Pacific Lounge bartenders Cory Burden, left, and Patrick Woo at their post in the Hotel Grand Pacific’s Pacific Restaurant. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

BEHIND BARS: Culinary arts meets cocktails

Hotel Grand Pacific bartenders enjoy creatively combining elements into a winning flavour

(Editor’s note: Monday Mag stopped in at the Hotel Grand Pacific’s Pacific Lounge before the closures brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak. The lounge is currently closed, but we encourage you to read a little about its senior staffers.)

In a quiet, but cozy corner of the Pacific Restaurant in the Hotel Grand Pacific, longtime bartenders Patrick Woo and Cory Burden are contemplating what to serve a writer who has come to hear their stories.

These beverage partners have each been honing their craft at the Pacific Lounge roughly 10 years and bring differing approaches to the trade.

Cory is a craft beer aficionado who also happens to enjoy the creative side of cocktail development and service. Patrick is an enthusiastic whisky fan – the Hotel Grand Pacific is home to the uber-popular Victoria Whisky Festival – and relishes using the wide variety of that spirit in the cocktails he creates.

The senior bar staffer of the two by a matter of months, Patrick started right here in the hotel, working room service. “I always knew I wanted to end up here,” he says.

Cory spent three years at culinary school and worked in the restaurant industry before coming to the Pacific Lounge. He jokingly refers to bartending as the “booze kitchen,” in reference to the creativity bartenders can exhibit in their work.

Showing that the pair’s food service background is never far away, they enjoy experimenting with different flavours and natural ingredients. A “secret spice cabinet” in one corner of the bar contains a variety of elements that make their way into future cocktails.

Cory proudly gives me a taste of their house-made caramelized honey, a yummy ingredient in Shanghai Nights, one of nine original creations on their Contemporary Cocktails menu. I secretly imagine having a jar of the stuff in my kitchen at home to put in my coffee.

After some discussion about the menu, I select the High Tea, a mixture of Earl Grey tea-infused gin, Lillet blanc aromatic wine, housemade ginger syrup and lemon. It’s a light, breezy cocktail that goes down easy. The gin and Lillet complement each other nicely, leaving the bergamot flavour subtle, while the ginger syrup provides a delightful snappy finish.

The cocktail menu here changes every few months, based on the season. Heavier combinations and spirits tend to be featured more in winter, while lighter, fruitier drinks come on stream in spring and summer. There are also the occasional requests for cocktails that were on previous years’ menus, Cory says. They must have good memories to remember the ingredients, I ask. “If it was a popular one, we’ve likely made it hundreds of times,” he says with a grin.

Being connected to a busy hotel in the heart of Victoria’s tourist district tends to bring a lot of visitors their way, from first-timers looking for something local, to others seeking something familiar.

“U.S. visitors like vodka more than Canadians,” Patrick says, despite vodka’s very Canadian traditions. Many customers request local products, he adds, so they do their best to stock a variety of local and Island spirits and beers.

Taking the lead as the senior man behind the bar, Patrick graciously provided us with more of his own thoughts about the craft and his experiences:

Your claim to fame/best up-the-sleeve trick or technique? Keeping cool, calm, and collective.

What’s hot right now? Non-alcoholic cocktails, local spirits

What traits make a good bartender? Strong customer service, efficiency and cleanliness. Nobody wants a dirty bartender!

What’s your signature drink? Anything whiskey based

What are you drinking these days? Local craft beers and Soju

Best memory from behind the bar? The hotel hosts the annual Victoria Whiskey Festival in January. Many fond memories from those weekends. Especially one, where a guest demanded to drink Bailey’s from his shoe!

*****

Pacific Lounge in the Pacific Restaurant

Hotel Grand Pacific

463 Belleville St. 250-386-0450

hotelgrandpacific.com

*****

READ ALSO in Behind Bars:

Setting the Stage, à la française

Variety the name of the game at The Churchill

Creating a cocktail culture in Oak Bay



editor@mondaymag.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Food and Drinkrestaurant

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BEHIND BARS: Relaxed and refreshed at The Palms

Sneak peek at Victoria’s freshest new bar

Ocie Elliott: Facing the Music

Victoria duo describes effects of COVID crisis

YOUR AUGUST HOROSCOPE: It’s Leo Season!

Georgia Nicols giving us insight on what lies ahead this summer

30 years later, Sue Medley’s hit ‘Dangerous Times’ more relevant than ever

Vancouver Island singer/songwriter reflects on her ’90s national hit

Psychological thriller filmed on northern Vancouver Island debuts on AppleTV

‘Woodland’ is set in Haida Gwaii, but was filmed around Port McNeill

Nanaimo Fringe Festival productions adapt to new online format

10th annual festival to be live-streamed due to COVID-19

Island pub wants people to ‘drop five’ to keep music alive

Royston’s Charlie Aiken thinks his plan can help artists and venues alike

First Arts Alive sculptures of 2020 now installed

Oak Bay’s annual public art exhibition starts anew

Nanaimo fantasy writer co-authoring Old Norse phrase book

Joshua Gillingham partnering with author and professor on ‘Old Norse for Modern Times’

Cowichan’s 39 Days of July deemed a success, despite COVID-19

Musical productions live streamed from the Duncan Showroom this year

Gabriola’s Isle of the Arts Festival goes ‘mini’ on 10th anniversary

Gabriola Arts Council presents scaled-down, workshop-only IOTA Mini festival

Sooke Fine Arts Show reaches new audiences with virtual showcase

Voting for People’s Choice Award open until Aug. 3

Most Read