Let's Lift Your SpiritsThursday, July 01, 2021
I decided to go behind the bar at Oceano and caught up with Chad Williams, CEO, and co-principal, where he reflected on life before Oceano. It took him four years to find The Porch and he's happy that Marketplace was willing to give young entrepreneurs a chance with Oceano. Opened Thursday, June 10 on his birthday, Oceano marked the beginning of a new chapter.
Naturally I had to ask about the creatives who developed the current complement of cocktails. “It's a team of us”, Williams says — bartenders Ryan Mitto and Ovando Gayle, himself, and Chef Shea Stewart. They are all about having a global perspective that incorporates the flavours and textures of Jamaica.
“In this age of social media and marketing I believe that what drives the restaurant business are the food and drinks, the ambiance, and creating demand via authentic experiences. It's about creating individual brands that become call brands like the Spicy Karai which is a highly requested cocktail. It's about having a unique experience with a quality-over-quantity perspective. It's about playing with flavour and flavour combinations that allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. We shy away from what you get every day — syrups and fake flavour — and incorporate fresh ingredients and real flavour. Oceano is heavily focused on signature cocktails.”
The staff's warm welcome and pleasant demeanour is an indication that service is king!
“What we did differently is that we look for culture! We look for passion more than what was on the paper [résumé]! If you look for passion and bring it into a team with a positive culture that equals success,” said Williams.
Oceano is the brainchild of both Williams and Stewart. I wondered how this dynamic duo met. They've done projects before and have known each other since high school.
“Shea is very driven and hard-working like me” says Williams, who finds the space and visualises. He is no stranger to this business and considers himself lucky to have survived COVID and continues to invest in Kingston. “There's an opportunity to fill the void in entertainment, the restaurant business and hospitality. Shea brings his culinary chops and experience ensuring that the quality and creativity of the food is consistent and evolving, reinvented and reimagined! It's a constant evolution — to have young and creative minds, and effort behind it — that's the winning formula! We are here every day. It is a learning process. Interacting with guests is extremely important. This way any issues or concerns are reworked to improve the experience for the next day. It is the beginning of a successful future.” Williams says. It's about transformation and evolution, he adds, and is the opportunity of a lifetime. He is passionate about wanting to see hospitality and entertainment thrive in Jamaica. I admire his tenacity.
Fantastic Authentic Cocktails
My cocktail kick-off starts with the lovely and lighthearted Oceano Spring. This delightful G & T (gin and tonic) is made with Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, Fever-Tree tonic, lime, cucumber and pink peppercorns. It's a light and lively mix that tempers the gin. The gin is quite subtle and has lovely notes of orange essence provided by Cointreau. The pink peppercorns give a spicy burst of flavour on the palate that ties it all together. Subtle notes of fresh cucumber make this cocktail an easy drink...and yes, I ate the cucumber after!
It's no surprise that men tend to gravitate to this drink — it's smokey and has nuances of orange and candied orange. This cocktail is definitely not sweet. The Oath is made with Johnnie Walker Black, lime, Angostura bitters, and garnished with a house-made dehydrated orange wheel.
This cocktail is a play on salty and spicy. Patron Reposado sings with Grand Marnier, sour, pink Himalayan salt, and red pepper flakes. Presented in a margarita glass — rimmed with the salt on one side and red pepper flakes on the other. I encourage you to take a sip from both sides of the glass.
This dynamic duo of Williams and Stewart has only just begun! Look forward to more craft cocktails and master mixology where the focus is on a heightened sensory experience with the soon-to-be-released craft cocktail menu! I'll keep you posted! This story isn't over by a long shot!
Let's lift your spirits! Follow me on Instagram @raihndrops!
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