A Bartender with a heart of gold: meet Chantelle Gabino

While bartenders definitely provide a public service, after a fashion, it’s not always a profession that’s associated with giving back to the community.  That is unless you’ve met Chantelle Gabino
*photos from @chantigabino on Instagram
Chantelle is a food and beverage industry professional with over a decade of experience in many facets of the hospitality industry. Regaining touch with growing up in beautiful British Columbia, her recent projects incorporate incentives to embrace sustainability and ethical bartending, as well as ingredients and practices aimed at showcasing mother nature’s offerings. Utilizing her long-standing love of food & drink as well as her Fine Arts background she was named National winner of Bombay Sapphire’s “Most Imaginative Bartender, 2016” and currently holds the 2019 Bacardi Legacy National Winner. These days Chantelle showcases her knowledge and talents as a Bittered Sling Ambassador, while also holding the titles of Beverage Director for events company Mersey Cross and Bartender at The Drake Hotel.
This week, Chantelle will be traveling to the Bacardi Legacy Global Final in Amsterdam where she will be representing Canada against 43 other countries. Always one to support causes that matter, Chantelle has personally been advocating for organizations such as @dandelioninitiative @trccmwar @rainbowrailroad and Nellie’s Women’s Shelter here in Ontario.  Chantelle has even created a way for people to give back while drinking; her winning cocktail, the Cambiar will be listed at bars around the city and asking bars/restaurants to have $1 or more of each portion sold go to a charity or non-profit organization in the community.

How did you get your start in the bar industry?

I started off the classic way most in the industry do. I was in school and needed a part-time job and source of income. I graduated from University and realized I loved working in industry, but the pressure was on to pay student loans. It later clicked that the industry was changing and that I could use my education to support my love of bartending.


What are some of the best and worst aspects of the job?

The best – Telling a story with a drink, visiting distilleries and wineries abroad for education, and conversing with new people.

The worst – Drunken Belligerence and toxic masculinity, but that’s also just everywhere. However, alcohol and unsafe spaces allow for it to flow more freely.


You’ve taken part in multiple competitions in your industry, both behind the bar and in less conventional ways.  Can you share a little about these experiences?

Cocktail competitions, depending on the format, are there to explore and challenge yourself in many different ways and facets of our industry. They require knowledge, a vernacular for presentations, poise and confidence for the most part. Sometimes they require physical activities, most times they exercise creativity and flex your ability to present. Currently I’m competing in The BACARDÍ Legacy Cocktail Competition which is not only challenging my ability to market my cocktail “Cambiar : A cocktail for Change”, but a concept and ethos that is rooted in sharing my privilege with my community. A cocktail competition is usually only as good and successful as the work you put in. My favourite type of cocktail competitions are black box challenges.


How are you feeling going into the Bacardi Legacy finals in Amsterdam?

I’m equally as nervous as I am excited. I’ve put my heart, soul and more into this drink and its campaign that it essentially feels like wearing my heart on my sleeve, I just hope it gets well received. I’m also super excited to meet my fellow contestants and to see what they’ve done.


Tell us about your award-winning cocktail, the Cambiar, what inspired that particular recipe? 

Cambiar: A cocktail for change was created with the intention to combine my two passions of bartending and helping others. Each of the ingredients symbolize growth and change. Verjus and Amontillado Sherry, a tale of a grape from infancy to maturity. Sugar and Rum, evolution and change. Peach Bitters, a rolling stone-fruit and a symbol of change for myself; but also is a window into my relationship with people and my palate. The drink’s marketing strategy is to bring awareness, education and support to our communities through positive narratives of change through fundraisers, training sessions and showcases supporting marginalized groups & BIPOC.


You’ve done so much work to help make the bar industry and the nightlife scene in Toronto safer and more accessible for everyone, including requesting that part of the proceeds of the Cambiar go towards not for profit work. Can you share some of the initiatives you support and why they’re so important?


I have been an advocate and supporter of the Dandelion Initiative and the work that founder Viktoria Belle has been doing, especially since the Gian Gomeshi trials and the College St. Bar attack. I’m fortunate to get a front line view of how much she cares, and how hard she works to make our industry more inclusive, accessible, and safe for everyone. Over the last few months of working with Cambiar and Dandelion Initiative on tour, we’ve created programming that is there to support our industry in numerous ways, bring awareness to hard topics, all the while having fun and raising funds with events like the Karaoke Bar Battles for Change. As I write this interview, we’re actually in Vancouver with the help of Bacardi to facilitate this important training supporting sistering organizations across the country. We’ll be heading to Montreal shortly to do the same round of events


If you had one wish to help make the world a better place, what would it be?

If I had one wish, it would be to make education FREE & ACCESSIBLE for every single person on this planet.


Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.
Nadia Elkharadly