Monthly Archives: August 2012

Drink of the Week: Sangria (large batch)

If you’re hosting a summer barbecue and want to serve a signature cocktail that pairs well with burgers but won’t get your friends stinking drunk, opt for sangria.

I learned my lesson after mixing up a truly lethal (however delicious) rum punch for a fundraiser last spring. I decided since I was hosting this party at my house (instead of the community hall) and I was parenting-while-entertaining, it served my interests (and those of my friends, neighbours and of course, the children) to scale back on the booze. The result: a delicious red wine sangria.

Does the dispenser look familiar? In a former life it served rum punch.

This sangria is refreshing and fruity, but not too sweet. The brandy adds oomph and the juices just the right combo of tart (cranberry and lemon) and sweet (pineapple). The great thing about sangria is you can play around with it to your liking and add fruit chunks that fit your fancy. If you’re brave you can even enjoy the fruit the following day as a sort of “hair of the dog” yukaflux fruit salad.

I am happy to report the sangria went over swimmingly. The only “sangricident” happened when a nine-year-old neighbour poured himself a nice big cup of the concoction (he thought it was punch). Thank goodness it wasn’t rum punch!

Sangria (to mix in an 11-litre dispenser or extra-large punch bowl)

  • 4 bottles (750 mL x 4) red or white wine (always use a wine that you would drink on your own — we used a Peter Lehmann Layers blend, red, 2009)
  • 1 bottle (750 mL) St. Remy VSOP brandy
  • 16 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 12 cups chopped fresh fruit, divided (see cook’s note)
  • 64 oz fruit juice: cranberry and pineapple for red sangria; pineapple and grapefruit for white sangria
  • Soda water topper

Set aside 2 cups of the chopped fresh fruit to add to cups as a garnish. Mix all remaining ingredients in the dispenser and top with soda water to add a light spritz. Pour over ice in a cup then dollop in some of the reserved chopped fruit.

Cook’s note: Use fruit that will absorb and impart flavours, such as apples, oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries and even cucumbers.

— Recipe adapted from a Vin Room Sangria recipe

Extreme parenting: mosquito-hiking edition

Now that it’s mid-August, Blake and I naively thought that Calgary’s mosquito population had been quietly killed off by the summer heat. So we took the children for a six-kilometre “hike” in the Weaselhead Flats natural environment area, a wetland delta where the Elbow River empties into Glenmore Reservoir.

Yeah, I know — what were we thinking?! I assure you it was not: “Let’s do a Burmese March through a mosquito-infested wetland when it’s 30C outside!” It was more like: “Hey, this sounds like a nice, shady interpretive trail by the Elbow River. Maybe we’ll see a weasel or a black bear!”

A misleading sign lured us into the swamp with talk of birds and bears.

Oddly, the interpretive sign was lacking a picture of the most prevalent Weaselhead inhabitant:

Dear hikers, this is the only “wildlife” you will see. Suckers!

In real life they look like this:

Now, multiply this by 200. I think that’s how many bites we received as a family of four.

The hike began ominously, when we opted to bushwack our way down a lesser-used path, thus alerting the mosquitoes to our presence. Once the swarm knew we were in the vicinity they followed us to the bridge:

And down to the riverbank:

I assure you as soon as Avery and I completed our “royalty waves” we used those hands to kill mosquitoes.

Then, sensing we were easy prey (no insect repellent) they tormented our family for the next 90 minutes as we sprinted, swatted and swore our way out of the swamp. We were so busy trying to kill them that we probably marched right past a weasel. Really, we just wanted it to end.

Avery: “I’m itchy! Why did we do this hike? I hate it!”

Me: “Just keep walking — it’s harder for them to land on you that way.”

Bennett: “Look! A mosquito’s biting me, Mommy.”

Blake (swatting Bennett’s back): “Got it!”

Avery (crying): “I’m itchy! I want to die!”

Me: “Well, if you lie down on the ground they’ll just land on you all at once. So keep moving!”

Avery: “You don’t have to yell at me! I wish I was in Jell-O!” (Yes, so irritating and menacing were the blood suckers, my daughted wanted to be encased in Jell-O, out of harm’s way.)

Now, reread the above dialogue 20 times to get a sense of the final 20 minutes of our hike. When we finally climbed the hill out of the marsh back to the parking lot, the sky had clouded over and you could actually see the mosquitoes thick in the air. I imagine my back looked something like this hat:

Thankfully, I’ll never know. And I’ll never again go hiking in Weaselhead Flats without a full bottle of bug spray.

Drink of the Week: Aviation

I first heard of an Aviation cocktail in Victoria last October. I was in town for the Art of the Cocktail festival where I toured Victoria Spirits (makers of Victoria Gin) on the Saanich Peninsula. I asked gin distiller Peter Hunt what his favourite gin cocktail was. His answer: “An Aviation.”

Upon returning to Calgary I wrote a Spirited Calgary cocktail column called Tempting gin cocktails. I wanted to include an Aviation but didn’t want to purchase its obscure ingredients. So imagine my delight to discover an Aviation on the menu at Milk Tiger Lounge last week.

The pre-prohibition Aviation recipe calls for Creme de Violette.

The pre-prohibition recipe favoured by Milk Tiger bartender Nathan Head includes Creme de Violette, which adds the lovely lavender hue pictured above.

I already love gin with lemon juice (hello, Tom Collins), and the floral and sweet notes of the Creme de Violette offset the tart lemon and enhance the gin. You just need a little Creme de Violette, ditto the sweet maraschino liqueur. In a word — love — and I’m glad I finally understand why gin-lovers adore this drink.


  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • 1/4 oz Creme de Violette (Giffard brand)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied or maraschino cherry (a good homemade one, or a brand like Luxardo, not the scary red ones).

— Recipe courtesy Nathan Head, Milk Tiger Lounge