Bar Mordecai’s Christina Veira Is Breaking the Mold

The Glenlivet & Sharp

Christina Veira is an expert bartender, but that doesn’t do justice to this Torontonian’s breadth of work. Veira can most often be found at Bar Mordecai, a cozy new cocktail bar and restaurant on Toronto’s trendy Dundas West, where she serves as General Manager. When she’s not dreaming up new concoctions for the restaurant’s innovative cocktail menu, she can be found promoting cocktail culture as the Director of Programming for Toronto Cocktail Week, and as the Bar and Beverage Curator for Restaurants Canada. In between all of her professional responsibilities, Veira dedicates herself to speaking out for justice and equality, both within and outside of the service industry. We spoke with Christina about making drinks, smashing stereotypes and her favourite way to enjoy The Glenlivet.

How is your approach to spirits, cocktails and bartending in general different from the norm?
I’m a certified spirits educator so I have a very systematic approach to spirits. I’m also very much into stirred drinks: I love using teas, herbs, different spices and making drinks that are a little more spirit-forward. I gravitate towards The Glenlivet when Im behind the bar for its care and consistency in creating beautiful Speyside single malts, especially that honeyed pineapple note present in many of their expressions. Its the quintessential classic single malt that shines as well on its own as in a modern cocktail.

How has the profession of bartending evolved in recent years?
I think overall you’re seeing it treated a lot more as a profession, and not just something you do part-time in college. There’s a lot of awareness about making spaces safer and more inclusive, and we’re also becoming a much broader range of people who are leaders in the industry. That means more people of colour, more women, more queer people and more people of all ages.

What are some of the stereotypes you encounter in your work, and how are you combating them?
I am a woman, and a Black woman, and I do know that people don’t necessarily expect someone in my body to be an expert, especially when it comes to single malt whisky. When you think of a single malt tasting, you generally think of an older white guy, so I’m often pleasantly surprised by the reception I get. I’m confident in my skills and I love the work that I do, and it’s changing what people see as the typical whisky consumer.

How has your work changed during the pandemic, and what creative solutions have you come up with to compensate?
So much of our work now has been digital. At Bar Mordecai we’ve been putting together different cocktail kits and drink kits and also doing classes online. Bars and restaurants aren’t just places to get food and drinks, they’re also experiential, so I’m always thinking about how to create that vibe when people can’t be close to you. There are some interesting modes that we’ve found that we wouldn’t have necessarily pursued if 2020 hadn’t been what it is. When we talk about the future, we want to find ways to integrate these different streams.

How do you like your Glenlivet?
I enjoy having the flavour and texture of the spirit shine through, so I really enjoy The Glenlivet 12-year-old neat, but I also really enjoy playing around with it in the classic highball. It’s about having that perfect proportion of whisky, ice and sparkling water, and then adding things like a spritz of lemon oil or grapefruit oil. I also love a single malt negroni. Theres an idea that scotch is only for after dinner and a Glenlivet highball proves the opposite. It’s light and playful, and it really brings out those iconic apple and honey notes, especially when you spray a mist of lemon oil on top.

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Photography: Renata Kaveh