By Vivian Collings
EAT, located in the same space as Ommmh hair salon and boutique, has added cocktails to their refined palette of meats and cheeses in downtown Minden to allow customers to feel safe and special while enjoying tasteful alcohol and carefully selected ingredients.
“We are geared towards an open-minded, female driven headspace where women can come and feel safe, feel like they’re being taken care of, and that people from any walk of life can feel special and feel safe,” said owner of EAT and Ohhhm Shawn Smandych.
The cheeserie and cocktail bar offers high-end, creative cocktails and the stimulating experience that comes along with watching them be created and enjoying them.
The idea came to Smandych years ago after seeing similar cocktail bars in Europe coexisting with other spaces.
“I wanted to offer more to this environment,” Smandych said. “It’s always been on the backburner of things we wanted to do, but it was a matter of space, time, ability, staff, location, permitting. Once we ended up consolidating everything just before COVID, that gave us the ability to do it here, and so that’s when we really pursued it.”
EAT received their liquor licence at the end of COVID-19 health measures, so it was the perfect time to bring cocktails to their tables.
“We just knew it was going to take more time to deal with supply issues. Of course, the biggest issue was trying to find somebody who understands the concept that we’re going for.”
Smandych found just that in Allana Ziojen, long-time local Minden resident and cocktail extraordinaire.
Ziorjen had managed many bars and restaurants while previously living in Ottawa, and she knew that her community was lacking the experience she and Smandych both desired.
“People deserve to feel special and they deserve to have wonderful things, so if we can do a little something to accomplish that, then we’ve done our job,” Ziorjen said.
When Ziorjen saw the advertisement for the cocktail bartender job at EAT, she knew it was meant to be.
“I’ve known Shawn for a long time, and I figured we’d be a good fit, but I didn’t realize how good it would be and how in sync our visions for what we could do are,” Ziorjen said.
She began her career in the restaurant business at Wintergreen Maple Products and Sugar Shack on Gelert Road as a teenager.
“It was my first kitchen job, and for the last 20 years, in one way or another, I have worked every position in restaurants. About 10 years ago in Ottawa, I happened to meet the right people, and they took me under their wing and brought me into a new concept cocktail bar that was opening. I learned everything there from the ground up. My heart was always in the craft industry,” she said.
Smandych says they aim to offer a unique experience to Minden, a growing and desirable tourist destination.
“Our thing is cocktails; creative, higher end, art-based cocktails. If you really truly believe that our community is the next Muskoka, this is the next step. You have to bring something to the table that appeals to that group of people,” Smandych said.
Enjoying cocktails at EAT is about the experience of sipping a drink alone or with a group of friends and feeling safe while doing so.
“We’re somewhere where you go and have one or two drinks, enjoy them, relish them, and watch them be created because half of it is in the creation of them. We step back and focus on glassware, ice, good ingredients, so that everything is touched from the bottom up,” Ziorjen said.
Ziorjen makes things like apple cider and bitters from scratch.
“We’re trying to keep it as in-house as possible, and that allows us to experiment and come up with higher-end, unique distinct ingredients and cocktails.”
The specialty cocktails offered are original to Eat Cheeserie and Cocktails. They have deliberately chosen ingredients for each.
“Because of that, it allows us to go from something valued at $12 to something that’s valued at $40, but that’s all part of that profile factor of what’s on your tongue,” Smandych said.
The cocktail bar also focuses on Canadian companies and distilleries to provide many of their ingredients and products.
“We’re also bringing in things that maybe people have never seen, that you aren’t going to see at every bar. Whether or not you order a vodka soda, a vodka martini, or a custom cocktail off the list, it’s all good quality product,” Ziorjen said.
They also offer non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails with the same high-quality ingredients.
EAT will be offering classes to offer the full experience of creating cocktails and enjoying them
“That’s the side of this industry that I’ve always been in love with is the ability to experiment and be creative. We want to encourage others to do the same,” Ziorjen said. “It can seem really intimidating to make cocktails and make them well, but it’s really fun, and so to be able to share that and take away the intimidating factors of it is definitely important to me.”
Their first classes is Cocktail 101 held on Nov. 5 at 11 a.m., and again at 3 p.m. It will focus on cocktail fundamentals, equipment, proper ice making, flavour balances, and more.
Tickets are $75 and will include two cocktails and a 15 per cent discount on certain barware.
They will also be hosting an adult only Halloween Bash in partnership with Minden Pride on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 5 to 10 p.m. Costumes are mandatory and there is a $5 cover charge. Light snacks and Halloween goodies will be provided.
EAT Cheeserie and Cocktails can be contacted by phone, (705) 702-0208, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or found on Instagram @eatminden.
Ziorjen can be found on Instagram @thatgirlwhopours.