Devil’s Barrel cocktail

The Caesar is the most well-known Canadian cocktail, but there are many more made-in-Canada drinks — featuring local spirits, and created by the country’s top bartenders — waiting to be discovered, imbibed and ordered again and again. To help you navigate the country’s liquid landscape, food writer Victoria Walsh and her husband Scott McCallum have written a handy book called A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails (Penguin Random House, 214 pages, $24.95).

A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails.

A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails.

It’s a mouth-watering collection of cocktail recipes from across Canada that includes a B.C. cherry-flavoured Ogopogo Sour, the delicious A Bit of Northern Hospitality from Calgary’s Proof, and even a St. John’s Sling.

I went paging through the book looking for a tipple with whisky and lemon (two ingredients I have on hand), and settled on the Devil’s Barrel cocktail, created by Christopher Cho of Ayden Kitchen and Bar in Saskatoon (he previously worked a stint at Charcut and also helped create the cocktail menu at Charbar). I didn’t have a couple of the ingredients called for, so made substitutions (see recipe, below).

The drink is bitter at first sip, from the Aperol and grapefruit bitters, but it’s tempered by the nice round flavour of apple, and just a touch of honey. My husband was hoping for something more whisky-forward, but agreed that it grew on him as the large ice cube wept water and diluted the bitter bite. If you’re adventurous with your drinks, it’s a curious winter sip that’s a citrusy departure from the usual suspects.

The Devil's Barrel is strong, tart and bitter. Not a starter cocktail.

The Devil’s Barrel is strong, tart and bitter. Not a starter cocktail.

Devil’s Barrel

  • 1 oz Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky (I used Alberta Premium)
  • 3/4 oz Aperol
  • 1/2 oz calvados (I used Crown Royal Regal Apple)
  • 1/4 oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
  • 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
  • Ice
  • 1 grapefruit peel strip

Method: Pour all ingredients except ice and grapefruit peel into a cocktail shaker. Add a handful of ice cubes and shake. Double strain into an old-fashioned glass with a large ice cube. Spritz drink with oils from the grapefruit peel, and rub on the outside rim of the glass, then add as a garnish.

— Recipe by Christopher Cho, Ayden Kitchen and Bar, Saskatoon

Blue Lagoon: the cocktail

Never heard of a Blue Lagoon cocktail? You’re not alone. For those readers who were tweens or teens in 1980, those two words together will most likely conjure images of Blue Lagoon, the movie, in which a ship-wrecked Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins get hot and heavy beside a very blue lagoon.

Remember this movie? Evidently it inspired a tropical cocktail of the same name.

Remember this movie? Evidently it inspired a cocktail of the same name.

Evidently, this cheesy 80s island love story inspired a tropical 80s cocktail of the same name, the Blue Lagoon. It’s a member of the cocktail genre I call “blue cocktails,” that includes the Blue Hawaiian, the Blue Margarita and the Blue Monday. All of these drinks are coloured blue by Blue Curacao, which is actually an orange-flavoured liqueur that’s been dyed blue. (When cocktails veered toward sweet and fruity in the 70s and 80s, blue curaçao showed up for the party.)

I’ve been hearing for a while that 80s cocktails are making a comeback. Bartenders are taking Amaretto sours and pina coladas and margaritas and making them better (usually that means less sweet, and with fresh juices or housemade syrups instead of sour mix). This is a good thing. But I kind of thought blue drinks would be overlooked because of their neon colour. So, when I saw that the Bourbon Room was featuring not only an 80s selection but a blue cocktail on said menu, I couldn’t resist.

So. Very. Pretty.

Blue Lagoon cocktail at the Bourbon Room. So. Very. Pretty.

Bartender Fern Zevnik has taken some liberties with the Blue Lagoon (using bourbon instead of vodka, for one), but the result is something that’s balanced, delicious and beautifully blue. Go ahead and dive in!

