“Why do you make so many odd drinks?”, I ask Robert ‘Buck’ Friend
“I don’t want to list a bunch of spirit forward brown drinks”, remarks Buck. He has cocktails that come in hollowed out grapefruit shells, ‘sunscreen lotion’ bottles and adorned with crispy chicken skin. “They’re already done in so many craft cocktail bars – why do what’s already been done.”
Any observer that has watched Buck work behind a bar has seen a familiar scene. The guests sit down at his eager invitation, a little lost with all the odd things sitting around the bar. Perhaps it’s one of the many jars of tinctures he has on the go. Perhaps it’s a punch bowl filled to the brim with rose hibiscus bubbles fed by an aquarium pump. They ask a lot of questions. They get excited about the visuals. Often, they wait until someone else orders a drink. That person raves so they take a chance. They taste that the odd drinks are actually balanced. Then they take pictures. Lots of pictures.
When asked to describe his style of bartending, Buck’s stock reply is “Mediocre at best“
Working in the richly asian-influenced coastal culture of Vancouver allows the Australian ex-pat opportunity to play with his odd drinks on menus meant to be paired with the nouveau asian cuisine of venues like Maenam and Bambudda. Buck was an athlete from a small town in the Australian Outback, called Gatton. The towns population of only about 7000 people is nestled a short distance between the cities of Brisbane to the east and Toowoomba on the west. When it became clear that injuries would force him to expand his horizons Buck looked east, or west. Hell, from this distance you could go either direction. Gatton is on the opposite side of earth from Vancouver.
“I wanted to bartend abroad so I did my research. I saw TOTC visiting Vancouver that year. Vancouver was the number one place I wanted to come and learn the craft” – Robert ‘Buck’ Friend
In his few short years in Canada Robert ‘Buck’ Friend has certainly made an impression. Though a bartender from an early age he accepted the role of bar-back in Vancouver. He found his groove at Revel Room with the noted London ex-pat Robert “H” Holl-Allen (Vancouver Magazine’s Bartender of the Year 2013) and justcocktails.org contributor Robyn Gray.
If you enjoy the fun aspect of craft cocktails and want an experience like no other make sure you find Buck the next time you are in Vancouver. He will make you an odd drink.
The Bubble Tea Cocktail
First you’ll have to create the Hibiscus foam – it is essentially a rose hibiscus simple syrup with xanthan gum added to give it the right body. And you’ll need an aquarium pump.
The base is a gin sour.
30 ml Beefeater London Dry Gin
20 ml Blue Curaçao
15 ml Homemade Green Tea Liqueur
2 dashes Dillons Rhubarb Bitters
30 ml fresh lemon juice
Combined in shaker. Hard shaken with ice and double strained into a chilled coupé. Topped with Hibiscus foam to garnish.
400 G Hibiscus Tea
400 G 1;1 Simple Syrup infused with rose pedals.
4 G Versawhip
2.2 G Xanthan Gum
Blend thoroughly. Strain. Run an aquarium pump into mixture in a large glass, or metal bowl.