When you’re picking the brain of an accomplished mixologist like Lauren Mote, it’s difficult not to delve into the topic of preferred watering holes. After all, few people know where to find a knockout cocktail better than the makers of said cocktails themselves.
“Definitely sit at the bar at L’Abattoir with Thor and Katie,” Mote says in a phone interview, referring to the Gastown restaurant’s newly minted bar manager, Thor Paulson, and lead bartender Katie Ingram. “It’s a great space, and their food is outstanding.”
Mote rattles off other favourites: she loves visiting Grant Sceney at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, David Wolowidnyk at CinCin Restaurant and Bar, and Amber Bruce at the Keefer Bar. Oh, and she absolutely adores Arthur Wynne at the Mackenzie Room. Not a single cocktail is mentioned.
This is but one part of what Mote does best. Bar manager at Uva Wine and Cocktail Bar, co-owner of local artisanal bitters company Bittered Sling, and Diageo World Class Canada’s 2015 bartender of the year, the veteran mixologist finds value beyond the glass in the relationships she’s developed with thirsty imbibers and industry peers alike.
In fact, that’s what drove her to pursue a career in bartending in the first place. “I’ve always been very passionate about food and beverage, but at the time that I was interested in cooking, I couldn’t really see an opportunity to engage with consumers and guests,” Mote recalls.
Unsurprisingly, Mote committed herself to the beverage route in 2007, after making the move from her native Toronto to Vancouver. She quickly landed a position as bar manager at the wildly popular Lumière, where she established an award-winning cocktail program alongside culinary visionaries Rob Feenie and Dale MacKay.
While she started her career in Toronto, Mote was inspired by the opportunities available in Vancouver’s younger industry, and it wasn’t long before she found herself engrossed in research in an effort to increase her knowledge behind the bar.
“I saw an urban centre which has no gear other than fifth gear,” she says of the city. “So, I just worked around the clock, looking for more training, certifications, and experience.”
By 2011, she had crafted cocktail programs for three more Vancouver hot spots, each more imaginative than the last. Most notably, her use of locally sourced ingredients and house-made modifiers at the Refinery—think worldwide spirits combined with peach bitters, habanero-infused Lillet, or hibiscus vermouth—helped illuminate innovative trends in mixology that continue to be reflected in the city’s alcoholic offerings.
“It was very special, considering where the landscape was for cocktail culture in Canada at the time,” she notes.
This month, Mote will further cement her position in Vancouver’s food and beverage scene when she conducts a series of five Cocktail Masterclasses at Uva Wine and Cocktail Bar, as part of the Dine Out Vancouver Festival (which runs January 15 to 31).
Each three-hour session will include a workshop led by the experienced bartender on a particular topic—cognac, agave and maguey, grapes, bitters, or single malts—plus guided tastings and a selection of small, spirits-inspired dishes from Cibo Trattoria’s executive chef, Faizal Kassam.
The seminars will begin with a casual cocktail reception, where you just might hear about a few more must-visit spots from Mote herself—though there seems to be a clear trend among her most frequented haunts.
“I’m drawn to people that are great hospitality ambassadors,” she says, “people that just have a sheer love and passion for the industry and what they’re doing.”