at Wayne Gret­zky’s Dis­tillery

Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine - - Contents - by Re­naldo Amato

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.” ~

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