Drink of the Week: Penicillin

Robbie Burns Day is January 25. I am not Scottish, and you won’t find me partying on Sunday, but I may raise a glass of Laphroaig Quarter Cask to Scottish poet and famous ladies’ man Robert Burns. The single malt scotch whisky, aged in smaller “quarter” casks said to provide the spirit 30 percent greater contact with the barrel wood (and thus intensify the maturation process), is full-bodied and smoky, with a subtle sweetness. It’s lovely on its own but as with most spirits, I prefer mine in a cocktail.

Enter the Penicillin. Although its name is medicinal, this cocktail is anything but antiseptic. It is, however, liquid therapy. The roundness of the blended scotch and the sweet, smoky, peaty flavour of the Laphroaig combine with tart lemon and spicy ginger to make a cocktail that Robbie Burns himself might’ve penned an ode to.

A little shot of this and you'll be ready to party like Robbie Burns!

A little shot of this and you’ll be ready to party like Robbie Burns, Scotland’s favourite son. 


  • 2 oz blended scotch, Teacher’s (I used Ancient Clan)
  • 1/4 oz Laphroaig Quarter Cask
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz honey-ginger syrup
  • Garnish: candied ginger

Method: Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a rocks glass, preferably one with a large ice cube. Garnish with candied ginger.

— Recipe by mixologist Sam Ross of Milk & Honey, Little Branch, New York, NY

Ode to Currie Bowl

On a powder day at Fernie Alpine Resort, doing laps on White Pass quad is where you want to be. That’s because the top of the chairlift provides access into Currie Bowl, which is — in my opinion — the best of the resort’s five bowls. There are north-facing steeps that hold the snow long after a storm, nice gladed areas for playing chicken with the trees, and open groomers perfect for carving big GS turns.

White Pass chair takes skiers into the clouds, and the powder that awaits in Currie Bowl.

White Pass chair takes skiers into the clouds, and the powder that awaits in Currie Bowl. On Sunday it looked like the inside of a ping-pong ball.

And, in the order of what opens when after new snow falls, Currie usually follows mid-morning behind Timber Bowl and Siberia Bowl. If you can time it to be unloading from White Pass chair at the exact moment ski patrol takes down Currie’s sign line, it will be the best run you ski all day.

The throng gathers at the top of Currie Bowl on a powder morning, waiting for the sign line to come down.

The throng gathers at the top of Currie Bowl on a powder morning, waiting for the sign line to come down.

This happened to me for the second time on Sunday morning. I was perfectly content skiing by braille (a.k.a. visibility was poor) down Pillow Talk in Timber Bowl, finding powder stashes in open areas that the white-out averse had missed in their pursuit of trees for contrast. But when another lap brought me back to the top of White Pass and I saw the crowd gathered, I knew Currie’s terrain was about to get tracked up. No sooner had I exited the lift than the patrolman gave the thumbs up and it was a Chinese downhill into the pow, with me following a line of skiers so I could see where I was going. As soon as I hit Currie Glades, with trees for reference, I split from the pack and carved lovely arcs into the boot-deep snow, whooping with glee and not stopping until I was half way down.

Skiers enjoy first tracks down Currie Bowl on Sun., Jan. 18.

Skiers enjoy first tracks down Currie Bowl on Sun., Jan. 18, 2015.

After that epic run, my day was pretty much done. Thanks for the new snow, Griz!

Elderflower Pear Margarita

Who knew George Clooney makes tequila? Well, he’s not the actual master distiller, but he’s one of the power names behind Casamigos Tequila, along with Rande Gerbe and Mike Meldman. Clooney’s signature is even on the bottle.

George Clooney is a co-owner of Casamigos Tequila.

George Clooney is a co-owner of Casamigos Tequila.

