Meet Ken Gifford, Our Cocktail King

During his time behind the bar, Ken has heard some pretty offbeat requests for drinks; from a cocktail that Darth Vader would drink (“super dark stout reduction” in case you’re wondering) to a pocketful of sunshine. Self-confessed ‘service nerd’ Ken thrives on these opportunities to conjure up a creative cocktail. “As a bartender my approach is so much more than just serving drinks, it’s making sure people have an awesome experience,” says Ken. “ It’s all about having a conversation with people and figuring out what they like.”

Ken finds that the trend now is for people to ask for something tart, rather than sweet, but he encourages guests to ask for what they really want. “It’s all about giving people the power and letting them know that you don’t have to know a lot to order a drink,” explains Ken. “You can say ‘I like gin and I like things that are tart’ or you can throw some adjectives around like ‘give me some sunshine’. It’s pretty fun and it’s a conversation. If I’m engaging with someone I can get something out of it.”

Ontario-born Ken lived in Tofino in the early 2000s but then left and travelled to warmer climes in Australia and the Caribbean before settling on the Island in Victoria and cutting his bartending teeth at Veneto Tapas Bar in BC’s capital. He returned to Tofino when a friend told him about Wolf opening: “It was a big part of the reason for moving back. This place [Wolf] is really special: the heart comes from the kitchen,” says Ken. “I live in Tofino for the lifestyle. I don’t think you can survive here if you don’t have hobbies. It’s a pretty special place. I love to surf and I love to be in the water every day; it’s the best place ever.”

Ken is a spirit-lover and he enjoys sharing local tipples with visitors and Tofitians. As part of an ongoing trend, he sees a huge demand for locally distilled drinks and we are proud to stock gins, vodkas and aquavits all made on the Island. When he’s ordering a drink Ken enjoys low-alcohol ingredients such as sherry and vermouth, and if he had to pick a cocktail as a favourite it would be the classic Negroni. “Negronis are king for me – they are a lot of different things but there’s no way they are a love letter to gin. It’s a beautiful cocktail. Also, it’s a cliché but you can’t go wrong with just having a beer or a whiskey.”

Come and visit Ken and the bar team at Wolf in the Fog and we’ll whip you up the perfect cocktail to suit your mood. When it comes to making drinks for other people Ken’s favourite thing is teasing out what guests really want: “My favourite drink to make is one people want to drink.”