Pourhouse | Vancouver
Had an inspiring talk recently with Jay Jones who is one of the top bartenders in Vancouver and one of the founding partners of the new public house/restaurant Pourhouse in Gastown.
What drew you to restaurants and in particular, to bartending?
I grew up in a home that embraced wine with food – learning the finer points of it all as early as I was big enough to sit at the dinner table. Some of my earliest memories in life are of making my Grandma Scotch & water, and sipping Grand Marnier with my Dad after dinner. Incredible stuff. After a few alternate career distractions, it was only natural that I slid into what I was raised on: A reverence and respect for the bottle.
What goes into creating a new cocktail? What inspires you?
My approached to cocktail creation has changed much over the years – ingredients change and your palate evolves, but one thing is always the most important: the inspiration comes from the person sitting at my Bar. A true Bartender creates a unique experience for each guest, tuning the style and emotion of the drink to suit those of the drinker. Anyone can write a cocktail menu for guest to choose from – but a Bartender that loves what they do and is good at it, thrives off of designing the drink that’s right for a certain individual at that moment in time – a combination of know-how, instinct and care.
What was your training like? And what’s next?
I’m very fortunate to have been involved with many great Bars and restaurants in my career – learning a little from every room and every individual I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the Bar with. Bartending is an apprenticed art, learnt by simply doing it and growing from experience. Having thorough product knowledge, studying cocktail history and perfecting your technique are essential, but an ambitious Bartender is perpetually learning from his peers and his patrons. Next, we open Pourhouse – and I put my money where my mouth is.
I understand you have done stints at some reputable name restaurants around Vancouver, tell our readers where you have worked in the past 10 years?
My serious career really took off 10 years ago in Whistler, when I had a great opportunity to be the Bar Manager at Araxi – my wine knowledge soared, and I was soon offered a role in opening West (originally Ouest) back in hometown Vancouver. I was given the Bar Manager & Wine Director role, and held that position for 5 years. By that time I was ready for a new challenge, and left West to assist in opening Nu Restaurant as Bar Director. The next year, I stepped into another opening opportunity as General Manager of Salt Tasting Room. Another year later I left to join Donnelly Hospitality Management and take on a corporate position as Bar & Beverage Manager – overseeing a variety of development throughout the company’s several pubs and nightclubs – involved in the launch of The Modern as well as Pop Opera, and working intimately with the cocktail program at Granville Room. Last year I moved to Loden Vancouver, to take the role of Head Bartender at Voya. Which brings me to this year – where my Pourhouse partners and I found our beloved location in Gastown, and try to create something special.
Who are your mentors?
My Dad is the guy that really made me love wine and liquor in the first place, and continues to teach me everything he knows – so I’ll always give him credit first and foremost. If there’s any one Bartender I strive to be more like, it’s Colin Peter Field – the legendary Head Bartender at The Hemmingway Bar in The Ritz Paris. Though seen as a master of his craft, he constantly and humbly strives to become better at creating unique and complete experiences for his guests. He is an iconic Bartender in every sense of the word.
What plans do you have for the bar at Pourhouse?
Fill it. All the time. I want to bring back day-drinking. North American society still sees booze as a taboo, and something that should be mostly consumed at night. Liquor is amazing and diverse and it should be shared with food, friends and without pretension. I want people at my Bar to have fun and fall in love with the bottle as I have.
Tell us about Pourhouse, what type of food and drink are you going to showcase?
Pourhouse is built from the Bar out – embracing my personal fervor for classic cocktails, and particularly brown spirits (Whiskey, Rum and Brandy). The wine list will be international and priced to encourage sharing and discovering. Beers will cover the range of tastes and styles – several selections representing the craftsmanship of BC and the Pacific Northwest. We are serious about coffee – with a custom local roast from JJBean, a handmade Synesso machine and several Baristas on staff. We are steeped in a century old character, which extends to the kitchen. Meals will be hearty and mouth-watering – with a sense of familiarity and done in a simpler, homemade style. Our Chef and Partner Chris Irving is fine-dining trained, (at West in Vancouver, and at Restaurant Petrus with Gordon Ramsay in London). Your belly will be full and happy.
What is your Favourite Drink?
Too many to pick just one. I usually make myself Sazeracs at home. I love discovering new favourites all the time. My personal drinking is pretty basic: Wine, Whiskey, Beer. Lots of Beer.
If you weren’t a bartender, what would you be doing?
Starting Goaltender for the Canucks (in my dreams).
By: Richard Wolak