Liquid chef Gerry Jobe of RauDZ Regional Table is putting the Okanagan on the map as far as the creative cocktail scene is concerned.
He’s just beat out all the Vancouver and Victoria bartenders at the grueling Bittered Sling Bistro bartending competition with an imaginative cocktail experience that has a fascinating tale to it.
Last year, he won the regional (Western North American) category at the St. Germain Can Can International competition, and in 2010, he won passage into a world competition in Jamaica after winning the Appleton Estate bartender challenge in Toronto.
All of which brings attention to Kelowna and the Okanagan, and to the local producers of wine, spirits, beers, fruit, herbs and other products he uses in his concoctions.
“I carry our local suppliers on my back when I go to other communities to compete,” he says. “It’s a celebration of local winemakers, distillers, orchardists, herb growers and farmers.”
He’s a strong believer, just as chef Rod Butters of RauDZ is, in featuring local ingredients as much as possible in his creations.
And, he competes because he says, “I want to get the Okanagan on the map as far as the cocktail scene is concerned.”
The Bittered Sling Bistro competition at the Keefer Bar in Vancouver is in its second year, and it’s the second year that Jobe has brought home the top prize.
To even get into the final round, he had to create 108 different cocktails to match each course in three-course dinners on which guests vote for their favourites. Of the 12 competitors, five were selected for the finals.
It was a six-month process that Jobe compares to the Iron Chef cooking competition.
The winning cocktail, which had to use Bittered Sling Extracts, whiskey and think 1920s Chicago, was formed around his favourite Chicago thing, the 1986 cult film Ferris Buellers Day Off.
He even used aromatic tobacco smoke to help give a hint of that flavour to the drink to represent the Chicago fire; created a vermouth with Laughing Stock’s Portfolio wine and Seville oranges and used a house-made chocolate liqueur; then served it on a torched cedar plank with a Cracker Jack prize package alongside, to represent Wrigley Field. It’s called Leisure Rules.
Jobe says while you won’t find that one on the menu at RauDZ, there is a story behind every cocktail created there, because he believes each should be an experience for the customer, not just a drink—each should evoke memories for the consumer.
Cocktails are back, and in line with the resurgence in interest in them, Jobe says they’re taking it a step further, with locally-inspired experiences in a glass.
“I’m not interested in doing gimmicks, or doing what someone else has done before,” he says.
Although his Dad was a bartender when he was a youngster in Salmon Arm, he moved away from it for many years, including serving for many years in restaurants, but at 19 he got behind the bar again and spent 15 years on Granville Street banging out fruitie drinks and then long-stemmed mixtures during the martini craze.
He’s moved on from that, and says this is the place to be for the innovative bartender, surrounded by local distilleries, wineries, breweries, orchards and farms with all sorts of inspiring products.