo 11 would land on the moon. The professional bartender had become embedded in the culture of larger cities, but in Halifax, the industry was young and being a barman a novel thing. Roy was a beacon of light shining through the fog that hung over our port city.
Halifax has never been stranger to a drink, but after a decade-long prohibition our city wouldn’t give out its first license to serve alcohol until 1948. When Roy began bartending there were still only a handful of lounges where you could get a properly made drink. The martini boom of 1950s America had finally reached north of the border and consumers adopted a more cosmopolitan palate. No longer was the job just pouring pints, the call of the bartender meant embracing fresh juices, elaborate garnishes, and homemade syrups. Times were changing, and Roy was there, a purveyor of cultural change, one cold martini at a time.
In 2012 The Westin Hotel renamed the hotel bar Roy’s Lounge to honour the half-century of service and dedication from their legendary barman. To say Roy rolled with the punches is an understatement. He steered bartending culture through the 70s and 80s when Harvey Wallbangers and Long Island Iced Teas were in vogue. He held course in the late 90s when Sex in the City ruined the Cosmopolitan and the early 2000s when dollar drinks ruled the day.
I first discovered Roy in my early days behind the bar, over 50 years into his career. Even in his 70s, he was still working a couple of days a week. I would visit him at the bar, and he would offer snacks. Then I would order a beer (thinking it made his life easier), and he would entertain my questions. What’s the key to longevity behind the bar? According to Roy, the key is to love your wife, pack a lunch, and no drinking on the job. If you wake up not wanting to go to work, find something else to do. Lucky for Halifax, for more than half a century Roy Clorey woke up happy to be a bartender.