- interview by Sara Gorelick
In this day and age, many people are thinking more eco-friendly and looking towards ways to preserve the planet. This goes for those behind the bar as well! Lauren Mote, GM and mixologist at the Refinery in Vancouver, is making sure to keep green at her establishment. "The concept of The Refinery is quite dear to my heart - we are part of a new wave of forward-thinking lifestyle gurus who take the 'local and sustainable' concept to an entirely new level - our business and practices are 'green' in every way," Lauren says. "To be at the helm of such an innovative concept, between recycled and reclaimed furniture and equipment, we have sustained organics and waste recycling program, and a huge focus on seasonal rotating product sourced from local farmers and purveyors in addition to making most food and beverage products ourselves on premises."
Lauren has been working with food and beverage since she was 14, and called herself an amateur cook, industry worker and bartender. The most important aspect for her was always the people, guests and coworkers alike. She began in mixology at 23, in her second year at the University of Toronto when she had the opportunity to start working at the bar at Le Select Bistro. She learned from some of the city's best sommeliers, and Lachan Dennis, who she calls "the uber passionate Bar Manager." "It was an infectious learning curve for me; I just couldn't get enough knowledge," she recalls. "I was applying all I had learned about food and food science on my own time, and wine and spirits tasting notes - this created a monster I didn't know existed!"
In 2007, Lauren moved to Vancouver and completed her Sommelier program and opened an online writing source, Poivre Media. She studied and produced bar and cocktail programs including Lumierie, Goldfish Pacific Kitchen, Chow Restaurants and brief stints at Hawksworth Catering. "It all seems so serendipitous," she says.
Lauren, ever the mixologist, produces innovative cocktails at The Refinery. She is proud of Imbibe Magazine's naming her bar a "Cocktail Kitchen." "Between the potions, bitters, strange and interesting products, deconstructed tasting notes, food science, superfood uses, homemade jams, jellies and extracts, it's suggested that I'm mixing a witch's brew, so I'd generally prefer to be called a 'mixologist,' one who mixes."
The type of cocktail that Lauren is most excited about are the ones that have complete deconstructed tasting notes and come with molecular twin cocktails on the side, what she calls a complete manipulation of different properties of the ingredients and spirits. To her, a perfect example is the Charred Bourbon Sour (deconstructed tasting note for a Maker's Mark American Oak Cask). "This is one where many components of the cocktail are created daily, like the Charred American Oak & Carmamelized Coconut Syrup, and the House Bitters, and the Side Loire, which is a deconstructed 'regional' tasting note for the Loire Valley, including Sancerre reduction, Cointreau manipulated in five ways, and pure wheat grass extract for health benefits," she explains. It may be a mouthful, but this lady sure does know what she's talking about!
Getting to the heart of it, Lauren is all about using locally grown products and fresh ingredients to make her drinks. She enjoys working with kumquats, black mission figs, sun dried okanagan apricots, prunes and tea these days. Behind the bar she simply couldn't do without fresh local product like vegetables, flowers, fruit because for her, "it makes the inspiration flow out of me like river rapids."
As a lover of lover of edible consumption, Lauren notes that food and beverage is basic, natural and the key to survival. "I just needed to find a way to make it work for me, and all the things that were important to me, health, premium product, technique, science, creativity, longevity, basically creating a niche where the demand doesn't exist yet," says the sustainable trend-setter. "Here's how my brain is driven to create: making an inquisitive guest a cocktail and explaining its conception, development and benefits means the world to me. Afterwards comes the sensory overload of complexity on the palate, their smile expands, the glass comes down and they say 'that's the weirdest and most interesting thing I've ever had...', now that means everything." You go girl!