Sydney native Simon Hooper trained in the culinary arts at Ryde TAFE College, a background that’s helped him build a reputation for his unique flavour pairings as a mixologist. Before relocating to Canada, Hooper worked at some of Australia’s hottest nightlife establishments, such as Cargo Bar, The Argyle in The Rocks, De Nom, Chinese Laundry, and Hugo’s Bar Pizza. Now based in Toronto, he’s became an ambassador for Disaronno after winning the 2013 Disaronno Mixing Star Competition, and recently opened his first bar, Rush Lane & Co., in downtown Toronto.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I’m from Sydney, Australia, and I love to travel! After winning the 2013 Disaronno “Mixing Star” mixology competition, I was flown to Sicily by Disaronno to attend a seminar on the science of taste. This was amazing, as this is what all of my work is based around. I’ve been in Canada for a bit over six years and love it. I have a culinary background and love cocktail competitions. I recently opened my first bar, Rush Lane & Co. I work with an unbelievably talented group of people. I’m obsessed with unique flavour combinations. I think outside of the box, and I’m obsessive when it comes to the fine details.
What are the biggest challenges and best rewards about what you do?
Challenge: Pushing the envelope as far as creativity goes, but still producing a product that is approachable.
Reward: Succeeding. Working with Disaronno has been an honour because the opportunity has enabled me to experience even more in my field than I had previously been exposed to.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Disaronno, tequila, lime… and salt (Murray River if you’ve got it).
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…it’s always changing and always growing. There are four seasons; this is the ultimate catalyst for my creativity.
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
Obviously Rush Lane & Co… and The Harbord Room! It always exceeds my expectations, and Dave Mitton is awesome.
What’s one of your favourite go-to designers/brands or accessories lines and why do you sport their fashions?
Koriko bar tools, because I love their weight (bartenders will get this); Vans shoes because they’re super low profile; Nike SB sneakers because they are super comfortable; Frederick Prince (they have the coolest custom accessories); Disaronno – I love unwinding with a simple, yet refreshing, Disaronno Sour.
What products are always in your grooming bag?
Bed Head Wax by Tigi keeps me looking suave; an electric razor, because you never know when you’ll need it; a comb; a vanity mask for those long flights; an extra toothbrush and toothpaste.
What style trends are you obsessed with right now?
Funky bowties, a well-tailored suit, tank tops, and anything bright.
What’s your favourite spa or service?
I’m a sucker for a good old back rub. I don’t have time for pampering, but I’m definitely up for some suggestions!