The ownership team behind The Raven Room only had about 15 months of operations under their belts when COVID hit in early 2020, not exactly the trajectory a new bar wants to take as it’s trying to gain a footing in the market.
“It’s felt like we were a Year-1 business for three years, just being a year and three months old when we went into the pandemic,” says co-owner Steph Redmond. “This is feeling like we’re coming out on the other side of it with lots to celebrate.”
The Raven Room enjoyed a trio of recent honours, further proof that the premier cocktail bar has officially arrived—and the industry is taking notice. Recently ranked 35th on Canada’s Best 50 Bars list for 2022, it was a welcome development for the Pan Pacific Village Centre Hotel bar known for its creative cocktails and gourmet, late-night bites.
“We were so proud and incredibly shocked,” Redmond says. “It kind of came out of nowhere for us. It was a really beautiful surprise after what has been a pretty tough three years.”
(The cocktail bar wasn’t the only Whistler spot that was recently honoured: Canada’s 100 Best, which also selects the country’s Top 50 bars, named the Bearfoot Bistro (73rd) and Araxi (89th) to its annual list of 100 best restaurants.)
The Raven Room was also recently nominated as a Top 10 regional honouree for Best International Hotel Bar as part of the 2022 Spirited Awards, with the winners announced next month at the awards gala and conference held in New Orleans. Luckily enough, Redmond and her fellow owners—husband Jason, along with Brandi and Luke Woodnutt—had already booked a trip to Louisiana for the industry conference, joining a Whistler contingent that will also include owners and staff from 21 Steps and Basalt.
“It’s going to be even sweeter to be down there and actually be a part of it and to be able to carry that nomination with us while we enjoy the conference,” Redmond says.
Last but not least, bartender Dani Crowley just won the Giffard West Cup competition for her “American Pie”-themed cocktail that mimics the flavours of strawberry rhubarb pie. The international bartending competition hosted by French liqueur and syrup maker Giffard celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and asked participants to create a cocktail based off of a particular song or music that inspires their life behind the bar. Redmond says judges will decide later this week between Crowley and the East Cup winner on who will head to Angers, France for the finals in September.
The accolades come at the perfect time for the team, Redmond adds, which had to keep on evolving through the flurry of restrictions brought on by COVID.
“It was a lot of not knowing what was around the corner. I hate the word pivot, but there were lots of pivots to pivots,” she says. “We were closed at 10 p.m. and late-night was our thing, so then we started doing brunch. Then the late-night hours came back. You’re just constantly adapting and as a new business, we didn’t quite know if we were going to make it.
“It’s incredible to actually come out the other end and find fireworks here.”
Part of the owners’ goal in starting the Raven Room was to elevate the game as far as cocktails go in Whistler, and it’s thanks to that high standard that the bar has gained so much recognition across the industry. But like any successful resort business, it is the locals that have helped turn the Raven Room into what it is today.
“It’s incredible how much word of mouth is still a huge part of our marketing and how industry in Whistler sends people our way all the time,” says Redmond. “We’re just so honoured to have so many people that back us in the community and that is showcased all the time with who is coming through the door and how they heard of us.”
The Raven Room is hosting a summer solstice garden party on June 21. Learn more at theravenroom.ca.