Monthly Archives: February 2015

Drink of the Week: Cilantro’s Pachamama

Cilantro has had some great cocktail lists in recent years and this winter’s selection of exotic libations with a  tropical bent is no exception. Aptly dubbed “Into the Wild,” the list features a No Speak Americano with Aperol, Punt e Mes and a black-tea-anise syrup; a Stray Greyhound with grapefruit juice, Punt e Mes and rosemary syrup; and a Lion Around with Lillet, vodka, gin and dandelion honey wine, among others.

But it’s the Pachamama, whose name references the Incan fertility goddess, that got my attention. It’s a gin-lemon-sugar drink that’s elevated with black walnut bitters and an absinthe rinse. Then, it’s served quite flamboyantly with a flaming sprig of thyme, as if it’s an offering to Pachamama herself. To achieve this dramatic flair the thyme has been soaked in Green Chartruse, which helps it flame awhile.

When it’s safe to drink the overall effect is a slightly smoky, very herbaceous cocktail that’s just right for any drinking altar (like a bar). If you don’t finish the whole thing they’ll throw you into the volcano, so drink up!

This gin-based cocktail is simple yet surprisingly complex.

This gin-based cocktail is simple yet surprisingly complex.

Pachamama

  • Absinthe rinse
  • 2 oz The Botanist gin
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water ratio)
  • 3 dashes black walnut bitters
  • Garnish: Thyme soaked in Green Chartreuse

Method: Soak a sprig of thyme in Green Chartreuse. Rinse a martini glass with absinthe. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters with ice. Shake, then strain into the martini glass. Remove thyme from Green Chartreuse, set afire and place atop the glass. — Recipe courtesy Cilantro

The birds and the bees

“All boy animals have penises. Even frogs,” said my grade five teacher on Day 1 of sex ed. The classroom dissolved into nervous giggles and it set the tone for the week: awkward. Through playground whispers I’d heard how babies were made and was curious if the impossible-sounding part about the penis inside the you-know-what was true. And I hadn’t yet read Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret, so Mrs. Beaton’s talk on menstruation was the first I’d heard about that looming monthly fact of life.

This book was how I learned about everything from lying about your period to making my boobs grow bigger by repeating the mantra (with elbow motions), "We must, we must, we must increase our bust!"

This book was how I learned about everything from periods to bras. It even has a boob-growth mantra: “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”

Oddly, up to that point in my life I hadn’t heard much — if anything — from my mom or dad on the subjects of puberty and reproduction. Back then, parents didn’t really have those conversations with their kids.

Avery’s grade four class is beginning a unit on human sexuality this week at school and it’s comforting to know that I’ve already talked with her about the topics they’ll be covering. I started the dialogue early, when she was in grade three and she and her friends began asking around about how babies were made. That was an awkward conversation:

Me: “So, you know how boys have penises? Well, when a man and a woman love each other…”

Avery: Silence. Then, “Yep, that is gross.”

Me: “Do you have any questions?”

Avery: “Nope.”

With the puberty conversation, which involves topics such as tampons, bra shopping and pubic hair, I learned that’s it’s way easier to talk about these subjects with your kid when you have an instruction manual of sorts. (That way, instead of making eye contact during the part about bleeding from your vagina, you can just look at a picture of a cartoon tween choosing between tampons and pads.) For us, this came in the form of the American Girl books, The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls (there’s a 1 and a 2). We looked through each book together, then Avery read them by herself, then we hung out on the couch and went through the books page by page, with Avery stopping and asking questions when she wanted more info. It wasn’t awkward at all. Instead, it bonded us as more than mother and daughter — it brought us together as females sharing girly info.

These books are great for starting a dialogue with your tween about puberty.

These books are great for starting a dialogue with your tween about puberty.

It also felt like one of the first pre-emptive things I’ve done as a parent — actually having the talk before I check the iPad search history and find out she’s been Googling “How to use a tampon” or “How to make sex.”

And yesterday, when her teacher called them to the carpet to initiate the lessons on human sexuality, she was able to raise her hand when the teacher began, “So, who can tell me what puberty is?”

A taste of France: Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut

This weekend I’m toasting the Oscars with the official champagne of the Academy Awards: Piper Heidsieck.

Let's toast the 87th Academy Awards with the exclusive champagne of the Oscars, Piper Heidsieck.

Let’s toast the 87th Academy Awards this weekend with the exclusive champagne of the Oscars, Piper Heidsieck.

I was first introduced to this delicate and deliciously fruity bubbly in Paris, over dinner with Cecile Bonnefond, president and CEO of the 230-year old champagne house. As she poured the range of Piper Heidsieck bubbles, from Cuvee Brut to Rose Sauvage, she talked about how champagne shouldn’t just be for special occasions — it really sets the mood for any occasion.

“It’s special, it’s limited, it’s so French. It’s about style, the way you set a table, the way you share a meal,” said Bonnefond. She summed it up with her signature toast, “Grand soit la vie!” which translates loosely as, “Let life be grand.” Bonnefond neglected to mention the way champagne makes people feel — larger than life; a bit like the stars we’ll be watching on Sunday, in fact.

The Piper Heidsieck cellars feel ancient, like you could get lost in a champagne catacomb but at least not get thirsty!

The Piper Heidsieck cellars feel ancient, like you could get lost in a champagne catacomb but at least not get thirsty!

That’s how I felt — red carpet ready — as we toured the Piper Heidsieck headquarters in Reims and later, the cool, catacomb-like cellars (former chalk quarries) where bottles are aged and stored. We ended the day in the vineyards, toasting the grapes that would one day become champagne.

These grapes in France's Champagne region will one day be champagne.

These grapes in France’s Champagne region will one day be bubbly.

My trip to France ended on a final celebrity-esque note: Piper Heidsieck table service at Paris club Le Magnifique.

The closest I will ever get to hoisting an "Oscar," a.k.a. the official champagne of the Academy Awards.

The closest I will ever get to hoisting an “Oscar,” a.k.a. the official champagne of the Academy Awards.

I wish I could say I returned to Canada and began ordering bubbly for every occasion. Sadly, no. But there’s still time to change my ways, right? I can start by popping the cork on a bottle of Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut for no good reason except to set the mood on what’s going to be a great night!