The town of Halifax is, literally, an outlier in North America, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean from Canada’s north-eastern coast. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that it is home to one of the more unusual and independent-spirited bars in the inaugural list of North America’s 50 Best Bars. Bar Kismet doesn’t play by anybody else’s rules; instead it shows the way forward in terms of environmental and societal sustainability, while simultaneously providing cracking service to locals and visitors alike.
Founded in 2017 by hospitality veteran Jenner Cormier and chef Annie Brace-Lavoie, Kismet is foremost an excellent seafood-led restaurant, but its unflashy bar programme has gradually assumed revered status to match. Under Cormier’s studious mentorship, head bartender Dylan Brentwood now curates an inventive cocktail list, alongside a locally focused and highly individual beer, cider and wine offering. Signature serves include Charming Duplicity, combining Canadian rye whiskey with Nova Scotia cider, vermouth and orange coconut bitters; and the Shorthand Love Letter made with gin, amaro, sherry, ginger cordial and cocoa beans. Even in a concise list, the team makes room for pre-bottled cocktails as well as well-considered low- or no-ABV options. Accompanying flavour notes are brief but characterful and informative, such as: “Baking spice and tart fruit, herbal finish.”
This is a highly desirable drinking and dining destination with a down-to-earth demeanour almost masking its distinction. Beyond the great drinks and fresh fare is an even deeper commitment to both people and place, as outlined by 50 Best’s audit partner, the Sustainable Restaurant Association. “Despite being a small team, treating staff fairly is still a critical consideration for Bar Kismet. Staff come first… they work a four-day week, with schedules provided a month in advance to allow them to plan and maintain work-life balance,” states the SRA’s report. “Training covers topics such as sustainability, gender equality, trans and LGBTQ rights and spirits tastings. Benefits include time off for education and mental health support.”
When it comes to place and time, locality and hyper-seasonality are naturally to the fore in Kismet’s sourcing policy, with the team challenging itself to introduce a new seasonal-specific drink to the menu at least every two weeks. The business is also forward-thinking it in its waste management practices, conscious of water and ice usage, and creative in its efforts to recycle and reduce emissions. The kitchen and bar teams work in harmony, actively seeking out imperfect or uncommon fruit and vegetables, while by-catch and lesser-known fish species are utilised in all the seafood dishes on the menu.
As the winner of the Ketel One Sustainable Bar title as part of the inaugural North America’s 50 Best Bars awards, Kismet is marked out as a trailblazer for the sector. More will follow its path, no doubt, but there’s nothing quite like this brilliant outpost in Nova Scotia.