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Shucking, happy hours and hot sauce

A conversation with Lot Six’s head bartender, Andrew Keyes.

Shucking competitions are nerve-wracking: with the clock ticking and audience roaring, it’s a high-pressure situation. But for Andrew Keyes, it’s another day at the office.

Andrew is the head bartender at Lot Six, and where he mixes drinks and serves up oysters by the hundreds at the establishment’s daily oyster happy hour. “On a Friday or Saturday, we’ll probably go through 500-600 oysters in 2 hours,” he says.

No stranger to shucking, Andrew says he isn’t nervous to take the stage for the first time during our amateur shucking competition on Saturday.

Andrew loves the food biz; he grew up helping out at his parent’s butcher shop in Ontario and has been in the hospitality industry since. He started working at Lot Six soon after his move to Halifax about two years ago — when Andrew started at the restaurant and bar, he knew nothing about oysters. But bartenders at Lot Six get their start shucking behind the bar, so he learned fast.

Today, he has an oyster tattoo on his forearm and has piloted several oyster-focused programs at the bar. Lot Six just rolled out their mignonette program: each week, they’ll serve a different house-made mignonette with oysters. The mignonettes are modeled after classic cocktails.

“It’s geared towards educating people,” says Andrew. “It kind of sparks a conversation with the customer about food and drink.”

Also brand new to the bar is their oyster hot sauce. A lover of Tabasco, Andrew wanted to create something signature for their popular happy hour, to “show the care that the restaurant has.” Made specifically to pair with oysters, they’re calling it Lot Sauce.

Andrew says these additions to their oyster happy hour are “all about keeping people entertained and engaging with them so they keep asking questions.”

This will mark Andrew’s second time at Oyster Festival. He’ll be shucking all day with Pristine Bay, a farm in New Glasgow, N.S. Known for a smooth brine and deep cup, Andrew says these are some of his favourites. He can’t wait to get his oyster on.

Catch Andrew and his Lot Six coworker Shane Beehan behind Pristine Bay’s table on Saturday, and on stage for the amateur shucking competition during the Saturday afternoon session. 

[Photo by Jess Emin]