Celebs and their rock star cousins have been throwing a bit of their fortunes into spirits for awhile now (remember Cabo Wabo tequila, courtesy of Sammy Hagar?). Dan Aykroyd brings us Crystal Head Vodka, Kenny Chesney has a line of made-in-Barbados rums, and Justin Timberlake is behind 901 Tequila. So it’s not surprising tequila-lover Clooney would get in on the game with a premium blanco and reposado tequila (an anejo will be added to the Casamigos collection some time this year).

The Casamigos website lists some great-sounding recipes from bars across North America. Los Pollos Hermanos sounds amazing — who knew you could put chicken stock in a cocktail? I was sent a bottle of the blanco to sample and since I don’t have any “clarified chicken stock” on hand, I decided to try the product in a margarita. I usually prefer a reposado in my margs, but I thought the blanco worked well in an Elderflower Pear Margarita.

The Casamigos blanco is smooth, no burn at all going down and with nice floral aromas and a taste of sweet agave. I felt the blanco would pair well with St-Germaine and its sweet, floral, not-quite-pear-nor-citrus taste, so I subbed that liqueur for Cointreau in my margarita twist. I also had an overripe pear on hand and decided to see how that would taste muddled into the mix. It added a subtle pear flavour and that, along with the St-Germaine, made the drink stand out. (I’m not sure I’d make it again though as it was a bit laborious straining the pear out!)

Elderflower Pear Margarita

This margarita twist features St-Germaine and the soft, sweet flavour of muddled pear to offset the tequila and lime. Note Clooney’s signature on the bottle!

Elderflower Pear Margarita

  • 1.5 oz Casamigos blanco tequila
  • 1 oz St-Germaine
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 barspoon agave syrup
  • 1/4 ripe pear
  • Garnish: pear wedge

Method: Rim a rocks glass with salt and fill with crushed ice. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker muddle ripe pear with lime juice and agave syrup. Add Casamigos blanco, St-Germaine and ice and shake. Fine strain into the rocks glass and garnish with a pear wedge.

Why Game of Thrones baby names are a bad idea

Though I’ll admit I’m hot for Jon Snow and it’s true my hubby has a thing for Khaleesi, let’s be clear: these Game of Thrones crushes would never prompt us to name a baby in their honour.

Jon, the one Game of Thrones name you could actually get away with because it's generic.

Jon, the one Game of Thrones name you could actually get away with.

Yet some new parents are turning to pop culture and especially fantasy shows when it comes to baby-naming inspiration. The latest trove of names ready to grace birth certificates comes from popular characters in the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones. Arya is tops thus far, with Khaleesi and Bran following behind

I wrote awhile back why it’s a bad idea to name your child after a television show character. Series come and go, and what was hot and original in 2005 (the name Sawyer, from Lost, comes to mind) doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way in 2015. Even the Hunger Games monikers that today embody kick-assedness (Katniss, Peeta) will just be weird in a decade. Imagine being the kid with the strange name that everyone makes fun of (“Hey Catnip!”), then imagine trying to explain your name choice to your daughter (“Katniss was an arrow-weilding tribute in a movie where kids kill each other as live entertainment…”).  

On that note, here are some future awkward conversations you can avoid by not naming your kid after a hero or villain from Westeros.

Tyrion: Mom, why did you really name me Tyrion? I’ve been Googling it, so don’t feed me that line about how it sounds cool.

Mom: (Sigh.) You’re old enough now for the truth. I named you after a cunning dwarf character in a show called Game of Thrones that everyone used to binge on. He kills his father and his whore, and then flees for Bravos with a eunuch. It’s really not as weird as it sounds.

Yes, it sounds cool. But when you start explaining the character it just gets weird.

Yes, Tyrion sounds cool. But when you start explaining the character it just gets weird.

Sansa: No one ever knows how to spell or pronounce my name. It sounds made up!

Mom: We should have named you Arya.

Cersei: How come my twin brother has a normal name and I have a weird one? No one ever makes fun of Jaime.

Mom: You’re named after a fictional queen, honey. And your brother Jaime is named after the queen’s lover. I mean brother.

