Monthly Archives: August 2013

Drink of the Week: Cucumber Cointreau Sour

It’s fair to say I’m on a bit of a Cointreau kick. I brought back a big bottle of the clear spirit — made from orange peels — from France, and I’ve been mixing margaritas, fizzes, white ladies and now, sours. I made this Cucumber Cointreau Sour using only muddled cucumber, lime juice, Cointreau, an egg white and a splash of water. It’s smooth, refreshing and tart, with that lovely, slightly sweet taste of oranges. Delicious.

This sour, made using Cointreau, makes a refreshing drink on a hot, end-of-summer. long weekend evening.

This sour, made using Cointreau, makes a refreshing drink on a hot, end-of-summer, long weekend evening, whether in France or in Fernie.

I have to say I’ve been impressed by Cointreau’s ability to stand up in a drink as the base spirit. Prior to visiting the Cointreau distillery and museum in Angers, I had only used it in cocktails such as the margarita and sidecar where other spirits (e.g. tequila and cognac) do the heavy lifting. After drinking many a fizz in France (Cointreau, lime juice, soda water), I figured it would be lovely anchoring a sour, too. I was right.

Cucumber Cointreau Sour

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 6 cucumber rounds
  • 2 oz Cointreau
  • Egg white
  • Splash water

In the base of a cocktail shaker, muddle the lime juice and 3 cucumber rounds. Add the Cointreau and egg white, then dry shake to emulsify egg. Taste, then add a splash of water if desired. Add ice and shake again, then strain into a rocks glass and add the 3 remaining cucumber rounds for garnish.

P.S. You’re not supposed to serve a sour on the rocks (as pictured) but it was so hot I couldn’t help myself. Gotta love our short summers.

P.P.S. I’m going to be writing more about Cointreau and Cointreau cocktails in an upcoming Spirited Calgary column in the Calgary Herald.

Just call me Miss France-y Pants

I had the good fortune of spending last week in Paris, Reims and Angers, France,  with a group of Canadian travel, cocktail and fashion journalists, courtesy of Cointreau liqueurPiper-Heidseick champagne and their Canadian distributor, Select Wines & Spirits. It was a first-class — and amazing! — experience that I’ll be writing about in some upcoming stories for the Calgary Herald, but I wanted to share some of the highlights here.

1. The sights

The Eiffel Tower is lit up at night and even sparkles for five minutes every hour.

The Eiffel Tower is lit up at night and even sparkles for five minutes every hour.

Wow, Paris! It had been years since I’d visited the City of Lights and I’d forgotten that not only is every boulevard wide and tree-lined, there’s usually a famous monument in any direction you turn your head. We spent a morning touring the city in a vintage convertible Citroen with 4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie and drove past the Louvre, L’Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and countless Second Empire-style buildings that line the streets. We even had dinner one night at Monsieur Bleu, right across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. Awesome!

2. The sleeps

I don’t usually get excited about spending time in my accommodations when travelling — I’d rather be out exploring a new city. But, hello. A chateau? I can totally picture myself as a chatelaine.

It's decided then. I'm becoming a chatelaine.

It’s decided then. I’m becoming a chatelaine.

We stayed at Chateau des Briottieres, an 18th-century chateau in Anjou, nears Angers. I also luxuriated in Paris at Le Royal Monceau, a Raffles hotel, and Hotel Costes, my first hotel with a complimentary condom as part of the in-room amenities. Really.

3. The booze

I have forgotten the name of this yummy number but I remember it as my first gooseberry garnish.

I have forgotten the name of this yummy number but I remember it as my first gooseberry garnish.

Well, it was a cocktail-themed press trip, after all so when in Paris… drink Cointreau. At 11 a.m.? With a gooseberry garnish? Mais oui!

4. The bubbly

Tasting Piper Heidseick at 10 a.m. Vive La France!

Tasting Piper-Heidseick at 10 a.m. Vive La France!

