Journey to Opening
The journey began in the late 1990’s. My partner Mark and I met a curious character Dr. Steve Thorning. He was Deputy Reeve of our little village Elora and I was heading up the local BIA, the down town business organization. We hit it off and he invited us over to Bachelor Hall, Steve was single at the time, for “the pleasure of a cocktail”. Mark and I were principally beer consumers and occasionally wine drinkers at the time, drinking habits developed at University. To say that Steve was anachronistic would be an understatement, retro was how he lived. He particularly loved the period between the two wars, the art deco period. So, on arrival he allowed me to pick a cocktail from his bible, an original 1946 copy of the Stork Club Bar book from New York City. I chose the Hocus Pocus which is made with two parts Gin one part Triple Sec and the juice of half a lime and a dash of Grenadine for dramatic colour. It tastes like a boozy sweet tart. I was hooked. Even now 20 years’ latter it is still my favorite cocktail.
The next big leap in our development came in 2006 when Mark and I were in Istanbul. We went to the Pera Palace for a cocktail. It is the grand hotel built for the passengers of the Orient Express and has had guests such as Agatha Christie, Greta Garbo, Mati Hari and Jackie Onassis. We did not have the means to stay in such an opulent place but we could afford the $24 per cocktail, although Mark grumbled. This was the beginning of our new hobby, having cocktails in historic landmark hotels. Since then we have had drinks in grand historic hotels across North America, Europe and North Africa. Places such as the Algonquin in New York, The Ritz in Madrid, The Savoy in London, The Al Gezia in Cairo and the Ritz Carleton in Montreal. From each we have collected recipes that have helped to round out our cocktail education.
Our love of cocktails gave us a refined taste for Gin. We have been enjoying offerings from craft distilleries from around the world for the last 12 years. This led to a learning curve on the Ontario Craft Distilling movement for Mark and me. Still in it early days the local industry is moving along an exciting and in many ways uncharted path. I decided I wanted to be part of this and Mark agreed. We have had years of experience drinking a high quality product and I think we can create flavours that excite a segment of the Ontario market. We put together a group of partners with a variety skills and talents that has been working to make this vision come true. We have been nick named The Group of Seven. They include friends from town Jeff and Carolyn Drimmie, friends of 30 years from Toronto Stephanie Whittick and Angelo Tauro and my Mom Brenda Van Vliet. Over the past 4 years our journey has included purchasing an amazing property downtown Elora and building and equipping our new Distillery from the ground up. The road was often frustrating and at times we all thought everything would fall apart but as a team we pulled it all together. We now have all our licensing in place and are ready to open to the public with some great tasting alcohol. I hope that our vision evolves over the next few years and you can taste the fruits of our endeavours.
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