“I don’t remember what it’s like to be bored,” says Shayne Labis. That’s because the Canadian cocktail company he co-founded with business partner and fiancé Nicole Barron called Born to Shake has more divisions than the National Hockey League.
Labis describes the business, located in Kelowna, British Columbia, as an “experiential beverage company. We have our hands in a multitude of different things pertaining to cocktails.” Born to Shake is a cocktail bar, a mixology classroom, a retail shop and a producer of syrups and bitters, all under one roof.
The business model didn’t start out that way. Born to Shake was conceived as an elevated cocktail catering service intended to bridge the gap between the “beautiful food” served at high end events and beverage service the couple saw as mediocre at best. In the early days of 2020, it looked like their first summer was going to be jam-packed with bookings. Then came the covid lockdown, blowing their plans out of the water. “For us, it wasn’t a pivot, it was a massive change in business,” says Labis.
“We started to panic about what we were going to do to keep the business afloat,” says Barron. “We were already making custom syrups and bitters, so we started bottling them and offering them on our Instagram for DIY cocktails. It took off.” Next came virtual cocktail classes, merging the product side of the business with the service side. “That helped get our product into tons of people’s homes who never would have known who we were. We were shipping our products everywhere,” she says.
Engaging with customers and demystifying the cocktail-making process has helped the pair achieve one milestone after another. There are no pretensions here. “It could be intimidating to begin bartending at home and we wanted to take all of that out and allow people to just have fun at home,” Barron says. It’s easy to be creative with their small-batch products like carrot cake syrup, coffee bitters and rimmers like smoky ancho salt. “Our products are easy to use, and our recipes are easy to execute, but you can use your creativity to make something fun if you want,” she says. “The idea behind our brand is to make cocktailing more approachable for the everyday person.”
In November 2022, the couple opened up their cocktail shop in what’s known as the Brewery District of Kelowna, a summer tourist town some 250 miles east of Vancouver. “It’s really beautiful to see people in Kelowna interacting with us exactly how we always imagined they would.”
WHY BARFLY MIXOLOGY GEAR
“The right tools are everything. We went through a plethora of different shakers to see what had good suction, what had the right amount of volume. We just landed on Barfly and we’ve now incorporated the products into every element of our business. We’re a Barfly house.
We’ve been using all types of barware throughout our bartending careers, and when we decided to start selling items, we hand-picked our favorite Barfly products to offer to our customers. We only have Barfly shakers, jiggers, spoons and strainers. They’re the best. We don’t sell anything we don’t stand behind.”