Cantina 189 – Scout Magazine

Last year, friends and business partners Marcelo Ramirez and Tara Davies teamed up to launch Chupito, the popular pop-up bar in the hidden terrace room behind La Taqueria on Hastings Street.

With service at Chupito on hold until the terrace season approaches again, Ramirez and Davies have turned their creative energy into transforming the square next to La Taqueria (324 Hastings Street) into a full-season cocktail bar called Cantina 189.

Formerly home to a clothing store, the bones in the room are there, including brick walls, lovely lights and charming window alcoves. No structural changes are required to realize their shared vision of a refined yet comfortable cocktail bar, which has allowed the duo to focus on surface level adjustments, updated aesthetics and the maintenance of a tight drink list. I was invited to take a tour of the room last week and it seems to me that they are well on their way on all fronts.

The small room comes with two window stalls as well as a centrally located bar and four wall-hung tables. The latter will run along the west wall and unfold to provide a small plate and drink-sized perch. There will also be a table for 4-6 people at the back of the room. Lighting, from candles and a range of globe-shaped overhead lamps (hand-painted with cocktail nomenclature such as Fizz, Flip, Sour and Sling), will be suitably dimmed – so the space is easy to navigate, but also dimmed. Think ‘sexy glow’.

The food menu will be small – expect snacks such as chicharrĂ³n, preserves, chips, olives, meat and cheese. The cornerstone will be the drinks. To ensure the cocktails hit the target, Davies and Ramirez enlisted the help of beverage consultant and longtime Bar Raval (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, where she introduced a low-waste system that will be transferred to Cantina 189.

It was largely a sawdust and worker situation when I was on site and the menu details were not yet complete, but I glanced at a preliminary list and hinted at what was to come. In addition to a respectable amount of tequila, mezcal and gin, I noticed ingredients like used citrus, beeswax, tamarind, chamomile, sea buckthorn and a nostalgic splash of Five Alive. As co-owner Tara Davies explains: “We hope to take a fun, innovative approach to acclaimed classics with a special shout-out to cocktails from the 70s. We also want ‘freezer’ bottled ‘to incorporate some of the best sellers from Chupito …[as well as] local beers and low-intervention wines. “

Cantina 189, which aims to open its doors in March, can be accessed via the street entrance at 324 W Hastings Street, but guests can also slip behind via an entrance (smartly disguised as a radiator door) located outside the dining area at La Taqueria. Hours will be 5-ish until 2am, Wednesday-Saturday (to start). I can not wait to see what it looks and feels like when the drinks are flowing and the room has (allowed) capacity. Get a sneak peek inside …

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