Category Archives: Cocktails

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.

Elle

  • 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

Drink of the Week: Burnt Cherry Manhattan

Smoking drinks is a big thing right now. First bartenders were mixing peated scotch or smoky mezcal into cocktails for that campfire flavour; now they are adding actual smoke with a machine that lights flavoured wood such as cedar chips afire, then pumps the smoke into a glass dome (under which the cocktail is situated) through a hose. It’s like bell jars have been waiting decades to make a comeback, and now enterprising bartenders are facilitating their wish. It makes for an entertaining performance at the bar.

Bartender Austin Purvis reveals his Burnt Cherry Manhattan after a round of smoking at The Guild.

The Guild bartender Austin Purvis reveals his Burnt Cherry Manhattan after a round of smoking.

I first saw David Bain do this neat trick with a rum drink during a Mount Gay competition a couple years ago. More recently, I’ve watched Franz Swinton smoke his Good Morning Vietnam at Raw Bar, and Austin Purvis smolder his Burnt Cherry Manhattan at The Guild.

The taste of smoky fruit is awesome in this spicy, slightly bitter Manhattan (I’m a  big fan of the Sonoma Country rye), but quite frankly, while it’s fun to watch a bartender imbue a drink with a smoky bouquet, it seems like a lot of work and equipment. Where does one even purchase a bell jar? Or a smoking machine? I wouldn’t necessarily try it at home. And evidently, you can buy a smoky spray to spritz on your cocktail. That sounds like a safer bet!

A Burnt Cherry Manhattan from The Guild. There are easier ways t smoke a drink...

A Burnt Cherry Manhattan from The Guild.

Burnt Cherry Manhattan

  • 1 blackened cherry
  • Orange rind cheek
  • 2 oz Sonoma County Distilling cask strength rye whiskey
  • 0.25 oz Amaro Averna
  • 0.25 oz Chambord
  • Splash blackberry pok pok (drinking vinegar)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Squeeze fresh orange
  • 1 dash Bitter Truth bitters
  • Garnish: Bourbon cherry

Method: In a mixing glass, muddle the blackened cherry and orange rind with the rye whiskey. Add the remaining ingredients, plus ice, and stir until well chilled. Fine strain into a rocks glass over two fresh ice cubes. Smoke the glass under a bell jar to infuse a smoky flavour. Garnish with a skewered bourbon cherry.

— Recipe courtesy Austin Purvis, The Guild

Drink of the Week: The Sawback

Chili and pineapples kind of go together. The tropical combo of spice and tart-sweet citrus also generates heat, making it the perfect thing to drink during a cold snap. That was the thinking when my husband ordered The Sawback at Park Distillery in Banff last weekend. He was intrigued by the idea of chili-flavoured vodka and quite liked the cocktail, which is named for a hiking trail that travels 74 kilometres between Banff and Lake Louise along the rugged Sawback range.

Blake loved The Sawback cocktail at Park Distillery in Banff.

Blake loved The Sawback cocktail at Park Distillery in Banff.

It was our first visit to Park and we liked everything about it. It’s kid-friendly, has great campfire-infused food (delicious rotisserie chicken and cheesy fries served in camp mugs!) and the cocktails are made with spirits crafted in-house. Park makes a white (un-aged) rye whiskey, an alpine gin and four flavours of vodka. If you haven’t been, go west to check it out. In the meantime, shake up The Sawback at home.

This yummy spicy vodka number from Park Distillery in Banff is just the thing to transport you vicariously someplace warm.

This yummy spicy vodka number from Park Distillery in Banff is just the thing to transport you — vicariously — someplace warm.

The Sawback

  • 1.5 oz Park Chili Vodka
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 1.75 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 0.75 oz agave nectar
  • Garnish: Pineapple wedge and palm frond
  • Glass: Rocks

Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and palm frond, if handy.

— Recipe courtesy Park Distillery

Drink of the Week: Bagasse

Bagasse is the fibrous matter that’s left over after sugarcane stalks or agave hearts are crushed to extract their juice. The bagasse is then either turned into animal feed, or composted and turned into fertilizer. But don’t let the fate of the agave fibres dissuade you from trying this delicious drink.

The Bagasse appears on Proof’s latest cocktail menu, which features drinks created by its talented bar staff. This one is the brainchild of managing partner Tony Migliarese, who visited the Tequila region of Mexico not long ago, and so loved the taste of roasted agave he wanted to capture its honeyed richness in a cocktail.

This cocktail from Proof combines tequila with apple brandy and cinnamon syrup for a rich and delicious drink.

This cocktail from Proof combines tequila with apple brandy and cinnamon syrup for a rich and delicious drink.

I’m a big fan of both tequila and agave (roasted, or in syrup form), and I love how the drink plays up those tastes with cinnamon and the round flavour of apple. A small amount of turmeric bestows an air of mystery and a lovely colour. Bonus: the Bagasse is pretty easy to recreate at home with such straightforward ingredients — just add a couple cinnamon sticks to your simmering simple syrup, and voila!

Bagasse

  • 1.5 oz Espolon Reposado
  • 0.5 oz Calvados
  • 0.5 oz cinnamon syrup
  • 0.5 oz apple juice
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • Dash of agave nectar
  • 1/16 tsp. turmeric

Glass: Coupette

Method: Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a coupette.

— Recipe by Tony Migliarese, managing partner at Proof

 

Drink of the Week: Tequila Manhattan

I really like Cocchi, a sweet vermouth from Italy. It’s made using a Moscato wine base that’s then infused with herbs and spices, including gentian, cinchona bark and bitter orange peels. The result is a fruity, raisiny and spicy vermouth, with a touch of bitterness. I learned all this during a crash course in “vermouth vs. amaro” several weeks ago, and now I have the difficult job of trying out recipes that showcase each.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is a high-quality sweet vermouth from Italy.

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino is a high-quality sweet vermouth from Italy.

First up: the Cocchi vermouth. Why not use it to make a Tequila Manhattan, a twist on the classic cocktail? When you add a bit of jalapeño syrup for smoky sweetness, and a dash of orange bitters to keep its edge, you have the makings of something spirit-forward, but smooth and round. I like-y.

Smooth tequila and sweet vermouth combine in this spirit forward sip that's a twist on a traditional Manhattan.

Smooth tequila and sweet vermouth combine in this twist on a traditional Manhattan.

Tequila Manhattan

  • 1-1/2 oz reposado tequila (I used Rocado)
  • 1/2 oz Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino
  • 1 tsp. jalapeño simple syrup*
  • Dash orange bitters
  • Orange zest

Method: Combine tequila, vermouth, jalapeño syrup and bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Stir for about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over a large ice ball (optional). Squeeze in orange zest, rim glass with orange peel and drop in.

*Jalapeño simple syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 jalapeño, cut into chunks

Method: Combine sugar and water and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add jalapeño and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Strain out jalapeño and store syrup in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.