By Athena McKenzie

Pay close attention to those custom cocktail descriptions at Little Jumbo. Bar manager Nate Caudle loves to include esoteric references for the rare customer “who might get it and nerd out.”
Caudle — who has twice won Art of the Cocktail’s competition for Best Bartender in the Pacific Northwest — says a love of creating is what drew him to bartending. But as much as Caudle has a passion for innovating, he also loves tradition: once a week you’ll still find him behind the “phone-booth-sized bar” at Pagliacci’s, where he got his start. “It’s very sentimental at this point,” he says. “I have so many good memories and I love the energy in the room.” 

Nate Caudle says the Calvados Negroni is the cocktail that best describes him. “It’s an allusion to my distant French heritage.” Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
If I’m creating, I’m happy.

2. What is your greatest fear?
I have this recurring dream where I’m on a beach on a grey, miserable day and I see this massive tsunami coming. It’s a common nightmare and deals with fear and ambition. Moseying through life with nothing to show for it — that would be my fear.

3. What do you admire most in your friends?

4. What’s a trait you deplore in others?
Talking ‘at’ others. People who don’t engage in conversation, who just spew words and wait for their next chance to talk.

5. Who is the living person you admire most?
George Lam [a longtime bartender] at the Chateau Victoria. He taught me about delivering the best guest experience and never losing your cool.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Time, to me, is the most valuable asset. I will pay for a cab home so I can have that extra 15 minutes.

7. On what occasion do you lie?
Bartenders lie every day. We may have products we don’t like but we have to spin it like it’s our favourite thing in the world. If you’re lying to get someone to try something outside of their comfort zone, it’s a grey area.

8. What historical figure do you most identify with?
Thomas Edison. One of my favourite quotes of all time is: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. What is your most treasured possession?
A sealed copy of Kirby’s Adventure for Nintendo. It is my childhood. I sold my video-game collection to go to bartending school.