Monthly Archives: May 2016

Savoury cocktails for summer

Patio season has officially begun and cocktail lovers are looking for easy and delicious recipes for summer sipping. A huge trend this year is savoury cocktails — balanced drinks that go beyond fruity (and beyond that Canadian savoury stand-by, the Caesar) to incorporate herbal, vegetal, smoky or even salty flavours.

I appeared on CTV Calgary this morning to talk (and make) savoury cocktails that are crowd pleasers and super easy to execute. CTV host Aisling Tomei and I worked our way through a Smoky Hot Pepper Negroni with Campari, Cinzano Rosso and mezcal; a refreshing Amber Road with Aperol and Wild Turkey bourbon; and a beer cocktail featuring Innis & Gunn Lager.

Mixing savoury summer cocktails with Aisling Tomei. Her favourite was the Amber Road. Mine? The Smoky Hot Pepper Negroni!

Mixing savoury summer cocktails with Aisling Tomei. Her favourite was the Amber Road. Mine? The Smoky Hot Pepper Negroni!

I’ve included the recipes below. Enjoy!

Smoky Hot Pepper Negroni

Description: This savoury sipper is a twist on a classic Negroni, using smoky mezcal instead of gin, and adding a hit of habanero syrup for heat.

If you don’t want to make your own Negroni, check out Negroni Week in Calgary, happening June 6-12, where 28 Calgary bars are featuring the cocktail, and donating sales proceeds to the charity of their choice. It’s a great opportunity to drink for a cause!

This twist on a Negroni uses smoky mezcal, which stands up beautifully to the bitter Campari.

This twist on a Negroni uses smoky mezcal, which stands up beautifully to the bitter Campari.


  • 1 oz mezcal
  • 1 oz Cinzano Rosso sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Campari
  • 1 tsp habanero simple syrup*
  • Garnish: Dried chili pepper

Method: In a mixing glass combine mezcal, Cinzano Rosso, Campari and habanaro simple syrup. Add ice and stir until drink is well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over a large cube of ice, and garnish with a dried chili pepper.

*Habanero simple syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 habanero peppers, quartered

Method: Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add peppers and simmer for up to 10 minutes (periodically check syrup to see how spicy it’s becoming). When desired spiciness is reached, remove from heat and strain out peppers. Store the syrup in the fridge in a sealed container.

Amber Road

Description: Tart and slightly bitter. with natural sweetness from the bourbon and maple syrup, this light summer spritz is just the thing for those patio afternoons.

Long and fizzy, this twist on an Aperol spritz is delicious.

Long and fizzy, this twist on an Aperol spritz is delicious.


  • 1-1/2 oz Wild Turkey 81 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz maple syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Top soda water
  • Garnish: Mint sprig

Method: Combine Wild Turkey, Aperol, lemon juice, maple syrup and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake, then strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with about 2 ounces of soda water and garnish with a mint sprig.

Salted Lager Scotch-tail

Description: A float of peated whisky stands up to this robust lager and —  along with the salted rim —  adds a layer of Scottish intrigue to this beer cocktail, while keeping it light and fresh for summer.

Beer cocktails and savoury cocktails like this one are on-trend. The Salted Innis & Gunn Scotch-tail is smoky, salty and refreshing.

Beer cocktails and savoury cocktails like this one are on-trend. The Salted Innis & Gunn Scotch-tail is smoky, salty and refreshing. Pair with peanuts.


  • 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup (1:1 water-to-sugar ratio)
  • 250mL Innis & Gunn Lager
  • Float of peated whisky (about 1/4 to 1/2 oz, depending on desired smokiness)
  • Garnish: Lemon wheel

Method: Salt the rim of a rocks glass with Himalayan sea salt, then add a large sphere of ice. Build the drink in  the glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Drink of the Week: Chimango

Bar C comes out with a fun warm-weather cocktail list every spring, and this year the theme is drinks “inspired by candy.” There’s a Snickers Old Fashioned with caramel and chocolate bitters, a Pink Parts with Luxardo Cherry and Fireball, and the delicious Chimango, which is like a margarita, but with mango juice and a tamarind-flavoured drinking vinegar called Tamarind Pok Pok. There’s even a tamarind fruit skin garnish for dessert!

I once had a tamarind margarita in Mexico, and this drink channels that one, with the added bonus of tasting like tart mango and carrying a lovely smoky essence thanks to the hit of mezcal. Be careful, though — the Chimango is easy to drink and, like its tagline promises, it will “take you right back to the time you can’t remember in Mexico…”

The Chimango, a tequila cocktail from Bar C, promises to "take you right back to the time you can't remember in Mexico…"

The Chimango, a tequila cocktail from Bar C, promises to “take you right back to the time you can’t remember in Mexico…”


  • 1 oz Cazadores Reposado
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 oz Los Danzantes Mezcal
  • 1 oz lemon mango juice
  • 1/2 oz Tamarind Pok Pok (available at Vine Arts)
  • 1/3 Chamoy (available at Mexican markets/grocers)
  • Garnish: lime wheel and tamarind fruit skin

Method: Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake hard, then double strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lime wheel and tamarind fruit skin.

