Jennie Wilson and Peter Tompkins are husband and wife as well as partners in running 11th mile in Fredericton, NB. As a chef-owned, 40-seat restaurant, 11th mile focuses on Maritime hospitality and modern Canadian food, the menu is built for sharing but can function in a traditional app/main format if people prefer.
Just in time for summer 2019, Wilson speaks to us about their craft cocktail program, the first of its kind in Fredericton, along with a curated selection of wine and local beer and about what’s most important in their operations today.
11th mile was based at another location for a year and a half, but that building was slated for demolition. They moved to Fredericton’s historic Mazzuca building—renovating through Jan/Feb and opening March of this year. Tompkins is the chef, having worked for 16 years in Toronto at Quince Bistro, which became Noorden Food Bar (2016 nominee for Top Ten Best New Restaurant in Canada by Enroute; Tompkins also collaborated on Little Sister (Top Ten Nominee 2015)).
What’s important today? “I think we will continue to see chef/bartender collabs turning out solid technique-driven cocktails. When the front and back of house work together, great things happen. Bartenders are realizing that chefs make perfect partners in our development process—chefs see through a recipe to the technique and then can help you find lots of applications.” As an example, she refers to 11th mile’s current menu—they wanted a coconut syrup but in NB they have to make many of these products from scratch as the oft-used liqueurs and Amari are not available to them. “Through a lot of feedback and help from the kitchen we finally set upon a process that gave us a consistent, non-oily product—part of the secret is toasting dry, unsweetened coconut before making the syrup,” says Wilson. Reiterating that chefs bring great palates to the table and give valuable feedback on pairings and flavour profiles.
Keeping the hospitality in foodservice
11th mile is super focused on hospitality, and according to Wilson, that means speed and consistency. “Yes, great things take time but it’s just not fun to wait 20 minutes for a drink. It’s important that bartending become less ego-driven. We all love a little flair and drama in a restaurant, but at the end of the day, people just want to eat, drink and focus on their company,” says Wilson. To that end, she says they’re finding shrubs—consistent flavour with no mess during service, consider using a strawberry shrub as opposed to muddling fresh strawberries—to be an efficient way to keep things moving. Another time saver is that classic stirred drinks can be batched ahead of time.
Another big part of hospitality is making sure that guests enjoy their evening whether they want to drink or not. Says Wilson, “I think in 2019 you’ll continue to see a focus on interesting non- and low-ABV drinks.” At 11th mile, they make their own shrubs in-house. Two original cocktails they’ve been serving since Cinco de Mayo: Cinco de Mayo Yolo made with blanco tequila, their raspberry shrub, club soda and Slow Burn made with reposado tequila and their ginger/pineapple shrub.
A return to simple
Wilson believes it is important to be confident in the balance and integrity of a well-made drink. “You don’t need hand-harvested unicorn tears in order to make a terrific cocktail. You just can’t beat a well-made negroni or whiskey sour. Part of this confidence means that we don’t need to hide behind elaborate garnish.” Too often, Wilson says that garnishes are a waste of time, product and effort. “The customer immediately removes it from the drink and places it on the table or tosses it in the drink, which changes the carefully made cocktail, so that garnish better be chosen carefully!”
At 11th mile, “cleanly presented” suits their style, aligning with their Scandi-industrial design. Says Wilson, “I think that comes through in everything we do. The hard work is behind the scenes.”