Drink of the Week: Cilantro’s Pachamama

Cilantro has had some great cocktail lists in recent years and this winter’s selection of exotic libations with a  tropical bent is no exception. Aptly dubbed “Into the Wild,” the list features a No Speak Americano with Aperol, Punt e Mes and a black-tea-anise syrup; a Stray Greyhound with grapefruit juice, Punt e Mes and rosemary syrup; and a Lion Around with Lillet, vodka, gin and dandelion honey wine, among others.

But it’s the Pachamama, whose name references the Incan fertility goddess, that got my attention. It’s a gin-lemon-sugar drink that’s elevated with black walnut bitters and an absinthe rinse. Then, it’s served quite flamboyantly with a flaming sprig of thyme, as if it’s an offering to Pachamama herself. To achieve this dramatic flair the thyme has been soaked in Green Chartruse, which helps it flame awhile.

When it’s safe to drink the overall effect is a slightly smoky, very herbaceous cocktail that’s just right for any drinking altar (like a bar). If you don’t finish the whole thing they’ll throw you into the volcano, so drink up!

This gin-based cocktail is simple yet surprisingly complex.

This gin-based cocktail is simple yet surprisingly complex.

Pachamama

  • Absinthe rinse
  • 2 oz The Botanist gin
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water ratio)
  • 3 dashes black walnut bitters
  • Garnish: Thyme soaked in Green Chartreuse

Method: Soak a sprig of thyme in Green Chartreuse. Rinse a martini glass with absinthe. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters with ice. Shake, then strain into the martini glass. Remove thyme from Green Chartreuse, set afire and place atop the glass. — Recipe courtesy Cilantro

The birds and the bees

“All boy animals have penises. Even frogs,” said my grade five teacher on Day 1 of sex ed. The classroom dissolved into nervous giggles and it set the tone for the week: awkward. Through playground whispers I’d heard how babies were made and was curious if the impossible-sounding part about the penis inside the you-know-what was true. And I hadn’t yet read Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret, so Mrs. Beaton’s talk on menstruation was the first I’d heard about that looming monthly fact of life.

This book was how I learned about everything from lying about your period to making my boobs grow bigger by repeating the mantra (with elbow motions), "We must, we must, we must increase our bust!"

This book was how I learned about everything from periods to bras. It even has a boob-growth mantra: “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”

Oddly, up to that point in my life I hadn’t heard much — if anything — from my mom or dad on the subjects of puberty and reproduction. Back then, parents didn’t really have those conversations with their kids.

Avery’s grade four class is beginning a unit on human sexuality this week at school and it’s comforting to know that I’ve already talked with her about the topics they’ll be covering. I started the dialogue early, when she was in grade three and she and her friends began asking around about how babies were made. That was an awkward conversation:

Me: “So, you know how boys have penises? Well, when a man and a woman love each other…”

Avery: Silence. Then, “Yep, that is gross.”

Me: “Do you have any questions?”

Avery: “Nope.”

With the puberty conversation, which involves topics such as tampons, bra shopping and pubic hair, I learned that’s it’s way easier to talk about these subjects with your kid when you have an instruction manual of sorts. (That way, instead of making eye contact during the part about bleeding from your vagina, you can just look at a picture of a cartoon tween choosing between tampons and pads.) For us, this came in the form of the American Girl books, The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls (there’s a 1 and a 2). We looked through each book together, then Avery read them by herself, then we hung out on the couch and went through the books page by page, with Avery stopping and asking questions when she wanted more info. It wasn’t awkward at all. Instead, it bonded us as more than mother and daughter — it brought us together as females sharing girly info.

These books are great for starting a dialogue with your tween about puberty.

These books are great for starting a dialogue with your tween about puberty.

It also felt like one of the first pre-emptive things I’ve done as a parent — actually having the talk before I check the iPad search history and find out she’s been Googling “How to use a tampon” or “How to make sex.”

And yesterday, when her teacher called them to the carpet to initiate the lessons on human sexuality, she was able to raise her hand when the teacher began, “So, who can tell me what puberty is?”

A taste of France: Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut

This weekend I’m toasting the Oscars with the official champagne of the Academy Awards: Piper Heidsieck.

Let's toast the 87th Academy Awards with the exclusive champagne of the Oscars, Piper Heidsieck.

Let’s toast the 87th Academy Awards this weekend with the exclusive champagne of the Oscars, Piper Heidsieck.