Blue Lagoon

  • 2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • 1 oz Giffard Blue Curacao
  • 3/4 oz housemade mead syrup (or use honey simple syrup)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled coupe glass.

— Recipe courtesy Fern Zevnik

Goodbye GoodNites!

Sleep has always been a challenge for Bennett, so much so that we make sure nothing disrupts it. We’ve done the same bedtime routine for years, complete with having him wear a bedtime diaper, reading him two stories and giving him two big sips of water right before lights out. We keep the bathroom light on, the room temperature cool, and hope that he sleeps through the airplane noise.

Bennett asleep holding Peppy, his lovey.

Bennett asleep holding Peppy, his lovey.

Before he started sleeping through the night at age seven, nighttime potty training wasn’t even on our radar. It seemed cruel to take away the GoodNites and give him yet another reason to wake up — soaked through and smelling like pee, no less — in the middle of the night. Not to mention I didn’t fancy stripping sheets in the dead of night, either.

And yet, despite his new sleep awesomeness, for the past year we’ve continued buying Bennett nighttime pull-ups because he woke up every morning with a wet diaper. I just assumed he wasn’t ready to ditch the GoodNites. He certainly wasn’t showing any of the “signs of readiness” I had written about for a recent assignment. And because Bennett’s expressive language is delayed (a function of his autism and a genetic condition called 18q-), he never said, “So Mommy, you realize that I’m holding my pee all night, only to wake up in the morning and take a giant whiz in my diaper, right?”

We suspected that was his M.O., but we had no proof. And anyway, the routine was comfortable and it worked. I feared that taking away the diaper and the bedtime water — two crucial parts of the nighttime routine for Bennett’s autistic brain — would be cataclysmic for all involved. Picturing the bedtime meltdown, I was okay with buying GoodNites for eternity.

But one night last week, Bennett botched his plan to continue wearing nighttime pull-ups into adulthood. He was having a hard time settling and he ended up using the bathroom (No. 2) at about 9:30. At that point I checked his diaper and saw he had already peed in it (while awake!), so I put him in a new one. When he woke up at 6:30 the next morning his diaper was dry. There it was, proof that his bladder is mature enough to hold urine all night long. And also proof that when given a diaper (and water at bedtime), Bennett will pee in it rather than the toilet. It’s like we’d been enabling him.

Not wanting to squander our window of opportunity, we acted quickly. At afternoon snack I announced the new rules: “Bennett, now that you’re eight and such a big boy, you don’t need to wear a bedtime diaper anymore. And since you won’t be wearing a diaper, the new rule is no water after dinner.” (I didn’t bother getting Bennett’s buy in for this daring diaper experiment — as my Today’s Parent story suggested — because I knew if I asked him, “Do you want to wear underpants to bed instead of a diaper?” he would just say, “No!” We’ve learned many times that we have to the architects of Bennett’s developmental milestones — he’d probably still be wearing daytime diapers if we hadn’t taken them away four years ago.)

At bedtime, Bennett was not down with the new rules. He refused to put on underpants or his sleeper (I had to mostly dress him for bed that night) and even ran to the bathroom to try and fetch a GoodNite (I had hidden them). When it came time for the bedtime water, I reiterated the new rule and was met with resistance: “Water, Mommy. Please. Please? I want water! Please, Mommy!” I mean, it was rather sad, like he was approaching dehydration in the desert, but mean Mommy wouldn’t let him slake his thirst. It wasn’t the tantrum I had envisioned, but it did take him a good two hours to fall asleep, and then he was up about three times in the night and he peed in the toilet at about 1 a.m. I imagine the GoodNites had become a sort of security blanket and he was scared to sleep without one. He awoke nice and dry in the morning. Success!

It’s been a week now and Bennett has only had two accidents, both early last week — one because we weren’t strict enough with the water rule in the evening, and another because he had swimming one night and I think he swallows a lot of pool water. The crazy thing is, he now wakes up dry and goes about his morning of watching Super Why and eating breakfast without using the bathroom first. Mr. Iron Bladder can evidently hold it for 10 or 11 hours. To think of the money we could have saved if only we’d said goodbye to the GoodNites earlier!

