Talking drinks with D.V.L.B.

D.V.L.B. owners Katherine and Joel Gingrich fuse together the culture of espresso and whisky drinking (photo by Ryan Hueglin).
D.V.L.B. owners Katherine and Joel Gingrich fuse together the culture of espresso and whisky drinking (photo by Ryan Hueglin).

Though a rarity to encounter, the city of Waterloo has become home to a mythical creature. Tucked away quietly on King Street, a jackalope can be seen outside a store that has recently come into the scene.

Like the mythical hybrid jackalope – which is part jack rabbit, part antelope, D.V.L.B. (Death Valley’s Little Brother), which opened early last year, has quietly been brewing up beverages for customers, specializing in espresso and single-malt whisky.  It is a rarity for a coffee shop to take pride in specializing in not only their hot, caffeinated drinks but also their tap into the whisky-drinking culture.

Partners Katherine and Joel Gingrich decided to use both of their passions to fuse into one hybrid store. While gaining her experience at a cafe in Australia, Katherine devotes her passion towards espresso while Joel is the whisky expert of the shop.

“I did my training in Austrailia a few years ago at a cafe; it was a really busy environment. They are pretty hardcore, they don’t mess around. So, it’s primarily expresso-based and attention to detail to coffee,” Katherine explained.

“My husband and partner, Joel, is a Scotch enthusiast. And so we thought how could we put these two worlds together?” Hence the hybrid and culture of D.V.L.B..

Though it may seem odd to have a shop specializing in both coffee and whisky, the two go more hand in hand than most people think.

“As a business model, a lot of coffee shops will be open early in the morning and closed in the evening around six or seven because not too many people are going to want to get a coffee at nine at night because you don’t want to go to bed all hyped up on caffeine. So, it’s a good transition from the day to the night, from coffee to whiskey,” Joel noted, explaining that the act of sipping whisky is very much like having a cup of coffee: slow and meant to be enjoyed with good company.

“Single-malt whiskies aren’t really the type of drink that you shoot or throw back while watching a football game, it’s really a more reflective drink,” he added.

While most customers are comfortable with going up and ordering a cup of coffee, the act of choosing whisky can be more of a complicated process. However, with the design of the whisky chart, picking out a drink becomes more of a fun experience than one of confusion.

“We walk people through it because it’s a really fun experience for us. And we have a whisky chart that kind of plots out of what a whisky will fall in, whether it’s sweet or if it falls into the smoky area or the fruity,” said Katherine, explaining a detailed chart, marked with labels and a graph, revealing a creative graphic design that looks more like a fun puzzle than a complicated mapping process.

“It takes away that intimidation factor because of the quick information to make that decision, ‘Oh, I like this,’” Joel pointed out.

While not everyone has to go in to participate in the selection of whisky or even espresso, the independent shop businesses are one to note for the city of Waterloo and how it is starting to grow – especially those that take in the act of pursuing something specific.

“You see that a lot in New York and Toronto but you haven’t seen it really in Waterloo, so we kind of want to crank it up,” Joel remarked, saying that D.V.L.B. has participated in getting to know some of the other independent coffee owners in the city to create a special coffee community.

“It’s a major trend in the big cities. They call it a craft-type thing, there’s that whole micro, local way of doing business is very popular right now. Fortunately for us, it’s a trend we’re a part of.” Joel concluded.

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