Last year, friends and business partners Marcelo Ramirez and Tara Davies teamed up to launch Chupito, the popular pop-up bar in the hidden patio space behind La Taqueria on Hastings Street.
With service at Chupito on hold until patio season comes around again, Ramirez and Davies have turned their creative energy to transforming the space beside La Taqueria (324 Hastings Street) into an all-season cocktail bar called Cantina 189.
Previously home to a clothing retail shop, the bones of the space are there, including brick walls, nice light, and charming window alcoves. No structural changes are required to realize their shared vision of a refined but comfortable cocktail bar, which has allowed the duo to focus on surface level fixes, updated aesthetics, and the locking in of a tight drink list. I was invited to take a tour of the space last week and it seems to me that they are well on their way on all fronts.
The small room will feature two window booths, as well as a centrally located bar and four wall-mounted tables. The latter will run along the west wall and fold out to provide a small plate- and drink-sized perch. There will also be one 4-6 person table at the rear of the room. Lighting, from candles and a series of globe-shaped overhead lights (hand-painted with cocktail nomenclature such as Fizz, Flip, Sour and Sling), will be appropriately dim – allowing the room to be easily navigable, but also subdued. Think ‘sexy glow’.
The food menu will be small – expect snacks like chicharrón, conserves, chips, olives, meats and cheese. The cornerstone will be the drinks. To make sure the cocktails hit the mark, Davies and Ramirez enlisted the help of beverage consultant (previously Bar Raval in Toronto) bar manager, Juliana Wolkowski. In addition to an impressive track record of producing imaginative and balanced cocktail menus, Wolkowski also worked on the Chupito beverage program, during which she introduce a low waste system that will be carried over to Cantina 189.
It was very much a sawdust and work crew situation when I was on site, and menu details had yet to be finalized, but I did glance at a preliminary list, hinting at what is to come. In addition to a respectable amount of tequila, mezcal and gin, I noted ingredients like spent citrus, beeswax, tamarind, chamomile, sea buckthorn and a nostalgic splash of Five Alive. As co-owner Tara Davies explains: “We’re hoping to take a fun, innovative approach to recognized classics with a special shout-out to 70s born cocktails. We will also have bottled ‘freezer pours’ to incorporate some of the best sellers from Chupito…[as well as] local beers and low intervention wines.”
Cantina 189, which aims to open their doors in March, can be accessed via the street entrance at 324 W Hastings Street, but guests can also slip in the back via an entry (cleverly disguised as a walk-in cooler door) located off of the dining area at La Taqueria. Hours will be 5-ish to 2am, Wednesday-Saturday (to start). I can’t wait to see how it looks and feels when the drinks are flowing and the room is at (allowable) capacity. Have a sneak peek inside…