Elderflower Collins

One of the most popular cocktails I’ve written about is the French Gimlet, a martini-style sipper that includes St-Germaine, a liqueur from France. Since St-Germaine is still uber-popular — and I personally love it — I have taken it upon myself to seek out other recipes that include it.

I happened upon the Elderflower Collins at the Oak Room lounge inside the Fairmont Palliser hotel while I was researching an upcoming Calgary Herald column on the resurgence of the gin and tonic (look for it in early August). This long cocktail is tart and refreshing and rather like a Tom Collins but with the sweet and floral elderflower liqueur for a delicious twist. Take advantage of these warm summer evenings by sipping one on your deck or patio. Delightful!

This lovely long drink is on the "FAME" (Fairmont Artistic Mixology Experience) menu at the Fairmont Palliser hotel.

This refreshing long drink is on the “FAME” (Fairmont Artistic Mixology Experience) menu at the Fairmont Palliser hotel.

Elderflower Collins

  • 1 oz Martin Miller’s gin
  • 1/2 oz St-Germaine Elderflower
  • 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • Top soda water
  • Mint sprig and lemon wheel garnish

Method: In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, St-Germaine, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake with ice. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with a mint sprig and a lemon wheel.

– Recipe courtesy Fairmont Palliser hotel


Drink of the Week: Saskatoon Sour

Last summer while attending a conference in Saskatoon I happened upon a hip cocktail bar called The James inside a swishy boutique hotel of the same name. I asked the bartender to make me something fun and she created a lovely sour using a Saskatoon liqueur from the local Lucky Bastard Distillers. Fittingly, she called the drink a Saskatoon Sour. I was won over by its purple hue before I even tasted its smooth and frothy berry delicious tartness.

Behold the original Saskatoon Sour from The James.

Behold the original Saskatoon Sour from The James.

I meant to write about the drink last year but I forgot all about it until I happened upon the bottle of Saskatoon liqueur I brought back from Saskatoon. *Footnote for those who have no idea what a Saskatoon is: Not only is it a city in the province of Saskatchewan, a “Saskatoon” is a small blue fruit (technically a “pome” — not a berry) that is native to Canada and grows on trees and bushes seemingly everywhere.  The berries are similar in flavour to a blueberry only not as juicy or sweet.* Since I lost the recipe from The James I created my own Saskatoon Sour using the liqueur with Pisco and lime juice, and I’m quite pleased with the result. I didn’t have a Saskatoon or even a blueberry on hand for a garnish, however.

Behold the Saskatoon Sour!

My Saskatoon Sour, with a mint garnish.

As a bonus, Saskatoons are currently in season right now, so if you don’t have a bottle of Saskatoon liqueur on hand, you could improvise by making a Saskatoon simple syrup (or subbing in a blackberry liqueur such as Chambord).

Saskatoon Sour

  • 1 oz Pisco
  • 1/2 oz Saskatoon liqueur*
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Saskatoon or blueberry garnish

Method: Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker and dry shake to emulsify egg. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a coupe or rocks glass and garnish with a blueberry or Saskatoon.

Hidden Lake: a new Fernie discovery

One of our favourite things to do near Fernie, B.C. is to spend a hot summer’s day at Surveyor’s Lake swimming, kayaking and looking for turtles and crayfish. We often hike around the lake from our HQ on Saunder’s Beach, and enjoy views into secluded Engineer’s Lake from the bridge that bisects the two mountain lakes. This visit, however, we learned of a new hike to a new lake: Hidden Lake.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery surveys the scene looking for Western Painted turtles at Hidden Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

The lake isn’t “hidden” so much as out of the way of the majority of day-tripping beach-goers. You can access it via the loop road at Surveyor’s Lake campground in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, a 30-minute drive southwest of Fernie on Hwy. 3. Hidden Lake has the same Western Painted turtles as the other two lakes, without the crowds to scare them from their log perches into the cool water.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That's Hidden Lake.

See the water glimmering beyond the turtle sign? That’s Hidden Lake.

There’s a narrow trail around the lake — lined with Saskatoon berry bushes, I might add — that lets you get close to the shore in many spots where the deadfall has washed up and the turtles are out atop it sunning themselves.

Five Western Painted turtles sun themselves atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Five Western Painted turtles atop a log at Hidden Lake near Fernie, B.C.

