Locovore libations

Island-to-glass cocktails rule the bar at Olo

The concept of “farm-to-table” isn’t new for B.C. restaurants. What’s served from behind the wood is now also joining the sustainable locavore movement for a more complete offering. Brad Holmes, owner and executive chef at Olo in Victoria, has long been a vocal proponent of this movement, and his cocktail program reflects that. “Our whole restaurant is seasonal; the menu changes with what’s available on any given day and season. I always wanted to bring that to the bar. And now, with all of the great gins and vermouths and other local products, we can offer something that was grown in B.C., produced in B.C. and served in B.C.”

That concept, Holmes states, minimizes by-product and waste, helps to match the flavour profile of the food, and encourages ingredient-sharing between the “liquid” and “solid” kitchens. “The local gin we serve is made with herbs that I use in the kitchen,” he enthuses. “When we make a rhubarb shrub for use in cocktails, I can also use it in a vinaigrette.”

As the seasons change, so, too, will the menu. “In winter, you don’t have a lot of fresh produce, so you’re relying on your preserves; like the fruit you canned during the peak of the season. Then the forests start waking up, and then finally the farms are ready. “We make everything we’re allowed to make ourselves,” laughs Holmes. “So, no cultured cheese, but pretty much everything else.”

The restaurant is also big on offering options for those with sensitivities. “We use the grape-based gin from deVine Spirits, for those who can’t do grains. We want to make sure there’s balance in our offerings and also in the flavour profile, so that we have something for every taste.”

With the restaurant opening for brunch and lunch starting in May, the cocktail program will also expand. “We’re making a Caesar from our own canned tomatoes, with herbs from Sooke, sea salt from Cow Bay, and vodka from a local Island distillery such as Ampersand or Arbutus,” explains Holmes. “Our house Martini is made from all-B.C. ingredients. We use maraschino from Okanagan Spirits, Odd Society’s Bittersweet Vermouth, Phillips Fermentorium’s Hop Drop Tincture and Stump Coastal Forest gin, which is made 100 metres from the restaurant, plus our own housemade pickled fir tip.”

Island to table never tasted this good.

Olo Restaurant,
509 Fisgard St., Victoria,

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