Brant Porter, bar manager at Veneto Kitchen and Bar, oversees the cocktail creation at this busy downtown spot. Shown is his signature drink, the Hotel Rialto. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

Behind Bars: Steppin’ out at Veneto

Brant Porter orchestrates the cocktail menu at popular Victoria beverage stop

Stepping into the recently revamped Veneto Kitchen and Bar in the Hotel Rialto, which itself was the result of a massive conversion at Douglas and Pandora more than a dozen years ago, Monday publisher Ruby Della Siega and myself are immediately struck by the liveliness of the bar.

Then again, it is happy hour and it’s Thursday, when people looking to get a jump on the weekend tend to step out for a drink.

As we settle into our seats at the bar, Veneto bar manager Brant Porter, who orchestrates their legendary cocktail program, greets us and gives us the lowdown on the latest creations they’ve developed in the “lab” in the building’s basement.

I briefly conjure a picture of people in white lab coats tossing liquids between test tubes, but this pre-release testing is an important piece of the cocktail puzzle for bars and bartenders.

Looking down Veneto’s cocktail list was a treat. It’s not overwhelmingly long, but has enough variety and interesting flavour combinations to pique our interest.

Ruby selects the Cosmopolite, anchored by lemongrass-ginger vodka and enhanced by the fruit flavours of cranberry-chai cordial, sour orange, sumac and black lime. It goes down easy and quenches the thirst well.

I chose Brant’s signature cocktail, the aptly named Hotel Rialto. Based with the lime-tinged flavour of Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, it blossoms beyond the usual gin cocktail with the refreshing use of almond, lemon and orange flower, and is topped with a large sprig of fresh mint. The clincher for me was the cucumber water ice cubes that enhanced the taste as they melted.

Using many local ingredients, including locally distilled gins, the crew at Veneto provide a truly Victorian experience.

Brant, who worked in his family’s Thai restaurant for years and has been working in bars virtually since his 19th birthday, made us feel at home in this busy downtown spot.

So without further ado, let’s hear more from him:

Claim to fame/best up-the-sleeve trick?

Showing up and working really hard.

What’s hot right now?

Coffee.

What traits make a good bartender?

I think great bartenders have a massively diverse set of personality traits, and that’s what makes each one great. I can assume though that most of them share a large capacity for empathy.

What’s your signature drink?

That’s a tricky one! The Hotel Rialto (described previously here), or anything with gin and tea..

What are you drinking these days?

Modelo and Martinis.

Your best memory from behind the bar?

I have a terrible memory (laughs). Working with friends, making people happy, just the day to day stuff is the best!

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Veneto Kitchen and Bar

1450 Douglas Street | 250-383-7310

venetodining.com

*****

If you’d like to see your bartenders featured in this space, email Don Descoteau at editor@mondaymag.com

*****

ALSO READ: Behind Bars: Tales of the Cocktail unveiled

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