If you have not visited Clive’s Classic Lounge, you’re in for a real treat. Recently rated #20 for Canada’s Best Bars, this cozy lounge in downtown Victoria boasts a showstopping cocktail menu, drawing inspiration from around the globe and our island. Try the “I Live in Cook St Village” that features the newly released Driftwood Contact Gin. If you like something a little smokey, the “Weekend at Sombrio” pairs Sheringham’s Seaside Gin with smoke in a bottle, so when you pour the drink into the glass you’re bathed with the aroma of campfire. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the firewood crackle.
Any given night is made better with one of their crafted cocktails in hand, but the real show comes with Clive’s Supper Club. Elite guest bartenders are brought in from across Canada to showcase their craft complemented by Clive’s Chef Josh Chilton’s tasting menu.
Bar Manager Shawn Soole’s concept is bringing a focus to this unique partnership; “I think that wine dinners are always super popular but I have never seen a series of dinners that focuses on a chef/cocktail bartender partnership and that’s where it sort of shaped from. I think it’s a little harder to do a cocktail paired dinner due to the nature of the higher alcohol pairing with food alcohol can kill flavours so it’s a challenge and fun to be able to work with Chef Josh Chilton and create these experiences.”
May’s Supper Club and Residence brought Kevin Demers of Montreal-based El Pequeno Bar, which later that month ranked #29 of the World’s 50 Best Bars. The menu drew inspiration from the bar’s Havana Club-based cocktails and Cubano Sandwich, the best… and only thing on their menu! June’s Supper Club and Residency brought James Grant, currently Canada’s Best Bartender, all the way from Edmonton’s Little HK. Cocktails from World Class competitions as well as favourites from the restaurant were paired with Chef Josh’s incredible food like tuna poke and roast duck leg.
Cocktail by @oldgreyrabbit : Night Smoke – Jonnie Walker Black Label, Oloroso Sherry, Benedictine, salted candy cap mushroom-infused maple syrup, Angostura Bitters, Regan’s Orange Bitters
Dish by @joshchilt : Roast duck leg, gai lan, darg soy garlic sauce
As well as collaborating for the Supper Club, each guest bartender stays for a Residency at Clive’s making these events accessible for a wider audience to enjoy, furthering Shawn’s vision; “It’s about community and education. I think Clive’s has always been the hub of cocktail culture in Victoria and this new evolution is leading to allowing us to open people’s minds to what is possible for cocktails in Victoria. If the guest is being educated and gaining knowledge from these events, then it builds the whole culture.”
Coming up on August 17 is the Supper Club and Doctor’s Office Keith Waldbauer, Seattle. Later on August 24, I is for Irish: Diving into the world of whisky. Irish blend, single grains, single malts, and pot stilled.
With so many incredible bartenders and cocktail bars in Victoria, the opportunity brought by these events is far reaching. Industry-only educational boot camps led by the visiting bartenders will expand the local impact in ways we’ll see for some time. We asked Shawn how these guest bartenders are impacting Victoria’s cocktail scene; “This is a multifaceted answer, a lot of Canada doesn’t even know or understand how amazing our scene is here in Victoria. I think per capita we have a better scene than most cities, so it allows our younger bartenders to be exposed to national and international personalities when they come here. The guest gets to have that unique experience in the Clive’s space and then that guest bartender goes back to their market and showcases Clive’s and Victoria. It’s a win-win triangle I suppose.”
If you are inspired to partake in one of these events, it’s an excellent opportunity to sample cocktails from some of Canada’s best bartenders along with perfectly paired food. The Supper Club tickets sell out quickly! Follow Clive’s on social media or join their mailing list for a bi-weekly event update.
Written by Amy Ayer