Category Archives: Cocktails

Drink of the Week: Pineapple Penicillin

Ever since I travelled to the Scottish island of Islay — home to the Bowmore, Laphroaig and Ardbeg distilleries, to name a few — I’ve been a sucker for peated whiskies. So I was super excited to receive a bottle of the new Ardbeg Kelpie, which was recently crowned Whisky of the Year at the 2017 International Whisky Competition in Las Vegas.

As its name implies, Kelpie pays homage to the sea that surrounds Islay. With its seaweed nose and smoky, spicy taste, it’s just the type of whisky you can imagine Euron Greyjoy drinking as he sails his squid-sigiled ships around the waters of Westeros.

I think Euron would like Ardbeg Kelpie.

It’s lovely on its own, but also acts as a commanding accompaniment to a cocktail. I used it to float some smoke on a Pineapple Penicillin, with fantastic results. Do be sure and grill your pineapple before juicing — the tropical campfire flavour compliments the Kelpie and adds a bright mellowness that’s perfect for summer sipping.

This delicious summer sipper floats Ardbeg Kelpie atop spicy rye and grilled pineapple juice.

Pineapple Penicillin

  • 2 oz Alberta Premium Rye
  • 1/4 oz Ardbeg Kelpie
  • 1 oz grilled pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz honey simple syrup (1:1 honey-to-water ratio)

Method: Grill several pineapple rounds, then juice. Combine all ingredients except Ardbeg Kelpie in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake to chill. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube. Float Ardbeg Kelpie on top and garnish with a skewer of grilled pineapple cubes.

Drink of the Week: Aperol Spritz (à la Adriatic)

When I first wrote about this drink back in 2012 it wasn’t yet a thing. Now, the Aperol Spritz is having a moment, both here in Canada and across the pond in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.

Cheers to Europe! Who knew the Aperol Spritz was so popular across the pond? I’m sipping this one outside the walls of Dubrovnik at cliffside bar Buza 1.

My husband and I have just returned from a trip to Europe, where we drank beer, wine and our share of Aperol Spritzes. I first spotted the gorgeous, topaz-hued drink in Venice, where happy-hour tipplers were getting their aperitif on at outdoor cafe-style bars (not that surprising, since Aperol, a bitter orange and herbal spirit, is made in Italy).

Just a couple glasses of Aperol awesomeness in Venice.

We travelled on to Slovenia, where prices on the cocktail dropped from 4 euros to 2.5 euros (woot!) at trendy patios along the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana (try saying that fast five times in a row). Farther south in Croatia, in both Split and Dubrovnik, the drink was as hot as ever.

Nectar of the emperors? An Aperol Spritz inside Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace in Split, Croatia.

If you haven’t had one yet, you’ve got to try this drink. It’s so simple — really nothing more than sparkling white wine or Prosecco bitter oranged-up with Aperol, and diluted with a splash of sparkling water. It’s also refreshing, delicious and beautiful to behold. Drinking one on a Calgary patio — or next to the walls of Dubrovnik — will make you feel très chic all summer long.

Aperol Spritz (à la Adriatic)

  • 1.5 oz Aperol
  • 3-4 oz sparkling white wine or Prosecco
  • Splash sparkling water (not soda water!)
  • Garnish: half an orange wheel

Method: Build over ice in a wine glass and garnish with an orange wedge.

— Recipe courtesy the nice bartender at Buza 1 Bar, Dubrovnik

Drink of the Week: Cinnamon Smoke

Sometimes you just want the taste of breakfast in your cocktail: cinnamon, vanilla, OJ, a squeeze of lemon, and the smoky essence of the griddle. I got to thinking about the amazing oatmeal I ate for breakfast on Islay — giant bowls of creamy cinnamon goodness that the innkeeper offered to fortify with a tot of whisky — and decided to deconstruct it into a cocktail. I took the island’s smoky whisky (Laphroaig) and combined it with spicy rye, citrus, cinnamon and vanilla. (If you wanted it a bit frothy, you could shake in an egg white.) It’s pretty delicious, but I wouldn’t necessarily drink it before noon!

Penicillin (the cocktail) had a rendezvous with orange liqueur and the spice rack and created Cinnamon Smoke.

Cinnamon Smoke

  • 1.25 oz Sonoma County Rye
  • 0.25 oz Laphroaig 15
  • 0.5 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz cinnamon-vanilla simple syrup*
  • Garnish: cinnamon stick

Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

*Cinnamon-Vanilla Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

Method: Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon and vanilla bean and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Let cool. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and store the syrup in the fridge.

Drink of the Week: Zakko Churro

The best twist on a mezcalgarita I’ve had in awhile is the Zakko Churro cocktail. I discovered it at Model Milk during their weekly Sunday Supper. It was created to reflect last week’s theme: Mexican food.

Model Milk hosts a Sunday Supper with a different theme every week. It costs $40 per person and includes starters, main and dessert.

Model Milk hosts a Sunday Supper with a different theme each week. It costs $40 per person and includes starters, main and dessert.

Imagine combining a margarita with the sweet cinnamon goodness of a churro, then adding a smoky hit, and you’ve got the Zakko Churro, so named for its inventor, Zakk MacDonald, and its muse, a churro. It features mezcal instead of tequila (hence the smoky flavour), pear liqueur rather than triple sec for a fruity taste of winter, lime juice and just a dollop of cinnamon syrup. Delicious!

Smoky mezcal, lime juice and cinnamon syrup turn into a liquid churro at Model Milk.

Smoky mezcal, lime juice, pear liqueur and cinnamon syrup turn into a liquid churro at Model Milk.

