At just after 11 p.m. on a balmy Friday in October, the bar that put Fleury Ouest on the Montreal cocktail map is full. Couples canoodle, friends celebrate the end of the workweek and a few solitary punters sit at the bar and study half-full collins glasses. They seem content. Perhaps most of all Jean-Maxime Giguère. The proprietor of 132 Bar Vintage (a.k.a. Mr. Thumbs-Up in the photos) affably shakes, stirs, and pours next to fellow bartenders Jonathan Elbaz, Jean-François Laurence, and Philippe Letellier.
Survey the scene, and it looks like the quintessence of the neighbourhood bar. But with one critical divergence: uncommon cocktail game. Neighbourhood bars, after all, seldom serve a Pousse Café with St. Germain, Bénédictine and XO rum. 132's Bootlegger cocktail contains apricot brandy, Blanche de Chambly, bourbon, peach jam, Angostura bitters and fresh basil. And then there's the Absinthe Suissesse, with Taboo Absinthe, cream, orgeat syrup, egg white and nutmeg. Giguère credits chef and Le Chien Rose owner Michèle Desrosiers, a noted champion of Ahuntsic, for 132's genesis in 2013.
“I wanted my place to look and feel like a living room.”
"She popped in and said the merchants on Fleury Ouest wanted a bar. She gave me the number for a commercial space that was available to rent. I was working at Taverne Gaspard in Old Montreal at the time but it was always my plan to open my own bar. I was living in the area and when the opportunity came up it was a perfect fit. I live ten minutes away. I went to New York to get ideas for décor. It was Mitche’s dad who built the bar with me. I let loose on stuff I couldn’t do at other places. The scene where I was before is very different from a neighbourhood bar. I wanted my place to look and feel like a living room."
“We’re all young bartenders with a strong vision. We want to make it happen.”
As for the cocktail list (which complements a long list of beers, wines and hard liquors) Giguère opted "to keep it vintage" at first. "The first menus that we did, we redid old classics, our way. Now with the new menu we have other creations. We use a lot of fresh produce, we explore Marché Jean-Talon for ideas. I tell the boys to go for it. All the purées have to be fresh. No powders. People in Montreal are knowledgeable. They expect and want that."
Giguère sees the emergence of a potent cocktail culture in Montreal as a group effort. "We’re all young bartenders with a strong vision. We want to make it happen. Places like B1, Midway and pioneers like Le Lab — old and new we’re all getting together. You can see it."