Kelly Ann Woods has been voted and recognized as Vancouver’s BEST COCKTAIL MAKER for 2013 by you our readers. Here is my Interview with Kelly who is the Bar Manager at La Mezcaleria on Commercial Drive.
What do you love about being a Cocktail Maker (bartender)?
I grew up on a farm so i have always been a DIYer. I think bartending is similar. In order to be good at it, you’ve got to self-start and initiate cool things. I love the creativity!
I also really like serving appreciative people. A lot of work goes into crafting a good drink or selecting a line of liquor. Tons of love and elbow grease. When someone enjoys it and “gets” the experience, it is so rewarding. My YES moment. It makes the other really b—busting parts of the job like carrying heavy stuff, being covered in liquor and citrus, dry sore hands, aches and pains etc… all worth while.
How long have you been working at La Mezcaleria?
I have been here since the beginning. The boys hired me to run their bar program long before we opened the doors. The team here is like a family.
Why do you think people voted for you in the Vancouver Foodster Awards?
I think I am in a privileged position. Mezcal is the hot new spirit in the bar game so I have been given an opportunity to introduce it to our guests. Also, a Mexican driven cocktail list is fresh and alive. It almost transports you to somewhere warm. A welcome break from the rain. Above that, I think I am good at my job and make damn good drinks that people enjoy.
What’s the secret to a making a good cocktail?
The 3 bs. Balance, balance, balance. My background as a sommelier has taught me how to make good drinks. The acid, body, sweetness and other components need to come together like a fine wine.
What are you drinking now?
Now: after 2 weeks eating and drinking my way down the coast to San Francisco, nothing, I’m on a cleanse! But, when this is over I’ll go back to drinking classics and twists on classics: cognac manhattans, mezcal old fashioned, vespers, mary pick fords, Cappy Sorentino at Spoon bar in Hearldsburg made me a carbonated Corpse Reviver #2 that blew my mind. I love a good sour too. I wouldn’t say no to mezcal straight with good sangrita, orange slices and sal de gusano either!
What is your favorite dish to have with your favourite cocktail at your restaurant?
I would have to say combos:
- Tostadas de pato w mezcal last word.
- Queso fundido with gin Basil smash
- Tacos with a beer and mezcal
- Tortilla soup with mezcal sour
- Margaritas with everything.
So many good ones!!
What skill do you think people must have when working at a bar creating cocktails?
Creativity, knowledge, a good palate and a whole lotta love.
What was your training like and how long have you been in this industry?
I have been in the industry for 25 years. Since I was 12. It was always a sideline to my acting career and then morphed into a passion. I have worked in everything from diners to 5 star hotels, I spent 3 years shucking oysters on the such shine coast. I’ve sommelier’ed, bussed, managed, consulted, waited and poured drinks.
Nick (Cascade, el Camino etc….) was the one who taught me how to mix good Latin drinks.
What interests do you have outside of the bar business?
A lot. Most people are surprised at the amount of things I am into. Knitting, cooking, fermenting, running, boxing, teaching and taking yoga, meditating, hiking, travelling, gardening, acting, canning, cheese and charcuterie making and more…. in my spare time I am opening a distillery in Squamish.
Visit Kelly at the bar at La Mezcaleria, 1622 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
By: Richard Wolak