Our group of 16 managed to get quite close to a “turn” of turtles (I had to look that up!). Honestly, they’re not very interesting to watch, but these reptiles are considered a vulnerable species and it’s neat to see them in their natural habitat. Plus, the kids love spotting them — and eating copious amounts of Saskatoons along the way!

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Avery shows off her bucket-o-berries along the Hidden Lake Trail in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

Drink of the Week: Cowboy’s Breakfast

One thing I love about the Calgary Stampede is that it’s okay to have booze for breakfast. Not every morning, mind you. But guaranteed, there will be at least one break of day during yyc’s annual rodeo drunk-fest where a little hair of the dog will be just what the doctor ordered.

In anticipation of this yearly event, Bar C on 17th Ave. S.W. has come up with an appropriately breakfasty (and naturally, very boozy) cocktail called the Cowboy’s Breakfast, available daily through July 13.

“The cocktail was inspired by the essentials for any good Stampede breakfast – bacon, eggs, maple syrup and bourbon,” says Andrea Espinoza, bartender at Bar C. “Synonymous with cowboys, rodeos and the old west, bourbon was my starting point for creating this cocktail.”

The Cowboy's Breakfast is a Stampede cocktail available at Bar C through July 13, 2014.

The Cowboy’s Breakfast is a Stampede cocktail available at Bar C through July 13.

The Cowboy’s Breakfast features Buffalo Trace bourbon, Cazadores tequila, egg whites, bacon-infused maple syrup, cherry bark bitters and liquid smoke (evidently you can buy this, for that campfire taste) shaken together dry to emulsify the egg white, and then shaken with ice. The cocktail is garnished with candied bacon.

I love how smooth and silky this drink is, and how it warms up an empty belly with bourbon and the sweet notes of maple, cinnamon and bacon. Its only downside is that, coupled with the bacon garnish, you may just order a second and third cocktail and skip breakfast altogether. Giddy up!

Cowboy’s Breakfast

  • 1.5 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • .5 oz Cazadores tequila
  • .5 oz bacon-infused maple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 shakes Cherry Bark bitters
  • 2 shakes liquid smoke
  • Garnish with strip of candied bacon

Method: Combine all ingredients except garnish in a shaker and dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Fine strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass and garnish with a strip of candied bacon.

– Recipe courtesy Bar C


Drink of the Week: Bees Knees (with Brugal rum)

I haven’t written about rum cocktails for awhile, so it was fortuitous that I received samples of a trio of Brugal rums from the Dominican Republic: the Brugal 1888, a sipper; Brugal Anejo, a dark rum; and Brugal Extra Dry, a light rum perfect for summer cocktails like the mojito or daiquiri. Brugal’s angle with the light rum is that it’s “extra dry.” How does this translates with taste? It’s light and crisp and not too sweet. And it mixes well with lemon juice and honey syrup to create the rummy Bees Knees.

This twist on a Bees Knees cocktail features smooth Brugal rum and bitters for extra spice.

This twist on a Bees Knees cocktail features smooth rum and bitters for extra spice.

Yes, it’s true that Bees Knees is a wedding season cocktail traditionally made with gin, but I think it works really well with rum. The honey syrup is naturally sweet, the perfect foil to the dry rum and tart lemon juice. I also love the addition of Angostura bitters — they add a spicy kick reminiscent of a rum punch but in a much lighter, more summery cocktail.

Bees Knees

  • 2 oz Brugal Extra Dry Rum
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 ratio honey to water)
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe (I used a martini glass).

– Recipe courtesy Brugal Rum

Training hike No. 1: Grassi Lakes

Blake and I are tackling Fernie’s famed Mountain Lakes Trail (known locally as Heiko’s Trail, after Heiko Socher, the long-time Fernie resident who built it) in late July. It’s a challenging 20-kilometre day hike that will take us up 1,400 metres of elevation, over two passes and around the flank of Mount Fernie on a long alpine traverse before dropping us back down 640 metres and depositing us on the Island Lake Lodge patio for a cold beer eight to 10 hours later.

The view from up where they blast avalanches all winter = sublime. And it was a beautiful 30C day too -- with no wind!

The last time we tackled a difficult hike in Fernie was when we were training for Kilimanjaro in 2012. Here we are on the Polar Peak loop.