I jest, of course. Who knows if Bennett would have been ready even six months ago? As the week has gone on he’s accepted the fact the diapers are gone and that water ends at dinner, forming a new routine in his head. He’s settling better at bedtime and sleeping through the night again. Really, it hasn’t been as painful as I thought, and I can breathe easier knowing I won’t have to source astronaut-sized diapers for Bennett in a few years’ time.



New year, new booze

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to mix it up when it comes to the spirits in your glass. Boutique and established distillers are busy creating new brands and new blends, and there’s no better time to resolve to drink better than January.

Here are four new-to-me spirits that are will help you elevate your cocktail game in 2016.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Yes, Canada can make great whisky! Crown Royal out of Gimli, Man. has a winner in this rye, named the 2016 Whisky of the Year.

Yes, Canada can make great whisky! Crown Royal out of Gimli, Man. has a winner in this rye, named the 2016 Whisky of the Year.

By now you’ve probably heard about the Canadian rye blend that’s been named 2016 Whisky of the Year by Jim Murray, whisky aficionado and author of the Whisky Bible. Crown Royal has a winner in its Northern Harvest Rye, a smooth, approachable rye whose spiciness is softened by the warmth of cinnamon and cloves. It’s lovely to sip on its own, or mix into a cocktail such as the Penicillin. But the best part may be the price: it retails for about $33. I’ve written about it in more detail for my Spirited Calgary column, running in the Calgary Herald this Saturday.

Rocado Tequila Reposado

An elegant bottle of tequila whose contents are smooth and delicious.

An elegant bottle of tequila whose contents are smooth and delicious.

Tequila is exploding right now, with tons of new entrants into the market. Along comes Rocado — a reposado in a beautiful but rather non-functional bottle — the result of a collaboration between the Mexican tequila family of Rodolfo Gonzalez and the wine and brandy family of Miguel Torres. Rocado smells of honeyed agave, and travels easily across the palate with a hint of citrus. I wouldn’t necessarily sip it on its own, but it’s fantastic in a margarita. It goes for $125 for a 700 mL bottle.

Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin

Gilpin's is a handcrafted, small-batch gin that tastes great in a rage of gin cocktails.

Gilpin’s is a small-batch gin that tastes great in a rage of gin cocktails.

The fragrances of citrus and juniper waft gently from a bottle of Gilpin’s Extra Dry Gin, voted the World’s Best Gin at the World Gin Awards. This small-batch gin incorporates juniper, lime peel, lemon peel, sage, bitter orange, coriander seed and angelica root botanicals, to create a balanced, super-dry gin that tastes great in a G&T or Live Basil Gimlet. It retails for about $60.

Sonoma Rye Whiskey

Don't let Sonoma Rye Whiskey's 98 proof label dissuade you. This 100 per cent rye whiskey is sweet, spicy and scrumptious.

Don’t let Sonoma Rye Whiskey’s 98 proof label dissuade you. This 100 per cent rye whiskey is sweet, spicy and scrumptious.

Sonoma County Distilling, a grain-to-glass distiller in California, has created a lovely 100 per cent rye whiskey. It’s made from 80 per cent Canadian unmalted rye grain, and 20 per cent malted rye from the UK, and then aged in new charred American oak barrels. It smells like an oak barrel warehouse, in fact (that is to say somewhat earthen and musty, in a good way), which belies a high alcohol content that floats between 48 and 49 per cent. This means Sonoma Rye Whiskey is hot on the palate, but that heat is in the background as the predominant taste is sweet like caramel with hints of vanilla and cinnamon, and lots of rye spiciness. It’s fantastic in a Manhattan and costs $91.


Consider this our family Christmas card 4

The Kadane-Ford family Christmas card: 2015

Family photo on Playa Grande beach on our last evening in Costa Rica.

