Simon Speaks on Sortilège Cup and Mixology

Gastown has a dense concentration of watering holes so unsurprisingly, it also boasts of some of the finest cocktail establishments in the city.

The Martinez Cocktail

The Martinez Cocktail at Boneta's Bar.

In a neighbourhood founded on alcohol, the question isn’t “where can we go for a good drink?” It’s  “how many  places can we hit up tonight?”

One local favourite  for late night bites and smooth cocktails is Boneta Restaurant.

The bar manager, Simon Kaulback, makes a mean, tailored cocktail and his skills were recognized at the 2009 Sortilège Cup Mixology Competition last month.  He was crowned with first place alongside Danielle Tatarin of the women’s competition.

I had a chance to chat with him while sipping on a drink he fixed to warm me up.

What am I drinking?
This cocktail is called the “Martinez”. Rumor has it, it was invented by the rockstar bartender Jerry Thomas for gentlemen traveling to California for the gold rush.  This drink then inspired the Gin Martini.

mmm…!  So how was the competition experience for you?
Bartending competitions are becoming increasingly popular and it’s nice to be involved in one that was run very professionally. It’s always nice to take home a “W”.

What makes your cocktail a winner?
That’s a tough question.  I tend to stick to my guns. I like working with variations on classic cocktails and in a mainly spirits-heavy form. I generally don’t use exotic mixes and I create my own syrups and bitters.

I used premium spirits with as little ingredients as possible and allow the flavours to speak for themselves.

Tell me more about your winning recipe.
My cocktail only involved 5 ingredients, all of which were spirits, and a lot of trial and error.
The competition was for a spirit called Sortilège, a Canadian whiskey and maple syrup based liqueur made outside Montréal.  I named my cocktail Centre Ville and it featured my housemade star anise bitters.

Simon Kaulback, 2009 Sortilège Cup Winner of Gentlemen's Competition.

Simon Kaulback, 2009 Sortilège Cup Winner of Gentlemen's Competition.

What is your signature bartending style?
I love to work in the realms of flavour forward spirits like gin, rum, and whiskey.
It’s booze forward and keep it simple, stupid.

What inspires your creations?
Like an artist or the chef, we take inspiration from the world and others.  Look at classic cocktails; they’re timeless.  Every bartender takes that classic and interprets it their way.
I tend to work closely with my kitchen staff, especially my pastry chef.  We are in very similar worlds that involve lots of fine-tuning and measurement.

How accommodating are you to customer’s requests?
Within reason.  The trade is becoming well respected again.  If a customer comes into and treats the establishment with respect, I’ll do the same.
Customers shouldn’t demand something I don’t carry or something I won’t make.  If someone comes in with an open mind, you’re in good hands.

So what won’t you make?
There are some drinks I can’t make. I don’t have a blender and I don’t carry flavoured vodka or artificial spirits.  Don’t walk to my bar and demand a Malibu and Pineapple.

On your day off, where do you go for a drink?
I’m a beer and a shot of Bourbon kind of guy.  I also just leave myself in the hands of a capable, skilled bartender.  I’m willing to try anything. Wow me.
In Vancouver, I’ll sit at the bar at George in Yaletown to see my friend Shaun. In Seattle, you’ll find me at Maury Stenson’s bar, Zig Zag Café (Pike Street Hill Climb).  My favourite bar in the world is Montgomery Place in London, England.

You can find Simon at Boneta Restaurant
1 West Cordova, Gastown Vancouver.


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