Before France I pooh-poohed champagne as too dry, hangover-inducing and pricey. Clearly, I had never tried really good champagne (or maybe it just tastes good because — pinch me! — you’re in Paris?). I loved the tiny bubbles, creme-brulee taste and length of both Piper-Heidseick and Charles Heidseick champagnes. And I never had a hangover! But, sadly, it’s still pricey.

And to sum in all up, here’s a photo that captures the trip:

The newly-minted chatelaine sips champagne at a vineyard in Champagne.

The newly-minted chatelaine sips champagne in Champagne. Mais oui!

Drink of the Week: Picante Pisco Sour

Cocktail culture in Paris is, surprisingly, a couple years behind Calgary (I know!), but during my week here I have still managed to find some amazing drinks. To wit, this twist on a pisco sour, enjoyed at the Park Hyatt Paris.

Like its name implies, this twist on a pisco sour, from the Park Hyatt Paris, is spicy!

One of the themes of my trip to Paris has been Cointreau. We’ve visited the Cointreau distillery in Angers, as well as many cocktails bars in Paris that mix up this elegant orange liqueur in cocktails. When I told the Park Hyatt bartender I like sours he suggested a pisco with Cointreau and chai green tea syrup. The game changer though are the mole bitters — they add a subtle heat at first sip that elevates the drink from passive to picante.

Picante Pisco Sour

Picante Pisco Sour

  • 1 oz chai green tea syrup
  • 5 grapes
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 2 oz pisco
  • 1 egg white
  • Loose chai green tea garnish
  • 3 drops Bitter End Mexican Mole Bitters garnish

Muddle the syrup with the grapes in the base of a cocktail shaker. Add the Cointreau, pisco and egg white and dry shake to emulsify egg. Add ice then shake again. Strain into a sherry glass and garnish with the loose tea in the middle, surrounded by three dots of mole bitters.

–Recipe courtesy Pierre Massin, Park Hyatt Paris

Drink of the Week: El Jefe

El Jefe means “the boss” in Spanish, and after trying a cocktail by this name at Anejo this week, I have to say it’s an apt moniker. El Jefe is basically a tequila Manhattan whose commanding, spirit-forward flavour is softened somewhat with a touch of sweet agave nectar. The cherry on top of this delectable drink is, literally, a tequila-soaked cherry. Oh, El Jefe, you had me at “hola.”

El Jefe is a commanding drink from Anejo that will have you under its spell in no time.

El Jefe is a commanding cocktail from Anejo that will have you under its spell in no time.

El Jefe

  • 1-1/2 oz Cazadores Reposado
  •  1/2 oz Cinzanno Rosso
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Flamed orange peel and tequila cherry garnish

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with a swath of orange peel. Add ice and stir until volume has nearly doubled. Strain into an old fashioned glass over fresh ice, and garnish.

Note: If you’re a bit of a cocktail nerd you can try barrel aging your own combo of tequila and vermouth. Here’s how: Prime a cask with cherry whiskey for 90 days. Pour out the whiskey and pour in three parts tequila and one part red vermouth and age for another 90 days. Then, just add agave nectar and bitters.

— Recipe courtesy Jeff Hines, Anejo

End of the road… trip

There’s always a sense of letdown coming home from a great holiday. Your excitement to sleep in a comfortable bed is tempered by your disappointment over trading scenic hikes and hot beach days for a predictable routine. So it was for us as we pointed the car east (no one ever says, “Go east,” do they?) from Vernon toward Calgary.

The climb up and the descent down Roger's Pass was the highlight of the final leg of our B.C. road trip, from Vernon to Calgary.

The climb up and the descent down Roger’s Pass was the highlight of the final leg of our B.C. road trip.

With six road hours (and eight tunnels) ahead, we had time to talk about our favourite parts of the B.C. road trip.

Avery most enjoyed the cabin up Indian Arm off North Vancouver. A budding naturalist, she’s in her element turning over rocks to find eels and crabs.

Avery catches one of many crabs up Indian Arm.

Avery catches one of many crabs up Indian Arm.