Family photo on Playa Grande beach on our last evening in Costa Rica.

It’s been another exciting year for our family that included spring break in Costa Rica and a road trip to Denver and Salt Lake City, as well as lots of hiking, trips to Fernie and Game of Thrones book bingeing for me (yes, I read all five and have become one of those nerds people who knows what R + L = J means. See you next year at Comic Con! I’ll be dressed as Brienne of Tarth.). In between the fun we made 220 school lunches, read over 600 bedtime stories, cooked salmon (Avery’s favourite!) at least 50 times and spent 57 hours planning future holidays. Here are some 2015 highlights for each family member.

Blake continues to enjoy his time away from an office job and has begun to cultivate some hobbies including wood-working and tending bonsais. He began to take an interest in the tiny trees on a trip to Japan and we now have two. On the same trip, Blake crossed off a bucket list item after he ate blowfish, a.k.a. fugu. The empty Tokyo restaurant seemed like a bit of a red flag, but Blake dug in with enthusiasm to the sushi, deep fried and weird congee-style blowfish and told me not to worry when his tongue went numb.

Poison, poison, tasty fish! In which Bennett makes like Homer and lives.

Poison, poison, tasty fish! In which Blake makes like Homer and lives.

Upon returning to Canada, Blake had a closer brush with danger when he hit a tree while mountain biking on his last ride of the regular season and suffered a subdural hematoma dark bruise in his kidney area. Fortunately, he stopped peeing blood after a week  healed in time for winter fat biking!

Avery continues to enjoy Girl Guides and piano and she tried jazz dance this fall. She is also keen to try archery after secretly reading The Hunger Games books at school. “What’s the big deal?” you might be thinking. “I read Flowers in the Attic in grade six.” Yeah, well, I guess Katniss offing fellow teens isn’t as bad as Catherine’s sibling love with her brother. Still, it pains me to see her growing up so fast and it makes me want to hide the Game of Thrones books (killing AND inappropriate sibling relationships!).

Avery was in her element in Costa Rica and loved all the wildlife including this red-eyed tree frog.

Avery, age 10 (grade 5) was in her element in Costa Rica and loved all the wildlife including this red-eyed tree frog.

There are still plenty of little girl cuddles, though, even if Avery has started giving us the hairy eyeball when we sing dorky witty made-up songs about Piper in public. She is signed up for the Fernie Extreme Club again this winter and I will die a little be a proud mama if this is the year she surpasses me on the slopes. Avery has also mastered her back flip on the trampoline, taught Piper how to “play dead” and “sit pretty” and is on her way to being a math whiz (even if we will never ever understand regrouping). We are thrilled by how much she loves to travel, and humbled by her desire to help others, including four-legged friends — she’s volunteering at the SPCA this year.

Bennett has had another busy year that included learning how to doggie paddle and chew gum, and trying new tricks on the trampoline including diving head first into the net. He has also branched out with his vocabulary and after-school activities. We had him in therapeutic horseback riding this fall, which he loved, as well as swimming every week through the Special Olympics.

Bennett loves horseback riding. Here he is on a pony ride in Grand Lake, Colo. this summer.

Bennett, age 8 (grade 3) loves horseback riding. Here he is in Grand Lake, Colo.

And, I don’t want to brag, but I am happy to report that Bennett has reached the life-changing (for me) milestone of being able to vomit into a toilet when he has the stomach flu — rather than all over his sheets or the carpet; that is such a dose to clean up at 2 a.m. We are so very proud. There are still many challenges with Bennett’s autism, which I wrote about in a Today’s Parent story, but for the most part he keeps making progress and finding new ways to torment the dog.

Speaking of Piper, she has calmed down considerably now that she’s closing in on three (that’s 21 in dog years — time to move out and get a job, Pipes!). The only time she still really loses it is when there’s a squirrel in the backyard. Then she trembles and whines and barks like a ninny as she bolts down the stairs after her ever-elusive quarry.

