“I don’t know if I want to give away the secret,” says Tytus Hardy, when I ask about the name of the new cocktail bar he and co-owner James Maltby are about to open. “It was a joke I had. It’s about fall and keeping warm in the winter. If you have the choice you can go cut wood — or fatten up.”
You can start to see why Woodcutter’s Blanket makes a good name for a bar. It’s an idea two or three years in the making. Maltby had just moved back from Calgary and was living across the road from Hardy. They started getting together and playing with cocktails. The name and concept arose naturally from this. Woodcutter’s Blanket would be a small, cozy bar, with a focus on well-made classic cocktails. And then about a year ago, the perfect location became available. The Moose Building.
I’m told this Second Ave. landmark is the most photographed building in Whitehorse more than once during my visit, a statement that proved itself before I even stepped inside. When I pulled up, a man parked beside me, got out of his car, crossed the road, and pulled out his cellphone. He quickly took a few photos, smiled bashfully as he passed me on his way back to his car, and drove away.
The building is an old log cabin. It began as someone’s home and was later moved to its current location and has been passed through many hands for many uses. It is iconic due to the two taxidermied moose attached to the roof, antlers locked in battle. Complimenting its famous exterior, Hardy and Maltby done a lot of work into the interior. “I don’t think there’s anything in here we haven’t touched,” says Maltby. “We built this bar by hand.”
Everything is custom, from the refurbished church pews that line the bar as benches, to the tiered back shelving, to the curved bar top. Even their staircase is beautiful. “Everything here is really thought out,” Maltby says. “Our passion is to experiment with things.”
And building a bar like this in Whitehorse is an experiment. It aims to fill a gap between restaurant and noisy pub. Instead of the usual Porn Stars and Burt Reynolds, classic prohibition-era fare will be on the menu, like the Old Fashioned Cocktails and Negronis. “I think we just wanted to make cocktails that weren’t being done,” says Hardy. “But the space is so important,” adds Maltby. “This is the perfect kind of cozy space. It’s one of the things I think this town is missing.”
Cocktails served in a converted log cabin. Strong drinks and strong character. It couldn’t be more Yukon. In addition to cocktails they’ll have a few beers on tap, potentially from the new Mt. Sima-based Winterlong Brewery, as well as a small selection of quality wines. And snacks. While their kitchen develops, they’re starting small — with hot dogs. In the summer they also hope to build a patio.
To start with they’ll be serving Thursday to Saturday each week. They’re leaving a lot of space for Woodcutter’s Blanket to take its own shape. “It’s far from a finished idea,” says Hardy. “It will evolve,” agrees Maltby. “This is how it starts, but things will grow.”
Woodcutter’s Blanket is currently scheduled to open after Easter.