Bennett has graduated from water baby and is a bonafide splash kid. When he wasn’t paddling around a lake (or the Pacific) in his life jacket, he was imitating Piper’s doggy paddle in shallow water. Perhaps he’ll soon be swimming under his own power?

Bennett swims to his honorary auntie while cousin Jack enjoys the water too.

Bennett swims with his honorary auntie Simone and cousin Jack in the frigid Pacific up Indian Arm fjord.

Blake loved escaping the big city to be active outdoors as a family while hiking, swimming, kayaking and mountain biking in beautiful B.C. Oh, and stuffing his face with peaches, cherries and samosas (and wine!) in between activities.

Hiking as a family to BX Falls near Vernon.

Hiking as a family to BX Falls near Vernon.

I (Lisa) loved the heat. And being outside so much. And the way time seemed to slow down for two weeks. Though the places we visited were quite different from one another — small town Fernie; rustic, rainforest-tinged Indian Arm; smoking hot, lake-blessed Vernon — our theme of being active outside persisted throughout the trip. More than once I was amazed by our kids and their willingness to try new things (crab meat! paddle boarding!), hike several kilometres under the baking sun, or sit for hours in a car without complaint. They are turning into real little travellers and I couldn’t be happier about that. But if I had to pick one moment…

Sweet sibs share a moment at one of the most beautiful alpine lakes near Fernie.

Sweet sibs contemplate a beautiful alpine lake. They’ll always have each other, and share childhood memories of this family vacation.

Stand up paddle boarding at Kalamalka Lake

I had been wanting to try SUP (the cool-kid acronym for stand up paddle boarding) ever since I saw bikini-clad teens making it look easy in Maui four years ago. So I was excited to see the large, flat boards at Kal Beach near Vernon at the north end of the Okanagan Valley. We soon discovered nearby KalaVida Surf Shop, which rents them by the hour ($25), two hours ($35) half-day ($45) or full day ($65). We opted for the half day and, with zero instruction, were soon paddling all over Kalamalka Lake. (Tip: stick close to shore to check out all the fancy lakeside houses!)

Stand up paddle boarding really is as easy as it looks. At Kalamalka Lake, Okanagan Valley.

Stand up paddle boarding really is as easy as it looks. I gave it a go at Kalamalka Lake in the Okanagan.

I had heard that SUP was easy, but also that it’s a great core workout because you have to engage your abs the whole time to stay balanced on the board. Though I found this to be true, it wasn’t tiring like I’d expected (the lake is quite placid), and I was able to paddle around for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, no problem. If I needed a rest, I sat down and paddled. When I overheated from the sunny 33C Okanagan weather, I just jumped off the board into the lake. By day’s end it was my legs and arms — not abs — that were tired.

High: Posing as a bikini-clad paddle surf chick.

Low: No Low. It was all good. Best beach day of the road trip!

Outcome: SUP is fun, but perhaps more of a novelty that a life sport — I’d like to do it some more before I invested in a paddle board. Give it a try though; you’ll like it.

Drink of the Week: Beergarita

“Why not combine the two best drinks of summer into one delicious cocktail?” must surely have been the reasoning behind the easy-to-make and even easier-to-drink Beergarita. As its name implies, it’s basically a margarita mixed with beer, minus the fresh lime juice and Cointreau.

Beer + tequila + limeade = instant beach party.

Beer + tequila + limeade = instant beach party.

Blake first learned of its existence during Stampede week, when a co-worker let him in on the secret to a summer holiday, day-at-the-beach perma-buzz. (Don’t let its neon colour turn you off; it’s just the limeade.) The beauty of this drink is you can sip it like a margarita or guzzle it like a beer, your choice.


  • 1 can frozen limeade
  • Bottle of tequila
  • 3 12-oz cans of beer
  • Ice

Into a pitcher dump the limeade. Fill the empty limeade cannister with tequila then pour it in. Add the beer and stir like you’re making juice to dissolve the limeade and combine the ingredients. Add ice to chill and serve over ice in a rocks glass (or plastic party cup).


Perfect for sundown-sipping on the dock.