Cersei Lannister

Cersei. It sounds like an alternative source of natural sugar.

Bran: I’m sick of people calling me Raisin Bran or Bran Flakes. Why’d you name me after a laxative?

Mom: For your information, I named you after a disabled boy who’s also a warg and can enter the minds of animals.

Bran? No thanks, I prefer Flax or Chia.

Bran? No thanks, I prefer Flax or Chia.

Ygritte: Everyone always makes fun of my name and says it’s a kind of water bird.

Mom: Don’t listen to them, sweetie. I named you after my favourite wildling.

Ned: Mine is the worst name ever! It’s old-fashioned and rhymes with dead, head and shred!

Mom: Get over it — it’s not like we named you after Ned Flanders! Be proud: Ned Stark was a good man and he died a hero.

So think twice before turning to fantasy shows for name ideas when you’re expecting. There’s a good reason you don’t know any Darths, Frodos or Uhuras.




Fernie’s “Extreme Club”

This year we finally committed to becoming “Califernians” (Calgarians who weekend in Fernie) for six straight weeks by signing Avery up for the Extreme Club at Fernie Alpine Resort. The program helps intermediate skiers like Avery, 9, improve their skills and reach the next level (more confidence in powder, on steeper terrain and navigating bumps). She’s in a group with five other children of similar ages and abilities, and they have the same instructor every week. After only two lessons she’s already faster and more confident on the steeps, demonstrating improved turning technique and absolutely no fear.

Avery rips down the 123's in Curry Bowl on Sunday.

Avery rips down the 123’s in Curry Bowl on Sunday.

I always hoped it would get to a point where my girl could ski anywhere on the mountain with me, and after taking her down the steep black diamond 123’s into Curry Bowl last weekend, I think we’re almost there.

She also gamely skis through the moguls on blue runs in Lizard Bowl, and hopefully, one of these weekends there will be some powder and we’ll see how she performs atop the fluff (Memo to Griz: can you please deliver the white stuff?).

As a parent and a skier it’s satisfying to see how far Avery has come in six years. It’s hard to think back and remember her as a preschooler learning to snowplow on the Mini Moose (a.k.a. magic carpet) and taking numerous snow-eating breaks between “runs.” I wondered if she’d grow to really enjoy skiing, or merely do it because it was her parents’ dream to be a ski family.

Avery stops for a snow-eating break by the Mini Moose in 2009.

Avery stops for a snow-eating break by the Mini Moose in 2009.

Now, when we give her an option not to ski, or to leave the hill early to hit the hot tub and waterslide, she always chooses more runs. I watch as she carries her own skis and poles, boards the lift ahead of me with friends, looks for jumps on the side of every cat-track, and follows me gamely down every run.

Avery and a friend stop at the top of Curry Bowl's 123's.

Avery and a friend stop at the top of Curry Bowl’s 123’s.

It won’t be long before she’ll no longer want to ski with me, and I’ll be back to doing laps on Power Trip, now with Bennett. In the meantime, I’ll savour all our runs this winter. It will be neat to see how far she comes with her Extreme Club friends this season.

Drink of the Week: Hashtag Boom (redux)

I first wrote about this cocktail two years ago after it won a Beam Global competition at Vine Arts. Its creator, Matt LaRocque, formerly of Taste, moved over to Charcut and brought this drink with him. In the intervening years he’s played with the recipe a bit and I got to sample the updated Hashtag Boom at an event at Charcut last night.

LaRocque has switched bourbons to Bulleit, added a half ounce of New Deal Ginger liqueur and traded Fentiman’s for Grizzly Paw ginger beer. Most significantly, the drink is now served in a tall glass instead of a short one and tastes longer on the ginger beer and less spirit-forward on the bourbon. I could taste the bourbon, it just wasn’t all-powerful. The gastrique adds a nice spicy, sightly vinegar-y taste that’s subtle but still noticeable. Best of all, the drink was delicious paired with Charcut’s famous charcuterie (love the mortadella!).

