For our latest Spotlight, we caught up with Simon Ho, a notable bartender that has made a name for himself crafting drinks and cocktails at some of Toronto’s best establishments. His hard work and dedication to his craft led him to his latest venture in the newly opened Spirit of York Distillery Co., the only distillery in Toronto’s historic Distillery District.
Simon’s work has garnered him a vast knowledge of spirits, accolades, and an opportunity to partner with Lexus Master Class, which showcases appreciation for luxury and highlights leaders in various industries including fashion, photography, mixology, food and more, to get an inside look at what they’re known for.
Upon entering Spirit of York, you’re instantly taken aback by a beautifully designed space that features history, craftsmanship, and, you guessed it, an actual distillery. While it is a place to sample drinks, since opening, tourists have often confused it with a museum of some sort — it’s that nice.
When we sat down with Simon, we learned that the development of Spirit of York stemmed from a commitment to the craft of spirit making, a strong vision and the relentless pursuit of doing one thing very well. Through our brief conversation, it was easy to understand from Simon’s history, personality and ethos, that he is a perfect fit for the company, bringing back distilling to the distillery district.
After a quick stint in the food scene, Simon quickly discovered that bartending was his calling. “It was a way to be the life of the party, I sought after it when I was younger.” This affable personality led him to an early learning experience that helped him reach the level of a Master classman. “I quickly learned that it felt really good if I could provide someone with a memorable experience.” It takes a focus on providing a quality experience to attract customers and to make a name for yourself in the bartending industry. While any regular Joe can technically pour a drink, to have people come back and to gain a following; that’s a whole different story.
Simon’s commitment to experience and having a good time led him to be discovered by a group of investors who were looking to start a winery, however, the idea shifted to opening a micro-distillery. Simon is frank about it. He tells us he wasn’t the only choice but due to his knowledge, his craftsmanship and his commitment to his art, Simon was chosen to be one of the people that lead this bold vision for a new Canadian distillery. “It was one of those serendipitous situations, our philosophies lined up really well,” Simon tells us.
With Spirit of York finally open, you can see how the work has actually translated into success. “At the core of things we want [Spirit of York] to be a premium spirit’s brand. We’ve put process and practices in place that we think will set the bar for spirits in Canada.” Simon goes on to tell us, “We want to celebrate the history of distilling in Canada. We believe that Toronto is a world class city and it deserves world class products… We want to do the city proud.”
It’s no surprise as to why Lexus chose Simon and Spirit of York Distillery Co. as a partner for its Master Class program, both brands excel at their art and strive for the highest of quality. “This is where the science meets art. Our head of production is a chemical engineer. I wouldn’t call myself an artist, but there is artistry in what I do. Taking the time to become a master and doing one thing well… I think that’s a big thing about [Lexus’] new design and it’s what we do here. We distil spirits and do it in an exceptional way. We take all the care, and it took us a lot of time to get here. Our products are packaged beautifully! It’s where art meets science and time meets mastery, and that’s why it’s a good pairing between Lexus and Spirit of York Distillery Co.”