I was first introduced to this delicate and deliciously fruity bubbly in Paris, over dinner with Cecile Bonnefond, president and CEO of the 230-year old champagne house. As she poured the range of Piper Heidsieck bubbles, from Cuvee Brut to Rose Sauvage, she talked about how champagne shouldn’t just be for special occasions — it really sets the mood for any occasion.

“It’s special, it’s limited, it’s so French. It’s about style, the way you set a table, the way you share a meal,” said Bonnefond. She summed it up with her signature toast, “Grand soit la vie!” which translates loosely as, “Let life be grand.” Bonnefond neglected to mention the way champagne makes people feel — larger than life; a bit like the stars we’ll be watching on Sunday, in fact.

The Piper Heidsieck cellars feel ancient, like you could get lost in a champagne catacomb but at least not get thirsty!

The Piper Heidsieck cellars feel ancient, like you could get lost in a champagne catacomb but at least not get thirsty!

That’s how I felt — red carpet ready — as we toured the Piper Heidsieck headquarters in Reims and later, the cool, catacomb-like cellars (former chalk quarries) where bottles are aged and stored. We ended the day in the vineyards, toasting the grapes that would one day become champagne.

These grapes in France's Champagne region will one day be champagne.

These grapes in France’s Champagne region will one day be bubbly.

My trip to France ended on a final celebrity-esque note: Piper Heidsieck table service at Paris club Le Magnifique.

The closest I will ever get to hoisting an "Oscar," a.k.a. the official champagne of the Academy Awards.

The closest I will ever get to hoisting an “Oscar,” a.k.a. the official champagne of the Academy Awards.

I wish I could say I returned to Canada and began ordering bubbly for every occasion. Sadly, no. But there’s still time to change my ways, right? I can start by popping the cork on a bottle of Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut for no good reason except to set the mood on what’s going to be a great night!

Drink of the Week: The Lovers’ Quarrel

The Lovers’ Quarrel is the official Valentine’s Day cocktail from Eau Claire Distillery, Alberta’s only true craft spirits maker, located in Turner Valley. They are responsible for the amazing Parlour Gin, a London Dry-style gin made with local botanicals including rose hips and Saskatoon berries.

This cocktail takes the winning combo of gin, lemon juice and Cointreau (think White Lady) and puts a Feb. 14 twist on it with grenadine for colour and bubbles for romance. Really, there’s no way you’ll be fighting with your lover after this drink, unless there are only enough ingredients to make one, in which case you may exchange words.

This pretty drink includes two of my favourite spirits: Parlour Gin and Cointreau. The grenadine gives it just the right colour for Valentine's Day.

This Valentine’s Day-hued drink includes two of my favourite spirits: Parlour Gin and Cointreau. Image courtesy Eau Claire Distillery.

The Lovers’ Quarrel

  • 2 oz Parlour Gin
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz house grenadine (make your own pomegranate syrup)
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Top with champagne
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Method: Add all ingredients except champagne into a shaker. Add ice and shake. Double strain into a flute glass. Top with 1 oz brut champagne (such as Piper Heidsieck). Garnish with a lemon twist.

— Recipe courtesy Eau Claire Distillery

Bitter Salty Perro

I have been craving grapefruits this winter. I love their colour and bitter-sweet taste, and I love that they seem like a special treat since we purchase them so infrequently. So I was pleased when Blake somehow read my mind and brought home five from the store. We gobbled down two, which left three for cocktails.

But what to make? Blake Googled “grapefruit cocktails” and came up with a selection that work this time of year. Since I can’t always turn everything into a margarita or some kind of sour, I opted for the Bitter Salty Perro. It’s supposed to be a twist on a drink called a Salty Dog (‘perro’ means dog in Spanish), which is gin and grapefruit juice with a salted rim. But I think it has more in common with the tequila-based Paloma, using tonic instead of soda, and a healthy dose of bitters. Bonus: we had all the ingredients on hand.

It's bitter and lip-puckering but also seriously refreshing. Three words: fresh grapefruit juice.

It’s bitter and lip-puckering but also seriously refreshing. Three words: fresh grapefruit juice.

I love how well grapefruit juice and tequila go together. I was worried the drink would be too bitter, but grapefruits are actually sweeter than limes, and tonic water has a lot more sugar than most people realize. Everything together makes this Bitter Salty Perro just sweet enough to want to drink again.

Bitter Salty Perro

  • 2 oz fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz blanco tequila (I used Casamigos)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Top tonic water (about 2 oz)
  • Salted rim
  • Half grapefruit wheel garnish

Method: Rim a rocks glass with salt and then fill with ice. Combine grapefruit juice, tequila and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, then strain into the rocks glass. Top with tonic and garnish with a half grapefruit wheel.

— Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

The boy can swim

Bennett developed a love of water in Mexico in 2011. We clipped him into a life jacket, plopped a sun hat atop his head and he was off, splashing around the pool for what seemed like hours at a time. That summer we hit Surveyor’s Lake in Fernie for more swimming, and the following spring I enrolled him in his first group swim lesson at the Talisman Centre — he had a hard time staying on task, but we persevered. Good thing too because four years later it’s official: the boy can swim.

Blake lowers Bennett into Surveyor's Lake near Fernie in 2013.

Blake lowers Bennett into Surveyor’s Lake near Fernie.

We logged a lot of hours in the water and numerous baby steps to get Bennett to where he is now (head above water). After two summers of encouragement he finally jumped from the dock at Surveyor’s Lake in 2013, and then last summer (2014) he worked up the courage to jump from the diving board into the pool at the Fernie Aquatic Centre.

Fernie Aquatic Centre

Bennett jumps into the deep end at the Fernie Aquatic Centre, the culmination of a week of private swim lessons.

Also last summer, after a week of life-jacket and noodle-assisted swim lessons, Blake encouraged him to try and doggie paddle at Surveyor’s Lake, and again at Kalamalka Lake in Vernon, BC. For the first time, Bennett seemed to want to swim on his own. He tried to kick and paddle and propel himself forward in water. There was hope it would all click and we could retire the life jacket for good.

Bennett attempts to swim at Surveyor's Lake in 2014.

Bennett attempts to swim at Kalamalka Lake in Vernon, summer 2014.

When you have a child with special needs it’s hard to know when they’ll reach certain milestones. With Avery, a “typical” kid, everything happened pretty much on schedule, from walking to talking to potty training (age almost 3) to riding a bike (age 4) and swimming (doggy paddle at age 5). To prove he’s very much on his own schedule, Bennett walked at 19 months, talked at age 3, mastered the toilet at 4, and still can’t ride a two-wheel bike. But we have expectations that he’ll eventually get there. That’s part of the reason we keep trying.

So when Bennett, now 7, began doggie paddling across the hot tub in Fernie in January, Blake figured he was ready to swim without flotation assistance. He marched Bennett into the pool, they swam to the deep end, Blake let him go, and — just like that — Bennett swam to the ladder by himself. It was like all those hours spent in the water with us and with instructors (who at times I’m sure thought he was a lost cause as he stared off into space), finally paid off. Swimming? Check!

Bennett swims across the deep end at the pool in Fernie.

Bennett swims across the deep end at the pool in Fernie.

Yes, Bennett’s is a rather sketchy doggie paddle, and I’m frightened his head will go under at any moment, but the boy kicks his legs and flails his arms and gets across the pool without inhaling its contents. I’ll take it. He may never master the butterfly or even the front crawl, but as long as he can manoeuvre in water without drowning, I’m thrilled. And so very proud. My water baby has finally shed his water wings. Way to go, Bennett!

Boston Derby

This smooth and tart winter delight is basically a Boston Sour, where the bourbon has been infused with grapefruit peel. I sampled this drink in Vancouver at West Restaurant, where the bar program is ably commanded by award-winning mixologist David Wolowidnyk.

As you know by now, I really like sours, and it’s neat to see more bartenders playing around with grapefruit in this style of drink. This version is light and lemony, with a lip-puckering kiss from the grapefruit and an affectionate slap from the bourbon. Be careful though — after one sip you might end up in a race to the bottom of the glass.

Grapefruit meets bourbon in this tasty twist on a Boston Sour.

Grapefruit meets bourbon in this tasty twist on a Boston Sour at West Restaurant in Vancouver.

Boston Derby

  • 2 oz grapefruit peel-infused bourbon*
  • 1 oz honey syrup (2/3 honey to 1/3 water)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • Egg white
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Method: Combine ingredients and shake quickly with ice to chill. Remove ice and shake again to maximize foam. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist set atop the foam.

*Grapefruit-peel infused bourbon

  • The peels of two grapefruits, with as little pith as possible
  • A bottle of bourbon of your choice

Method: Pour the bourbon into an infusion jar, such as a large 1 L mason jar. Add the grapefruit peels. Seal and let sit at room temperature for two days. Strain out peels and enjoy.

— Recipe courtesy David Wolowidnyk, West Restaurant