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Lauren Mote mixes winning combinations for Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar

Best of the City 2015 winner
Lauren Mote
Lauren Mote wins Gold for Best Bartender, and for Best Bar Downtown with Uva.

What is it that makes for a stand-out watering hole? Is it just the quality of the hooch or the mastery of the person mixing and shaking ingredients behind the wood?

According to Lauren Mote, bar manager at Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar, and this year’s Bartender of the Year, it’s all about the total experience. And, that experience encompasses many parts. “Making drinks is complementary to the hospitality experience,” explains Mote. “People aren’t coming just because of a good cocktail. They’re coming to interact with our staff, the music, the atmosphere, the energy. We are curating escapism experiences for our guests.”

Mote describes herself as both an artist and an entertainer, two talents she’s worked to her advantage over the last 16 years spent in the hospitality industry. Those are also traits she is passing on to her team of apprentices. “It’s how I train, I don’t hire anyone with a lot of experience, I train apprentice bartenders. Of the six team members, five are apprentices. It takes a certain type of bar manager to nurture a team, give them confidence.”

Mote describes herself as the “Mother Goose” of the team, but don’t mistake her as a softie. “Ask any of my team, and they’ll say the same thing,” she laughs. “To work here, you have to be turbo, but you also have to be like a graceful swan in the chaos, giving incredible service.”

Mote describes her team as knowledgeable, intellectual and passionate. And she tests them on that knowledge. “There’s a 25-page bar manual, a 10-page bar exam, and timed cocktail trials. They have to have the speed and grace under pressure.”

The pressure is quite real, as Uva has become the belle of the ball since Mote’s arrival. Weekends (and some weeknights) see line-ups and packed rooms, and the happy hour program is never quiet. “We’re packed every day,” smiles Mote. “People have stopped looking at the website to see what’s new, they just come down, because there’s something new every day – new cocktails and programs, new bands [on the weekends], and new events.”What makes the room such a draw? “The cocktail program at Uva is one of the most unique programs in the city, if not in Canada. We’re lucky that we have a monster budget; we can pull exciting spirits from all over the world, we work with a lot of brands, and we’re forthcoming with brand sponsorships, so, for instance, Bacardi is a long-time sponsor of the Happy Hour program.”

But paramount to all is the guest experience. “It’s about letting the guest become part of cocktail culture, be part of that experience. There’s no sense in making things so complicated you can’t do them well. We aim to have a global approach to how we make cocktails, but it’s also very approachable, so if someone wants a Cosmopolitan, we’ll make the best Cosmopolitan they’ve ever had.”

If you think the pace is a bit frenetic, factor in the Mote is also the successful co-owner of Bittered Sling, a retail line of high-quality, small-batch bitters and extracts. “This is the only speed that I operate at,” laughs Mote. “I do it for the day-to-day fulfillment of the staff and the guests.”

What’s next for the mixology dynamo? “Well, we’re getting new bar stools,” laughs Mote. All joking aside, Mote list Uva as her primary focus in work and life. And, in addition to that? “We’re going to Mexico for Tales of the Cocktail and there will be some major announcements from Bittered Sling later this year.” 

• 900 Seymour St. | 604-632-9560 | UvaVancouver.com | BitteredSling.com

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