When you are the leader of the pack, the harbinger of a social trend, there’s always someone nipping your heels, eyes locked on the prominent target on your back. Oh yes, many try to match the success of the guy who does “it” first, but, funny thing life, sometimes initiators just prove to get better with time.
So it is with Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, the first licensed on-premises brewpub in Canada. Imagine that, given the environment of today’s ever-growing craft beer market, it was publican Paul Hatfield who started it all. That first pour of his now famous beers was in 1984.
Fast-forward to 2022, Spinnakers is located in the same spot just over the Blue Bridge near the Victoria/Esquimalt border; it offers a lovely view of the Inner Harbour and is within a handy walking distance to the many condos in the area.
And the operation is certainly not stuck in the 80s; today it features its own “oceanside distillery,” producing craft ciders, sodas, sparkling mineral waters and these gems: Botanical Beach Gin, Navy Strength Gin, Breakwater Vodka, Chocolate and Cranberry Gin and Creme De Cacao.
Onto the samplings: bartender Cole Hutchings has an enthusiasm to conjure up some magic with those house brands. For the ever-ready Monday Magazine tasting team, the first delight was the Lavender Gin Sour. Made from Spinnaker’s Botanical Beach Gin, vanilla syrup, lemon and lavender, it all came together very nicely, creating a refreshing and unique drink.
Next up was the Chocolate Orange Martini—and to keep the martini types coming back—you’d best get it right! Cole does in his blend of house-made chocolate gin and the Creme de Cacao, plus Grand Marnier and bitters. Sweet and a little sexy, it’s great choice as an after-dinner dessert drink.
To top it off, Spinnakers boasts its own artisan well. Of course it does. And the food menu is another story, but rest assured even the bread has a fine following and is available like most house-made products at the Provisions Store, found at the pub’s entrance. Admittedly, one member of the test team reported the cold mineral water right from the artisan well was a favourite. Then there are the doggie treats….
There’s so much awaiting you at Spinnaker’s, but let’s let Cole tell the story:
Your claim to fame/best up-the-sleeve trick or technique? Being a clumsy bartender, when building cocktails, I always start with the cheap ingredients like the juices or sugar before the much more expensive alcohol. That way when I inevitably knock the shaker over, I’ve only wasted the cheap stuff!
What’s hot right now? Local spirits are obviously super popular right now, with so many new (and existing) distilleries popping up all over the island, we have so many different spirits to explore in our own backyard. People have been moving more and more to shopping and supporting local companies, especially during the pandemic, so it’s exciting that people are now discovering all the wonderful spirits Vancouver Island has to offer.
What traits make a good bartender?
I think being an effective communicator is an important trait for bartenders. Whether you are relaying information to staff or describing a drink to a customer, you have to be concise, clear and expressive with your language! Also, patience and the ability to stand for long periods of time are great traits for a bartender!
What’s your signature drink? I wouldn’t say I really have a signature drink, but I love a good sour. There are so many different ways you can make a sour, so it’s fun to play with different ingredients, balancing sweet and sour flavours!
What are you drinking these days? I’ve been drinking a lot of whiskey, especially bourbon, lately!
Best memory from behind the bar? Just before Christmas we had a staff event where all our staff got to try our new cocktail menu, all featuring our Spinnakers spirits. It was awesome to see everyone who’s apart of the process experience the finished product!