at Wayne Gretzky’s Distillery
Zachary Kvas does it the Die Hard way!
Hans Gruber: Who are you then?
John McClane: Just a fly in the ointment, Hans. A monkey in the wrench.
Ifelt like a kid on Christmas waiting for my drink from Zachary Kvas, mixologist extraordinaire, film buff and adoring husband. It is no secret that Kvas wears an assortment of hats. However, one thing I can say with absolute confidence is that above all else, he is truly an artist and a gallant role model for today’s aspiring creative professional.
Kvas’ incredible journey began with a love of film. With the goal of becoming an actor/director, Kvas’ journey lead him to film school and ultimately claiming his stake in the industry via a few pet projects he had taken on. The most notable, in my humble opinion, a documentary about Canada.
Ah yes, the documentary. A film that would have him travel across Canada in search of what makes it the great nation that it is. Aptly titled
Oot and Aboot, it’s needless to say how perfect it is that he now works at the Wayne Gretzky distillery in an outdoor patio and bar… that’s opened in the winter. A perfect crossroad of some of the greatest things Canada has to offer. Hockey, alcohol and the urge to experience the outdoors despite the bitter, soul-draining cold our famous winters have to offer. But where does bartending come into the mix?
From a young age Kvas was exposed to the intricacies involved in understanding alcohol. His mom, who worked for Peller passed down a host of knowledge about wines and even his sister was an influence. Kvas grew up with wine.
From there, the budding young connoisseur paid his dues working as a barista at Starbucks. Apparently a good barista almost always makes a good bartender. And, as luck would have it, I am not the only person who would come to recognize this parallel. One of Kvas’ repeat customers, Marty Werner, was not blind to his talent and provided him with an opportunity to learn the wine business in Australia.
So off Kvas went. But right before he left, he was faced with a game-changing moment. He met the love of his life, and the person he would eventually end up marrying. Of course neither of them knew this then, but it would lead him to stop by Scotland on his way back. This is where he fell in love with his wife - and with whiskey.
The rest is pretty much history. He scooped up a job at The Backhouse Restaurant and spent eight months learning mixology under the hands of Stephanie Albert. And then Wayne Gretzky’s - the moment his whole screenplay of a life was leading up to. A new horizon in the form of an outdoor bar that gave him creative control in a capacity he’d never experienced before. And there I was.
Elbows sullenly perched on the bar in front of me, chin cradled in my hands. He’d asked me what I’d like to drink and I had decided to gallantly place my fate into his hands.
“Dealer’s choice,” I said. He didn’t even hesitate. You could tell he’d spent some time honing his craft. I really don’t remember him even looking up to see what syrups or spirits he was grabbing. That bar was an extension of him.
Much like any other artist interacting with their tool of choice, I would imagine.
He places the drink in front of me. I inspect it carefully. Looks pretty normal. Some reddish brown concoction topped with ice and three locally hand-picked cherries. Actually, every ingredient in the drinks were made locally and were located within steps of where I was sitting. He doesn’t even ask me to try it. But in good spirit (pardon the pun) I take a sip. “That’s pretty good, quite smooth.”
“I know eh, pretty smooth for three kinds of whiskey.” He answers. I almost fell off my chair (though that might have been from the whiskey). I couldn’t believe it. But this was him. This was his art.
And after all this, I really only had one thing left to ask. Everyone wants to know what a film buff’s favourite movie is.
“Die hard my friend, of course.” ~