Odd Society: celebrating collective oddities on Powell Street
Behind the bar at the Odd Society on Powell Street, Mia Glanz wields a pair of cocktail shakers like oversized maracas, the ice creating a pleasing racket that drowns out the rain outside. Half a dozen customers sit at tables and stools enjoying cocktails and local craft beers while she talks about the art of making the perfect cocktail.
Mia is the daughter of Gordon Glanz and Miriam Karp, who, together with Joshua Beach, founded Odd Society three years ago. She laughs when I ask her how hard it is to make a great cocktail, then tells me it’s a perfect blend of art and science, part of the art being creating an atmosphere conducive to appreciating a well-made drink. A good bartender, she says, will chat with her customer and determine the perfect cocktail for him or her, at that particular moment in time. Having studied ethnobotany at UBC, she has a special affinity for the local ingredients that go into creating the spirits they make on site that have earned them a growing and well-deserved reputation.
I tell her I am researching a piece for The Bulletin in advance of Tonari Gumi’s Spirits of Japan fundraiser at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel, where the Odd Society will be participating, and she says she’ll be working the event and is looking forward to it.
I ask her to make me a Modern Hound, drawn to it by the inclusion of grapefruit, one of my all-time favourite flavours. Watching her pour the ingredients over the ice in the shaker, I can see where the art part comes in – while the quantities are prescribed, there is a ritualistic element that elevates the process beyond mere measurement.
She places the drink in front of me and I take a sip. It’s a perfect blend of surprising and delicate flavours, putting up a pleasant, if temporary, wall against the cold and rain outside.
Created by Matt Cooke
2 oz East Van Vodka
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
0.5 oz jasmine syrup*
0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
1 dash rhubarb bitters
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake with ice, fine strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 jasmine tea bag
Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a low simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let tea steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bag and store syrup in the refrigerator.
Odd Society founder Gordon Glanz was born in Edmonton, but calls East Vancouver home. A technical writer by trade, his love of spirits led him to study brewing and distilling at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland where he received an MSc. He then studied under the masters at Springbank distillery in Campbeltown before returning to Canada to form Odd Society with his wife and partner Miriam, and fellow spirit-lover Joshua Beach.
The Odd Society, he says, “is about experimentation, embracing change and celebrating our individual and collective oddities. This philosophy extends to our ideas about distilling. Just as any successful society is made up of a variety of distinct personalities in concert, we want each of our spirits to create a cast of unforgettable characters.”
Gordon talked to The Bulletin from Kelowna where he and Miriam were attending a beer and spirits festival.
Bulletin Interview: Gordon Glanz
You studied the art of distilling in Edinburgh – what is it about the place and people that has made Scotland such a holy grail for spirit lovers?
Believe it or not, I think a crucial aspect could be the weather. Scottish weather is often miserable. I remember many times walking to the bus stop with my umbrella in front of me facing forward. We called it horizontal rain. Under those circumstances, you don’t want to drink beer, you want something stronger and it’s amazing to be able to enjoy a wee dram at the end of the day to drive the chill from your bones. The Scots may have created great spirits out of necessity. They’ve also had several hundred years to perfect their craft and we are drawn to that unique perfection.
You clearly have a love for spirits and distilling yourself – what is it about the process (and the product) that excites you?
Making spirits involves many different aspects. It can be extremely scientific and rigid but then it can also be very creative. On a general descriptive level, it’s simple, like making bread, you just mix flour and water and yeast and then instead of baking it you distill it. But each step involves a myriad of choices and each choice affects the outcome. So each distiller ends up with his or her own unique product.
It’s an exciting time for spirits in Vancouver and your company is part of that – talk a little about the scene and what’s going on, what interests you about it . . .
Local distilleries are popping up all over BC because of positive changes to our liquor regulations. On the other side people are realizing that spirits don’t have to come from halfway around the world to be enjoyed. For example, at Odd Society we make a salal gin instead of a sloe gin, because sloes don’t grow in BC. We searched and found an equivalent that grows only in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Each distillery is experimenting and finding their niche. Other local distilleries are making Amaretto and Amaros or unusual gins and it’s an exciting time.
At Odd Society, we want our next niche to be whisky and we are experimenting with smoking our own malt with different woods. Not all experiments are successful but some are delicious and exciting.
You’ll be involved in the Taste of Japan on October 29 in support of Tonari Gumi, any thoughts of expanding to sake, or is that a whole other thing?
We haven’t considered a sake but we have considered making a shochu, which, of course, is a Japanese distilled rice beverage. One obstacle is the very limited amount of locally-grown rice. However some traditional shochu is made from barley so perhaps we could try that in the future. The problem is having too many interesting projects and we have to focus.
Tell me a bit about Odd Society for someone who’s never been there.
Odd Society is a unique space where you can come in and enjoy excellent cocktails and actually see the stills where the spirits are made.
We are dedicated to making quality spirits with a local twist but we also want to be known as a fun place to hang out.
I love grapefruit so was immediately drawn to the Modern Hound. How does one go about creating a cocktail? Is it best to just experiment, or take an existing recipe and mess with it?
The Modern Hound is a favourite and has stayed on our cocktail menu since day one. It’s actually a take on an old classic cocktail called The Greyhound. A fun way to create your own cocktail is take a classic recipe and swap out, or add, one or two of your own ingredients.