Zakko Churro

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.5 oz pear liqueur
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz cinnamon syrup*

Method: Rim a rocks glass with cinnamon-sugar, set aside. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain over fresh ice into the rocks glass.

— Recipe courtesy Zakk MacDonald, Model Milk

*Cinnamon Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Method: Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon stick and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove cinnamon stick and store syrup in the fridge.

Drink of the Week: Elle

Every Oscars party needs a little bubbly to help ease the way through the many boring parts of the awards show. This drink, created to toast French actress Isabelle Huppert — who’s nominated for best actress for her role in Elle — is just the thing: it’s light, audacious and leads to fun.

And, apropos of Huppert, it features French spirits. There’s the sweet orange kiss of Cointreau, plus some fizz from the Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage (rosé Champagne = genius!). Piper-Heidsieck happens to be the official champagne of the Academy Awards, so there’s no better time to pop the cork on a bottle. And the winner is…

The Elle: a classy, bubbly drink for your Oscars party.

Elle: a classy, bubbly drink for your Oscars party.


  • Plain ice cubes
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 0.5 oz Cointreau
  • 3.5-4 oz Piper Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage
  • Zest of pomelo or blood orange
  • Garnish: 2-3 blackberries

Method: Build the drink in a rocks glass over ice and garnish with blackberries.

— Recipe courtesy Piper Heidsieck

Drink of the Week: Duchess of Clynelish

Competing in a cocktail competition takes a lot of courage; winning one requires the right combination of showmanship, presentation, talent and playing to the judges’ taste preferences. I’ve judged a few over the years and I’m always blown away by the work that goes into each entry, and by the pressure on competitors.

One of the biggest competitions on the planet is World Class, hosted annually by Diageo, an alcohol brand conglomerate that owns spirit labels from Crown Royal to Johnnie Walker. Ewan Morgan, Diageo’s Master of Whisky, was in Calgary earlier this week for a whisky tasting at Milk Tiger Lounge and to walk aspiring World Class Canada competitors through the application process.

World-class whisky to accompany World Class Canada competition details.

World-class whisky to accompany World Class Canada competition details.

He brought along two World Class Canada winners: Shane Mulvany, a Toronto bartender who won in 2016, and Lauren Mote, a Vancouver bartender and the gal behind Bittered Sling bitters, who took home the top prize for Canada in 2015 (Canadian winners go on to compete in the global final).

I learned a few new things about whisky during the afternoon, but the highlight was getting to sample cocktails created by the World Class Canada winners. Mulvany poured his Masala Chai, a hot cocktail that combines Johnnie Walker Black with chai tea, milk, water and sugar.

And Mote shook up her Duchess of Clynelish (see recipe below, and note I did not get instructions for making the heather & rose syrup). As a fan of Chartreuse, both Yellow and Green, I am always looking for new ways to drink it, and had never tried it with whisky. I loved the play between the Green Chartreuse and ginger beer, and the tartness from the lemon juice, but I would either up the Johnnie Walker Gold amount, or decrease the Green Chartreuse, to help the whisky stand up better to the bossy herbal spirit.

Johnnie Walker meets Green Chartreuse in the Duchess of Clynelish cocktail.

Johnnie Walker meets Green Chartreuse in the Duchess of Clynelish cocktail.

Duchess of Clynelish

  • 1 oz Johnnie Walker Gold Label
  • 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz heather & rose syrup
  • 2 dashes Western Haskap Bitters
  • Top with ginger beer
  • Garnish: dehydrated lemon wheel dipped in rose sugar

Method: Shake all ingredients, except for ginger beer, with ice. Strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass, and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel dipped in rose sugar.

— Recipe courtesy Lauren Mote, World Class Canada Winner 2015

Drink of the Week: Rodney’s Signature Caesar

I finally made it to Rodney’s Oyster House to celebrate the restaurant’s second anniversary in Calgary. There were fresh oysters, delicious clam chowder and yummy crab cakes. And you know what tastes great with seafood? Caesars.

I hadn’t really thought about this before, but drinking a Caesar is basically like adding vodka to shrimp cocktail sauce, pouring in some spices and briny shellfish water, and swallowing it. It sounds kind of gross, but it’s so good!

Can we all just agree that the best thing about a Caesar is the meal-like garnish? Image courtesy Rodney's Oyster House.

Can we all just agree that the best thing about a Caesar is the meal-like garnish? Image by LOVE BITES Food Photography.

Rodney’s Signature Caesar is solid. They use Walter Caesar Mix, which is an all-natural, made-in-Canada alternative to Mott’s Clamato. They also make a nice and spicy Back from Hell sauce that replaces Tabasco. It comes together in a light, refreshing cocktail that’s a perfect accompaniment to raw oysters.

Need a date-night idea for Valentine’s Day? Rodney’s is hosting a “Couple’s Therapy” event where loving participants can learn how to open up oysters together using a traditional shucking knife. They get to suck down the spoils — widely recognized as an aphrodisiac — in between sips of bubbles or beer. Or, make your own romance at home with the below Caesar recipe…

Rodney’s Signature Caesar

  • 1.5 oz Stoli vodka
  • Walter Caesar Mix
  • Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
  • 2-3 dashes Back from Hell Sauce (Rodney’s signature hot sauce). Or sub in Tabasco.
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Celery salt rim
  • Garnish: One wild gulf shrimp, one spicy bean, lemon wheel, lime wheel and a pinch of freshly grated horse radish.

Method: Rim a small mason jar or rocks glass with celery salt and then build the drink over ice.

— Recipe courtesy Rodney’s Calgary