Since our urban bodies would suffer greatly if we stumbled into this epic hike unprepared, we have embarked on a series of training hikes. Over the next five weeks we plan to knock off three or four day hikes that will become progressively harder and hopefully make Heiko’s feel like a cake-walk when the day comes (I can dream, right?).

Embarrassingly, our first “hike” hardly qualifies as a hike, since most Canmore residents consider the Grassi Lakes Trail a morning warm-up (the more fit among them have been known to run the four-kilometre loop daily). Also, I’m pretty sure I huffed past a couple of toddlers on Saturday — whom I might add were walking under their own power — so that should give you an idea of the walk’s ease. There are two ways up to Grassi Lakes: we took the more “technical” trail that switchbacks up along the waterfall and stream; the other, easier route is more like a gradual logging road that’s popular among Moms and Dads pushing Chariots (we chose this path for the descent).

The lakes get their colour

The lakes get their colour from minerals in the water.

Regardless, the hike provides a decent enough ascent (165 metres) for a first-hike-of-the-season and at the top you’re rewarded with nice views of Canmore and the Bow Valley as well as photo ops by the two stunning tourmaline-coloured lakes (the lakes and trail are named for Lawrence Grassi, a coal miner-turned-mountain guide who built the trail). At the top it’s fun to stop and watch rock climbers attempting various routes up the surrounding dolomite limestone walls, which have natural holds from erosion.

Climbers love the cliff wall that tower above the lakes as they're riddled with natural holds.

Climbers (on the left) love the cliff walls that tower above Grassi Lakes because they’re riddled with natural holds.

To make the hike more challenging we brought along Piper, our Brittany yearling. She still walks like a bit of a yo-yo on leash, zigzagging hither and yon, so we had to constantly watch where we were stepping to avoid her paws. At the lakes we continued hiking up to Spray Lakes Road, where Piper had a swim in the reservoir, then we turned around and headed back down.

Piper poses by one of two turquoise lakes after her first hike in Canmore.

Piper poses by one of the two Grassi Lakes after her first Canmore hike.

Drinking cold beers and eating delicious paninis on the Mountain Mercato patio on Canmore’s main street while Piper sunbathed on the adjacent sidewalk proved a perfect reward for a day well spent in the mountains.

Drink of the Week: In Memoir

My memories of visiting Angers in France revolve around sipping Cointreau over ice inside Chateau des Briottieres, an 18th-century chateau-turned-B&B, before sampling more Cointreau cocktails after touring the nearby Cointreau distillery the following day. Both the chateau and Cointreau are family-run enterprises, so it’s fitting that the winning cocktail from last week’s Mademoiselle Cointreau competition was a tasty drink named to commemorate family and the memories and ties that bind us together: In Memoir.

This twist on a Cointreau fizz is like a Cointreau-Ramos gin fizz hybrid. Do try this at home.

This twist on a Cointreau fizz is like a Cointreau-Ramos gin fizz hybrid.

Eight female bartenders representing various Calgary restaurants and lounges gathered at Belgo last Thursday to compete for the title of Mademoiselle Cointreau-Calgary by creating an original drink that’s a twist on a classic Cointreau fizz (1-1/2 Cointreau/1/2 lime/top soda water). Every cocktail had to include Cointreau and half a lime, as well as a fizz element such as the traditional soda water.

There were some inventive and delicious drinks mixed up, including a gorgeous ginger creation and a Raspberry Pie Sky made with raspberry sorbet, but the stand-out drink was In MemoirModel Milk bartender Madeleine MacDonald looked to the classic Ramos Gin Fizz and then took out the cream and added in Cointreau when creating her drink. Cointreau really is a natural addition to this drink given the ingredients. It works well with gin and lime, and I have yet to meet a drink that an egg white did not enhance — it somehow just smooths out any rough edges and blends the flavours together. I doubt I’ll ever actually make gewürtz syrup, but I imagine a honey syrup would be a tasty substitution. Enjoy!

In Memoir

  • 1 oz The Botanist gin
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz gewürztraminer syrup*
  • Dash orange flower water
  • Top soda water
  • Nasturtium garnish

Method: Dry shake all ingredients, except soda water, to emulsify egg white. Add ice and shake again. Double strain into an old fashioned glass and top with soda water. Garnish with a nasturtium.

*Gewürztraminer syrup: Heat one bottle of gewürztraminer white wine with two cups sugar until sugar has dissolved. Cool, portion and refrigerate.

– Recipe by Madeleine MacDonald, Model Milk