Statistics Canada reported that the average profit margins for restaurants across the country (in 2017) were just under four percent. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for restaurant owners, especially those running independent shops who don’t have safety net that comes with being part of a chain. Between operating expenses and the cost of any advertising or community involvement, not to mention unexpected disruptions like construction or natural disasters, the list of expenses can seem to totally outweigh the money coming in. All of these expenses are baked into the menu price, of course — guests are not only paying for the food, but every aspect of the plate’s journey before it is set down at the table.
While the net profit on dishes is typically small, restaurants often get by with higher profit margins on boozy beverages. That doesn’t mean that drinks are a thoughtless add-on, just thrown on the menu — in many restaurants you’ll find the creations behind the bar getting the same amount of attention as those coming out of the kitchen.
In this series, we step behind the bar to get a close look at the ingredients — and inspiration — that goes into those fancy drinks.
Almost a decade ago, Camille Hopper-Naud got her bartending start at The Moonroom on Preston. She wasn’t creating drinks, but she learned to nail the classic libations. After a stint living and bartending in Montreal, Hopper-Naud is now behind the bar at Supply and Demand.
In Montreal, she worked at a bar that hosted weekly cocktail competitions, and if the guest bartenders didn’t show up, it would be up to Hopper-Naud to step in, frequently challenged to work with a surprise ingredient. This exercise in creativity was good practice for her; at Supply and Demand, she often relies on whatever is plentiful in the kitchen to inspire her newest creation. By mirroring components on diner’s plates, she makes use of seasonal produce and herbs to keep drinks fresh.
To keep labour costs in check, her colleagues in the kitchen also help with cocktail components from time to time. For Hopper-Naud’s cocktail The Controversial Socialite, the chef de cuisine makes the black cherry, mint, balsamic shrub that infuses over three days. The sweetly acidic shrub is the starr in the tequila-based drink, which also includes grappa, lime juice, and a dash of falernum bitters.
What’s with the name? Hopper-Naud wanted the name and the drink to evoke a little wackiness — the image of a slightly zany character, which comes through in the zippy sipper. It’s also a name that Hopper-Naud had been saving to use as part of her dream venture — a cocktail bar with tongue twister names (“for a laugh,” Hopper-Naud explains “as it gets trickier for folks to say them as the night wears on.”) But she decided it was time to bring the sassy name, and drink, out for a spin at Supply and Demand.
Along with her regular bartending, Hopper-Naud has also begun to offer private custom cocktail workshops under the name Coupe & Mixer. Whether she’s at the restaurant or teaching a private party, Hopper-Naud wants to demystify bartending for those who may be keen to try it on their own, and bring a little extra pizzazz to their own cocktail game.