She has also started grazing like a cow on long blades of grass. This poses a problem during elimination as she swallows them whole and then they don’t necessarily come out all the way, if you get my meaning.

Piper stops for a rest at Nose Hill Park.

Piper stops for a rest at Nose Hill Park. Wouldn’t she make a great cover model for Gun Dog magazine?

We have also begun to question her intelligence as every morning when she exits her kennel, instead of running straight for the food bowl, she takes the time to stretch and thus gets herself caught in a steer wrestling headlock by Bennett as he seizes the opportunity to manhandle his favourite playmate. But for all her idiosyncrasies, she teaches us every day about unconditional love and she never takes us for granted. I can leave the house for just five minutes but when I return, there’s Piper, tail wagging, holding her lovey in her mouth as an offering.

Lisa (that’s me) has finally succumbed to ageing and has invested in a bookish/sexy pair of reading glasses. It got to the point last summer where I was hardly reading A Feast for Crows because the light had to be just so and I needed a selfie stick to hold the book three feet from my eyes. Alas, the “librarians” are LIKE A MIRACLE and I no longer need large print books.

Hangin' with the hairy coos on Islay, Scotland.

Hangin’ with the hairy coos on Islay, Scotland.

I stay young at heart through travel and this was a banner year. I enjoyed a press trip to Scotland where I drank my face off gained a deep appreciation for peated whisky. I also visited Churchill to test the limits of my cold tolerance see the polar bears. And Blake and I jetted off to Japan on a couple’s trip to tour the temples of Kyoto, stay in some ryokans and feed the aggressive deer in Nara. I continue to write about travel, parenting and cocktails, and I even appeared on TV mixing holiday drinks.

We’re looking forward to a busy winter break that includes skiing, snowmobiling, time with family and, hopefully, a visit from Santa. Happy holidays!


Holiday cocktails

Ho ho ho! The holidays are nearly here and nothing says it’s almost Christmas like some liquid cheer.

I appeared on CTV Calgary this morning to talk (and make) holiday cocktails with the lovely Aisling Tomei. We worked our way through a Dawa with Wyborowa vodka, a delicious eggnog featuring Innis & Gunn beer, a light and bright Mulled Cider, and a bubbly New Years ringer-inner made with Two Oceans Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc in lieu of champagne. A merry way to start a Wednesday, indeed.

I’ve included the recipes below. Enjoy, and remember to have a safe holiday.

Holiday Dawa

Description: This famous tart-sweet sundowner cocktail gets a holiday makeover with the addition of cranberry sauce. Enjoy it on Christmas Eve while contemplating the tree… after the children are in bed.

Dawa means "medicine" in Swahili. Trust me, you'll need a couple doses of these to survive the holidays (and your in-laws/bratty kids/drunkle, etc.) with your sanity intact.

Dawa means “medicine” in Swahili. Trust me, you’ll need a couple doses of these to survive the holidays (and your in-laws/bratty kids/drunkle, etc.) with your sanity intact.

  • 2 oz Wyborowa vodka
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 lime, halved; cut one half into quarters
  • 2 tsp. cranberry syrup (or leftover cranberry sauce)
  • Garnish: Cranberries and straw
  • Glass: Rocks

Method: Juice the intact lime half into the bottom of a rocks glass. Add the honey and the remaining lime quarters and muddle together gently to release remaining lime juice and dissolve honey. Add crushed ice, then pour in vodka and cranberry syrup and stir. Add more ice to top, then garnish with three cranberries and a straw.

Serves: 1

Innis & Gunn Eggnog

Description: Homemade eggnog is so much better than anything store bought. Using the delicious Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer as a base creates a “beernog” you’ll want to drink all winter long. Tip: Serve this at your holiday party and you’ll convert everyone who thinks they don’t like ‘nog.

Who knew Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer would make such a delicious base for a "beernog"?

