BEHIND BARS: Creating concoctions on a little corner of Victoria’s downtown

Cocktail whiz Ryan Broekhuizen and the bar team at tiny Clarke & Co. great multi-taskers

The space at the northwest corner of Blanshard and Broughton streets has gone through a few iterations in recent years.

But Clarke & Co., a cozy little bar where you instantly feel at home upon being greeted by the staff, is building a following with great service, a modest-sized but interesting food and beverage menu and well-versed bartenders, like bar lead Ryan Broekhuizen, on the job here nine months after managing other local bars.

On this night, Ryan makes Monday publisher Ruby Della Siega and myself a pair of cocktails, one a Maple Butter Smoked Old-Fashioned, that features, among other ingredients, a syrup made using Dark Matter beer from Hoyne. He starts by torching a chunk of wood on the bar to the smoking point, then sitting the glass over it. A simple, but cool step that makes this beverage unique.

The finished product is smooth and goes down easy. Ryan tells us this cocktail was one of the first on the Clark & Co. menu and it remains today, with minor variations.

The other drink, a Balkan Market, is a sour not on the menu (Ryan keeps a book behind the bar for writing ingredients in). With Chilean pisco and Slivovitz plum brandy among ingredients, this two-parts-citrus/one-part-sweetness drink has a frothy finish that yields a yummy pre-show cocktail, says Ruby, who soon dashes off to the opera across the street at the Royal Theatre.

So here’s more from Ryan:

Your claim to fame/best up-the-sleeve trick or technique?

I would say I’m best known for my egg white cocktails/sours. Anything from a classic Pisco or Bourbon Sour to the more obscure cocktails like my Negroni Fizz.

What’s hot right now?

I am seeing more and more low ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails. With our guest becoming more educated, they are starting to know what Amaros and good apperitifs are. Cocktails with Montenegro, Aperol, Campari etc.

What traits make a good bartender?

From my experience, I would say multi-tasking and being able to work a full room. Some bartenders get lost in the process and forget about the big picture and their guest.

What’s your signature drink?

I’ve had a cocktail called the Modern Royale on every cocktail menu I’ve put together, with a few variations here and there. Most recent iteration is Dry London Gin, St. German Elderflower, Crème de Violette, Citrus, Lavender and Egg White.

What are you drinking these days?

Ask any one and they would say I only drink Negronis … I do like a good bourbon neat from time to time though.

Best memory from behind the bar?

I would say my first shift behind a bar. I was serving at a local restaurant when our bar manager walked out in a busy Friday. Our manager had asked the team if anyone knew how to pour a drink. I previously had some banquet bartending experience, so I raised my hand. Not knowing any of the recipes, I had to make everything off the cuff or improvise a new cocktail. From that point on I was hooked and it was really the start of my career. Who wouldn’t love such a creative job?

——-

Clarke & Co.

1002 Blanshard St. 250-677-5909

facebook.com/victoriacocktails

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