CPBA Bartender of the Month: Olivia Povarchook

CPBA Bartender of the Month: Olivia Povarchook
April 1, 2016 Amber Bruce

Twitter time – describe your job in under 140 characters:

Making drinks, making nice, and doing everything with as much precision and perfection I can muster, while trying to make it look effortless.

How did you get into bartending? What was the inspiration for your career route?

After a few years of working in pastry, I found that it wasn’t fulfilling in the way that I hoped it would be and was wandering aimlessly, looking for something that I felt passionate about. I started bussing and serving at Uva and quickly realized I wanted to be behind the bar. Bartending is a career in which I’m able to use my culinary training- experimenting with flavour profiles, textures, obscure ingredients and whatnot- and am actually able to connect with a customer and create an experience unique to them. At the end of the day, we work in hospitality and I want to know that’s someone’s time at my bar has been memorable.

Is it barrels, carbonation or cocktails on tap? What’s the latest trend you see in bartending?

I’m noticing more and more bar patrons wanting to know more about the spirits they’re drinking as opposed to seeking over the top trendy cocktails. The market for spirits is growing and people want to be able to make an educated choice about what they like to drink and why. I find myself getting more requests for very simple three or four ingredient cocktails, usually after a sampling of the spirit on its own accompanied by the run down and where it’s from, who makes it and how, and whatever anecdote I have up my sleeve about the spirit in question. It’s not just enough to make something balanced and delicious, you need to be able to show that you know your stuff as well.

What’s the best part of what you do? And what’s the most challenging part?

I can’t stress enough that our customers make our job what it is. I love knowing that I went into work and put the cherry on top of someone’s celebration, turned around a bad day at the office, or just added a little something extra to an outing for a nightcap on a random Tuesday.

I think the most challenging part of what I do is creating boundaries between work and personal time. When you’re not working, there’s always tastings to go to, competitions to enter, new bars to check out, and of course you want to drink every new thing that comes your way. When your work also becomes one of your main interests, it’s easy to burn out, for your health to become and issue, or for your liver to hate you. As with everything, balance is important, but takes commitment.

What is your favorite spirit to work with behind the bar?

I am a firm advocate for gin, although I am developing a soft spot for aquavit. It’s finding it’s way into more and more bars around the city, and it definitely deserves respect.

Do you have a definitive cocktail style?

I don’t think I have a definitive cocktail style. It’s important to always to be learning about new products and techniques, and that creates new perspectives. I try to always be experimenting and adapting.

What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever had working behind a bar?

One of my favourite services I’ve worked so far may have been the unofficial after party for Barate Kid 2015. I got a text when the event was wrapping up that just read “We’re coming. Get ready.” Within seconds, the room was packed wall to wall with drunk bartenders all ordering various classic cocktails, all at the same time. I had a complete white out on my well, but somehow kept pumping out drinks at a relatively steady pace and got to host a crowd of bartenders whom I’ve worked with and/or admired. By the time the dust had settled, everyone left happy, and every bottle on my well was empty. That service really made me think that maybe I’m not so bad at what I do.

What’s the next step for you when it comes to tending bar?

There’s not really a set plan, I’m just trying to keep learning and keep improving.

What’s your go to drink to drink?

My favourite cocktail is an aviation. When it’s made well, there’s nothing like it. When the bar I’m sitting at has creme de violette, I am a happy camper.

What’s your go to drink to mix?

It all depends on the day. One day I might be really jazzed about a new bourbon I just tried and I really want to make something dark and boozy with it. Or maybe I’ve hit my caffeine limit, and I want to shake sour after sour. You never know.

Fernet, Mezcal or Chartreuse?

I think I’d have to say mezcal- that’s a dignified journey down the rabbit hole.


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