At Olo, the cocktail list roots you in space and time
OLO restaurant has a reputation for championing local, sustainable and seasonal fare, and new bar manager Matt Cooke wanted a cocktail menu to match, focused on highlighting the region’s craft distillers. “We have a ton of local spirits here,” he enthuses. “They’re all made with local ingredients, so we want to pay homage to them and the people making them. We want clients to be able to say, ‘Oh, this is an Ampersand cocktail.’”
Because the restaurant is seasonally driven, the cocktail list naturally rotates based on what’s coming in from the farms. “It’s about following the produce, and allowing it to inspire you,” explains Cooke. “First it was rhubarb, which we used to make a coulis for a cocktail. When the raspberries came in we made a sorbet to add texture and freshness to a summer drink. Going into fall we’ll start experimenting with apples, pears, as well as beets and other fall vegetables.”
The approach brings about a natural sense of place — a blast of B.C. in a glass. Take OLO’s Foraged And Found cocktail, a dark and earthy concoction featuring Victoria-based Fermentorium Stump Coastal Forest Gin, where the walk-through-the-woods pine-forward spirit is enhanced by the addition of pickled fir tips.
And the inventive new products appearing from the distilleries — such as the limited release Pisco-style spirit, Visco, from Arbutus in Nanaimo — adds to the creative possibilities. “We created the Narrative Sour, with its root beer shrub, to showcase Okanagan Crush Pad’s grape-based grappa-like spirit, Narrative Spirit of the Vineyard.”
There’s something magical, he thinks, about using local spirits and ingredients. “You just have to find the key to releasing their unique qualities.”
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