From Sociology to Mixology

Recent Sociology student Evan Watson went from studying social interactions to fostering them: along with his friends Andrew Borley, Jordan Clemens, and Roger Letourneau, he has just opened Edmonton's most stylish new bar/restaurant, Bar Clementine (

13 January 2017

UAlberta Sociology graduate Evan Watson has been making waves as one of the names behind Bar Clementine, the newest addition to Edmonton's high-end cocktail scene. With its Art Nouveau décor, absinthe service, carefully-selected wines, and sophisticated mixed drinks, Clementine is the perfect place to warm up and forget about the Alberta winter. Evan sat down to answer our questions about his time as a sociologist, and to tell us how his encounters with the cultural theorist Walter Benjamin helped him think about the kind of distinct and authentic experience he wanted to help people enjoy.

1. Why did you study sociology, and what were your favourite courses?

Sociology was a discipline that I happily fell in to, rather than one I directly sought out. I was a touring musician in a punk band during the duration of my degree, and sociology offered me the avenues of research to relate my own experience with the art and commerce dialectic to the greater historical context in which it exists. My program was very open and undirected, and I always found it a greater value to take courses with strong instructors with compelling personal research relating to my interests, rather than seek out specific classes. Dr. Richard Westerman, Dr. Mickey Vallee, Dr. Serra Tinic, and Dr. Daniel Laforest were all instrumental to my enjoyment of the program, and to its interdisciplinary application among other departments of personal interest.

2. How did you go from sociology to bartending? Did you go straight to it on graduating?

I've worked in restaurants since the age of 14, and held casual employment while working on my degree. Classic cocktails became a specific area of interest, after becoming relatively dejected at the mundanity of the corporate restaurant scene. I was just being exposed to Walter Benjamin at the time, and was lamenting the death of a pre-mass production artistic aura that I felt I'd been cheated out of. The laborious, individually crafted cocktail was a suitable target to hitch my frustrations onto, and I slowly built out a home bar to work on in between writing papers. Edmonton's cocktail community was really just beginning at that point, and I was lucky to catch it on the way up. I applied at one of the only cocktail bars opening at the time, met my future business partners in the process, and three years later we opened our own place (in what I'm positive is my ongoing retaliation against the monotony of mass consumer culture.)

3. What can you tell us about the cocktail scene in Edmonton and more generally?

Edmonton's cocktail community is still incredibly young. A large number of my peers hold degrees, particularly in the arts, and we all share similar artistic backgrounds. Outside of Edmonton, this also remains true. The first few years were marked by a somewhat reactionary focus on serving cocktails; the current scene holds more of a focus towards serving customers, and the entire industry is better for it. A good drink is only a good drink if it is matched to the palate of its recipient.

4. What ambience are you trying capture at Clementine, and why?

Clementine is a space to celebrate the art of dining in good company. The space was designed and built by hand, evoking an Art Nouveau aesthetic that marries turn of the century France with the New Orleans cocktail boom. The food reflects this design, with all dishes being meticulously prepared from scratch. Cocktails, as well, are all hand crafted, often balancing contemporary techniques and ingredients into loosely related riffs on classic cocktails. Wine has become a personal passion, and our list is entirely comprised of small, family run operations utilizing traditional, natural, minimal-intervention growing techniques to allow the wines to speak to their given terroir. In many ways, we intend Clementine to operate in the same way. We built the space and run it in this way to prove that the toil of art is worth it for its own sake. We put in a lot of effort so that our guests don't have to.

5. What was the biggest challenge about opening your own business?


6. Any advice for current sociology grads?

Sociology is not a discipline that ends. The lens you've spent 'x' number of years refining will be what you now see the world through, and what you will continue to shape and strengthen the focus of through your works. Keep in touch with the professors that pushed you and the writing that pushed you, too. Be mindful of the structures you now identity in society and be cautiously critical of them. Test their resolve, even if only for your own sake.

Clementine ( is in the Pearl Tower at 11957 Jasper Ave, and is open Tues-Thurs 5pm-midnight and Fri-Sat 5pm-1am. Reservations can be made on the website.