Who knew Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer would make such a delicious base for a scotch-fortified “beernog”?

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 700 mL whole milk
  • 500 mL whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla pod (or 3 tsp. real vanilla extract)
  • 3 bottles original Innis & Gunn beer
  • 300 mL scotch whisky (I used Auchentoshan American Oak)
  • Garnish: Sprinkle nutmeg
  • Glass: Rocks

Method: In a punch bowl whisk eggs with half of the sugar until sugar dissolves. Slowly add milk, cream and remaining sugar, stir until well combined. Add scotch, beer and vanilla pod (or extract), and refrigerate until ready to serve. Ladle into rocks glasses and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Serves: 12

Mulled Cider

Description: Mulling a berry-forward cider with rum, lemon and spices makes the perfect après-ski, or fireside, sip. Best served hot after a frolic in the snow.

This warm spiced drink is just what the doctor ordered after a frolic in the snow.

This warm spiced drink is just what the doctor ordered.

  • 2 500 mL cans Rekorderlig Swedish Cider
  • 4 oz Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12-year-old rum
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 2 lemons; 1 sliced, 1 juiced
  • Garnish: Lemon slice
  • Glass: Clear mug

Method: Into a medium saucepan add cider, rum, cinnamon, honey, cloves, the juice of 1 lemon and the other lemon, sliced. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve in clear mugs, scooping out a lemon slice for the garnish.

Serves: 4

Two Oceans RaspBellini

Description: This crisp, dry bubbly meets a peachy muse to create an easy and affordable drink for toasting the New Year.

This sparkling New Years sip is just peachy thanks to a splash of Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach.

This sparkling New Years sip is just peachy thanks to a splash of Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach.

  • 6 oz Two Oceans Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach
  • Garnish: Fresh raspberries
  • Glass: White wine

Method: Pour Two Oceans Sparkling Sauvignon Blanch into a wine glass. Float the Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach and garnish with two fresh raspberries.

Serves: 1

Brockmans G&T

With the tag line “A Gin Like No Other,” how could I refuse a cocktail kit from Brockmans Gin, a new-ish gin out of the U.K.? Sign me up!

Brockmans uses an interesting mix of botanicals, including almonds, berries and cassia bark (not dissimilar to cinnamon). What’s more, the gin came with tonic, so I really had no excuse not to pour myself a G&T.

It's G&T time!

A cocktail kit with tonic included. Nice!

But first, I sampled the Brockmans on its own. Though I found it a tad fruity and floral for my taste, I appreciate what they are doing with this gin. Dried and wild blueberries and blackberries add sweet berry notes that compete for prominence with the more bitter, piney juniper berries. It’s smooth overall, but it may taste foreign to gin drinkers accustomed to a drier, more herbaceous style of gin. What Brockmans will gain are new gin drinkers whose palates veer to sweet, and those looking for a break from tradition.

The cocktail kit came with a wee bottle of Fever Tree tonic, a lovely, citrusy tonic, also from the U.K. Other Brockmans botanicals include lemon peel and orange peel, so it was well-matched with the Fever Tree. In lieu of the recommended twist of pink grapefruit peel (see recipe), I squeezed in a bit of lime. Then I dropped in some frozen blueberries, which bled pink into the drink and made it look very pretty.

But how did it taste? Good, if fruitier than I’m used to, though its berry taste made me pine for a summer patio rather than a dark Novembver living room. And in hindsight, the grapefruit would have been better than lime. Next time!

Blueberries make a sweet and pretty garnish in this fruit-forward G&T.

Blueberries make a sweet and pretty garnish in this fruit-forward G&T.

Brockmans G&T

  • 2 oz Brockmans Gin
  • 4 oz Fever Tree tonic
  • Grapefruit twist
  • Blueberries (3-5)

Method: Build the drink in a rocks glass filled with ice, stir. Garnish with a pink grapefruit twist and blueberries.

— Recipe courtesy Brockmans Gin