A Q&A with TL Insider’s new bartender-in-residence, Evelyn Chick
Evelyn Chick is a veteran of the bar and beverage industry in Toronto. She’s currently the regional beverage director for Donnelly Group, proprietor of Evelyn Chick Projects and she’s now TL Insider’s official bartender-in-residence. We caught up with the globally acclaimed mixologist to discuss her new business venture, how she’s navigating the industry during a pandemic, and how virtual cocktail classes work.
What inspired you to build a career as a bar and beverage professional?
I started like many people do, as a hostess and a server. I didn’t truly have an “aha” moment until I continued my trajectory as a bartender, and eventually getting involved in cocktail competitions. Thirteen years later, I’m the regional beverage director for the Donnelly Group, the company who gave me my first serious bar job, and the founder of Evelyn Chick Projects–a creative hub for drink enthusiasts. It’s all come full-circle.
Can you tell us a bit about Evelyn Chick Projects?
I started EC Projects in March with the hope of bringing craft cocktails and the love of sprits to drink enthusiasts at home, especially given our current situation. The premise of it is simply to make everything as approachable as possible, and to make cocktails less intimidating for the home bartender. I built EC Projects on the entire ideology that you can make world class cocktails at home, even with ingredients found at your corner store and everyday kitchen tools. I take a low-waste approach to drink-making, using and re-using ingredients in different ways and in a few different recipes.
How does Evelyn Chick Projects differ from your work at Donnelly Group?
As a beverage director, I don’t normally interact with customers as much as bartenders or servers do. I’ve missed that interaction, but now I get to engage with people again through my virtual cocktail classes. It’s great research for me as well, in that I’m learning first-hand what customers are interested in.
Has your relationship to bartending changed with this digital shift?
If there has been one common denominator in my 13 years of hospitality work, it’s that people are always looking to learn new things. Food and drinks are something that connect people, and with EC Projects I’m taking some very niche ingredients and introducing them in an approachable space. Hosting cocktail classes and taking the time to explain the process of building these ingredients and building flavours has been great. It’s something people don’t get to normally do at a bar, simply because of time and spatial constraints. This way, EC Projects makes for a very unique interaction; totally different from what a bar experience, but serving the same interests.
How has the pandemic affected operations at Donnelly Group?
We’ve had to pivot. Thankfully the AGCO has allowed for liquor delivery, so we’ve been able to offer takeout food along with DIY cocktail kits. These kits are very approachable and come with a bottle of booze, mixes, garnishes and easy-to-follow instructions.
Your recent TL Virtual Masterclass was a huge success. Any advice for beginner home bartenders?
A lot of people will look at a cocktail-making tutorial and feel intimidated by the number of steps involved. This is why the premise of EC Projects is to break those steps down and explain the why as opposed to only the how. Beginner home bartenders should start with a simple recipe and learn why that particular cocktail is made the way it is—don’t get too inventive or creative too soon. It’s also important to approach whatever you’re making in a way that is comfortable to you. If you’re unsure of something, associate it with cooking. In my cocktail classes for example, everything is measured in tablespoons as opposed to ounces just to bring that relatability to my clients.
What can TL Insiders expect from you going forward?
I’m very excited to host a cocktail class every month for Insiders. The classes will gradually get a bit more challenging as we go, but nothing someone couldn’t pick up even if they hadn’t attended a class before. As a TL Insider exclusive, I will also explain the history of any new or interesting spirits we use along the way. This way, members can learn about spirits that aren’t just vodka, gin or rum. Also, any spirits or ingredients used will be available for purchase on the Toronto Life Runner app, listed under Evelyn’s Picks. As an added bonus, I’ve partnered with Cocktail Emporium, so members interested in the tools I am using can access my collection and purchase those tools at a discounted price.
Let’s imagine the pandemic is over and you’re hosting a small gathering of friends. What signature cocktail are you serving?
I would probably have to go with a simple spritz made with Beefeater Gin and St-Germain Elderflower liqueur. It’s so easy to make, only takes three or four ingredients and no one hates on gin and elderflower—it’s such a crowd-pleaser.
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