This strong and spicy cocktail complements Charcut's charcuterie.

The Hashtag Boom, a strong, long and spicy cocktail, complements Charcut’s delicious charcuterie.

The evening was hosted by Maui tourism folks, so we talked a lot about the island, food and cocktail culture, and one of its upcoming food and wine festivals, Ka’anapali Fresh. I easily pictured myself on a lanai drinking a Hashtag Boom, which happens to be the exact colour of a Hawaiian sunset.

This warming, ginger-imbued winter sip is the colour of a Hawaiian sunset.

This warming, ginger-imbued winter sip is the colour of a Hawaiian sunset.

Hashtag Boom

  • 1.5 oz Bulleit bourbon
  • .5 oz New Deal Ginger
  • 1 oz red pepper gastrique
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes peach bitters
  • Top Grizzly Paw ginger beer
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Method: Shake all ingredients except ginger beer with ice. Strain into a tall glass over fresh ice.

— Recipe courtesy Charcut

One for the bucket list (heli-ski awesome!)

I’ve been a skier now for 38 years, but I haven’t always been a powder-chaser. That conversion happened when I moved north (of the wall) to Canada, where steeper mountains keep faces mogul-free, and prodigious snowfalls at resorts like Fernie and Fortress Mountain (now reincarnated as KPOW, a cat skiing operation) mean frequent fresh tracks.

Still, I didn’t add “heli-ski” to the bucket list until 2001, when a cat skiing trip to Revelstoke opened my eyes to powder possibilities beyond resort boundaries: All that space! No tracks! Steeeep! It was powder porn, and addictive. So when Canadian Mountain Holidays, the company that invented heli-skiing 50 years ago, invited me on a media day trip (the company offered one week of single day trips for the first time this year) out of Revelstoke, I felt the dream was within reach.

Our transportation for the day. The only drawback? The two-minute flights back up the mountain don't really give you enough time to warm up. #firstworldproblems

Our transportation for the day. The only drawback? The two-minute flights back up the mountain don’t really give you enough time to warm up. #firstworldproblems

The best part — after the knee-deep, cold smoke, virtually effortless pow-pow, and my first terrifying-yet-thrilling helicopter powder landing — was that I got to experience heli-skiing with hubby Blake, my powder buddy (he got to tag along after paying the day rate). I’ll be writing about our epic experience for WestJet Magazine, but here are some highlights.

Me with ski buddy gearing up for a run.

Me with ski buddy gearing up for a run.

Snow deep: I mean really deep. Our last run down a steep treed pitch called High Roller (because, for one day only, that’s, well…) sent me bouncing over powdery pillows and into snowy troughs where the snow was, I swear, thigh deep.

There's powder between them thar trees!

There’s powder between them thar trees!

Seat with a view: So the chopper ride was quick, but oh, the views! Acres of untouched snow punctuated by snow-toqued spruce trees and shadowed by the imposing peaks of the Monashees.

View from the chopper. Sublime.

View from the chopper. Sublime.

Bluebird day: Blue sky and deep powder. ‘Nuff said.

Cool mountain town: Revelstoke is awesome, mixing the right amount of historic charm with modern amenities like hotels with all-important hot tubs. The Regent, CMH’s Revelstoke base, is downtown, has an excellent restaurant and there’s a liquor store selling Mt. Begbie beer right next door!

Revelstoke has cute heritage buildings, great views and access to some amazing ski terrain.

Revelstoke has cute heritage buildings, great views and access to amazing ski terrain.

One for the bucket list: It’s funny how checking off a bucket list item can actually spawn new additions to the very same list. Now that I’ve experienced one day of heli-skiing, I’m penciling in a new goal: an extended heli trip to one of CMH’s remote backcountry lodges. In the land of pristine glaciers, dare to dream, right?