This past weekend, Winnipeg saw an exciting new development on the cocktail scene: Albert Street Cocktail Co opened its doors.
Head bartender Mike Fox got his start working at pubs in Brandon. When he moved to Winnipeg five years ago, he got on at Peasant Cookery with a lot of bartending experience but, he confesses, almost no real cocktail expertise. Under the tutelage of Kaitlynd Landry, one of the mixologists credited with bringing craft cocktails to Winnipeg, Mike learned more about mixing and fell in love with cocktails. The creative environment that Peasant provided allowed Mike to experiment, eventually developing cocktails of his own for their menus.
Mike has also been a part of other exciting developments in Winnipeg's cocktail culture. He was a guest bartender at RAW:Almond's cocktail bar this past winter, where impeccably made beverages were paired with amuse bouches. And back in March, he packed the house at Mitchell Block with a specialty, one-night-only drink menu.
So when Richard Krahn approached him about starting up a cocktail bar, Mike had the opportunity to participate in another Winnipeg first: a bar with a dedicated focus on craft cocktails.
Richard, Mike and their partners have created an inviting yet sophisticated atmosphere, where patrons can meet and work over coffee in the daytime (they have wifi), and wind down with beautifully crafted beverages into the wee hours. The decor mixes old with new - original stamped-tin ceilings, furniture Richard helped make with his own hands, art from Zephyra Vun and James Culleton, painstakingly sourced antique crystal glassware, and modern light fixtures.
Mike and Richard hope to fill a gap they see in the neighbourhood. They want to offer the space to meet during the day, but also a relaxed environment to wind down after dinner or a show in the area. (They'll be open until 2am daily, whereas restaurants in the Exchange typically close by 11pm.) They're also the only place in the city where you can browse from a selection of bitters, and they plan on expanding their retail to sell barware as well. Finally, Mike emphasizes the driving motivation for opening the business was "because we had the opportunity to do everything exactly the way we wanted: squeezing all our juices fresh, fresh herbs, fresh everything; we're not skimping on anything. That's the ideal situation - quality ingredients, everything as fresh as possible."
And that dedication to quality certainly shows in the drinks. Of the nine cocktails on the menu, I had the opportunity to try six, and each one was full, flavourful and perfectly balanced. Mike developed the menu together with Peter Hill, who crafted the cocktail menu for Postale and moonlights with The Blind Pig Pop Up. The menu was designed with spring in mind, but also features some heavier cocktails. Mike's particular favourites are the Chef May I, a tequila-based cocktail shaken with an entire egg, and the Blue Bomber, an exciting, flame-poured variation on the Blue Blazer. If you're looking for something lighter and a bit fruitier, I'd recommend the Cadiz Sour or the Triumvirate.
In addition to the cocktails developed for the menu, Mike, Peter and their crew will happily mix your classic favourites like old fashioneds and negronis. The menu also features a great selection of wines and beers, and for what you get, the prices are more than fair. Mikes says their goal is "Excellent drinks, but still approachable." And based on my experiences there so far, I'd say they're nailing it.