The Odd Drinks of Robert ‘Buck’ Friend

The Odd Drinks of Robert ‘Buck’ Friend

“Why do you make so many odd drinks?”, I ask Robert ‘Buck’ Friend

Robert "Buck" Friend

Robert “Buck” Friend presents the Bubble Tea Cocktail, Image credit Erin Ireland

“I don’t want to list a bunch of spirit forward brown drinks”, remarks Buck. He has cocktails that come in hollowed out grapefruit shells, ‘sunscreen lotion’ bottles and adorned with crispy chicken skin. “They’re already done in so many craft cocktail bars – why do what’s already been done.”

The Odd Drinks of Robert 'Buck' Friend

The Bubble Tea cocktail. Essentially a tart balanced gin sour with a sweet hibiscus foam served on top. “The idea is you drink the sour through the bubbles,” says Buck. “It doesn’t work if the two components aren’t paired together”

Any observer that has watched Buck work behind a bar has seen a familiar scene. The guests sit down at his eager invitation, a little lost with all the odd things sitting around the bar. Perhaps it’s one of the many jars of tinctures he has on the go. Perhaps it’s a punch bowl filled to the brim with rose hibiscus bubbles fed by an aquarium pump. They ask a lot of questions. They get excited about the visuals. Often, they wait until someone else orders a drink. That person raves so they take a chance. They taste that the odd drinks are actually balanced. Then they take pictures. Lots of pictures. 

When asked to describe his style of bartending, Buck’s stock reply is “Mediocre at best

The Odd Drinks of Robert 'Buck' Friend

The Lazy River Cocktail. This odd drink served in a bottle designed to look like a sunscreen lotion. The drink evokes the flavors of a lazy raft ride down a Vietnamese river. Coconut water provides a base and then topped up with the contents of the bottle. The ‘lotion’ bottle comes out with a mixture of kaffiir infused rum, apricot brandy, lime juice, orgeat and aromatic bitters – Image credit Monte Cristo Magazine

Working in the richly asian-influenced coastal culture of Vancouver allows the Australian ex-pat opportunity to play with his odd drinks on menus meant to be paired with the nouveau asian cuisine of venues like Maenam and Bambudda. Buck was an athlete from a small town in the Australian Outback, called Gatton. The towns population of only about 7000 people is nestled a short distance between the cities of Brisbane to the east and Toowoomba on the west. When it became clear that injuries would force him to expand his horizons Buck looked east, or west. Hell, from this distance you could go either direction. Gatton is on the opposite side of earth from Vancouver.

The Odd Drinks of Robert 'Buck' Friend

The Gwei-Lo 2.0 is a take on a whiskey smash with fresh grown chocolate mint and Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters.

 “I wanted to bartend abroad so I did my research. I saw TOTC visiting Vancouver that year. Vancouver was the number one place I wanted to come and learn the craft” – Robert ‘Buck’ Friend

The Odd Drinks of Robert 'Buck' Friend

Buck looks for the most interesting presentation for even the most simply constructed cocktails. Here he stirred three ingredients but then quickly added a beautiful finishing touch.

In his few short years in Canada Robert ‘Buck’ Friend has certainly made an impression. Though a bartender from an early age he accepted the role of bar-back in Vancouver. He found his groove at Revel Room with the noted London ex-pat Robert “H” Holl-Allen (Vancouver Magazine’s Bartender of the Year 2013) and contributor Robyn Gray

The Odd Drinks of Robert 'Buck' Friend

The Pink Dynasty Cocktail – A mixture of Vodka, pink peppercorn infused dry curacao, fresh grapefruit juice, tarragon and Peychaud bitters. Shaken and strained into the shell of the grapefruit. Image credit Jasmine LeBlanc

If you enjoy the fun aspect of craft cocktails and want an experience like no other make sure you find Buck the next time you are in Vancouver. He will make you an odd drink.

 The Odd Drinks of Robert 'Buck' Friend

 The Bubble Tea Cocktail

First you’ll have to create the Hibiscus foam – it is essentially a rose hibiscus simple syrup with xanthan gum added to give it the right body. And you’ll need an aquarium pump.

The base is a gin sour.

30 ml Beefeater London Dry Gin
20 ml Blue Curaçao
15 ml Homemade Green Tea Liqueur
2 dashes Dillons Rhubarb Bitters
30 ml fresh lemon juice
Combined in shaker. Hard shaken with ice and double strained into a chilled coupé. Topped with Hibiscus foam to garnish.


Hibiscus Foam

400 G Hibiscus Tea

400 G 1;1 Simple Syrup infused with rose pedals.

4 G Versawhip

2.2 G Xanthan Gum 

Blend thoroughly. Strain. Run an aquarium pump into mixture in a large glass, or metal bowl.

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Bartender. Dirt City Bon Vivant. Writer for @CulinaireMag | Contributor to | Partner in @justcocktails |

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