Balancing Act

Simon Ogden encourages his customers to put their drinks in his hands

Bartender Simon Ogden. Supplied photo.

Balance. Whether it’s blending the elements of the perfect cocktail or juggling work and play, balance is key.

It’s a philosophy bartender Simon Ogden takes to heart, both behind the bar and in life.

Ogden left the bright lights of Vancouver behind five years ago for Victoria’s Veneto Tapa Lounge at the Hotel Rialto. There he discovered not only a friendlier, more relaxed pace of life, but the creative freedom to design his own signature cocktail program.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” he says.

At Veneto, Victoria’s premier cocktail bar, Ogden strives to put the perfect drink in front of his guests every night, inviting them to “spin the wheel” and allow him and his team to create original cocktails based around the guest’s preferred flavour profile.

“When I came up with the idea, I had no idea how it would take off,” he says. “Eighty per cent of the drinks off my bar now are made that way.”

The concept not only allows guests to try something they’ve never had before, but it encourages Ogden and his staff to get creative with the drinks they concoct.

“It helps the bartenders from getting bored, and there’s some real flashes of brilliance,” says Ogden. “If I had to make the same 10 drinks over and over again, I’d go insane.”

When it comes to making the perfect cocktail, balance takes on many forms. There’s the balance between the flavours of sweet, tart and bitter, between temperature and water dilution, and between spirits and mix.

While Ogden relishes the opportunity to create new and innovative cocktails every night, he’s cognizant of the fact that the classics will likely never be improved upon.

“They’re classic for a reason,” he says. “For example, I don’t think we’ll ever top the Manhattan. All the flavours are present and accounted for, all of them perfectly balanced.”

Veneto Tapa Lounge, Hotel Rialto
1450 Douglas Street, 250-383-7310,

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