— Recipe courtesy Bar C

Nelson’s Victory: Try this lovely brunch cocktail on Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, old and new. You deserve a great day filled with kind gestures and sweet indulgences. And nothing spoils Mom quite like a brunch cocktail to get her special day off on the right foot.

Here's to Mom!

Cheers to Mom!

I was introduced to the Nelson’s Victory cocktail at Whitehall, which is a new restaurant in Bridgeland that serves British cuisine, re-imagined. Whitehall also serves gin cocktails, re-imagined, and I love this light and fizzy creation that combines gin with Luxardo Maraschino, Cointreau and orange juice, topped off with Prosecco. It’s like a Mimosa on steroids, which sounds about right for Mother’s Day!

Nelson’s Victory

  • 1 oz Plymouth Gin
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz orange juice
  • Top Prosecco

Method: Combine gin, Luxardo Maraschino, Cointreau and orange juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a coup glass and top with Prosecco.

— Recipe courtesy Whitehall

Toilet phone

My iPhone took a dive into the toilet at our B&B in Colonia, Uruguay last week. Sadly, ours is a world in which this type of thing happens with alarming frequency, as it seems we can no longer enjoy even the throne in disconnected solitude. Just tell the techie at the Apple store that your phone “got wet” and he’ll say, “Please tell me the toilet was clean.”

With a little advance planning, you too can avoid dropping your iPhone in the toilet.

With advance planning, you can avoid dropping your iPhone in the toilet.

In true Game of Phones style, the toilet was not clean. It was a pee toilet. I immediately rescued my pee phone, removed it from its pee case and patted the pee dry. I returned to bed (why, oh why had I taken my phone to the toilet at dawn? To check the time and to see whether I had any new likes for my Facebook post, of course) and obsessed about how I was going to find the rice that’s necessary to properly dry out a wet phone. I rehearsed the conversation in Spanish:

Me: “Buenos dias, senor. Tengo una pregunta. Tiene arroz?”

Senor: “Arroz?”

Me: “Si, arroz. Mi telefono estaba en el bano? En la agua? Necessito arroz para secar el telefono.”

Senor: Blank stare at the crazy lady.

He found some rice, bless him, and dumped it onto my phone inside a ziploc baggie. And this was all before 7:30 a.m. The prognosis was looking good, so long as the urine didn’t fry the circuitry or something.

When I got back to the room it was my husband who was looking at me like I was a crazy lady. Not only had I dropped the phone in the toilet, the device contained all the images from the trip — beautiful pictures of Mendoza wineries and colonial buildings in Uruguay — and I wasn’t on the iCloud! The pictures weren’t backed up, my contacts weren’t backed up, so my very existence was pretty much in the toilet, too.

There was naught to do but begin the long journey back to Canada, via ferry to Buenos Aires, bus to the EZE airport, and planes to Santiago, Toronto and Calgary, where I hoped by then the rice would have saved my phone. Yes, my phone is mostly functional again (the rice works, people!), but I’m using it a lot less. Three days without a phone was actually awesome and liberating, and I wanted to share what I learned.

Don’t bring your phone to the toilet

This is obvious, right? And yet, everyone does it. It’s like, we’re all scanning our news on a mobile app so when nature calls, we bring the phone to continue reading. I know a lot of people whose phones ended up in the toilet or on the floor next to the toilet because of this bad habit. Plus, it’s unsanitary — think of the germs! So don’t bring any device near the bathroom. Instead, use that time to think deep thoughts.

Back up your devices

My first thought as the touch screen began to slow down during the patting dry process was, “My photos! F*#K!” All those great images of the kids on spring break and me dressed up like a gaucho in the Andes: fading fast. I made a vow to activate iCloud for my phone and computer back in Canada, and to regularly download images from my phone to the computer (the idea of everything floating somewhere in the ether is a bit too airy for my liking).

Make a habit of turning off your phone at home

There’s a lot of talk about “being present” in your life, with your spouse and children. Let me tell you, nothing yanks you back to reality quite like not having a phone. With no portable connection to social media, you actually become more social with the people you live with. Imagine! This is a great thing. I found I listened to my kids without any mental distraction. In the mornings, I enjoyed my coffee with my thoughts, or read a chapter in my book. It was like an experiment for the slow technology movement: “Let’s not check our email or know what’s happening in the world until we get to work. Let’s see if that brings more balance to life!”

Maybe we don’t all really need smart phones

This thought ran through my head at the Apple store, after the techie refused to look at my “biohazard” (his word) toilet phone, and then tried to up-sell me on a newer, bigger, higher-memory iPhone. I thought about what I use it for: mainly, taking pictures, texting, reading news and occasionally social media. Apart from texting, I can do the other three using a camera and my laptop, which I would never bring to the toilet with me. I rarely ever use my phone as a phone since we still have a land line (quaint, I know). So why would I spend $800 on the fancy iPhone 6S plus model when I could just go ghetto with my old iPhone 4 and use it to text until my contract is up?

We all seem to think we can’t live without our phones. But we can, and in a lot of ways, the living is better.