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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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!
- 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
Method: Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a coupette.
— Recipe by Tony Migliarese, managing partner at Proof
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.
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 twist on a traditional 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.
It seems a stretch when people describe cocktails as sublime or divine or heavenly. Like, can a drink taste so good it inspires awe? Well, the aptly named Heavenly Hibiscus, created by James Nguyen of Royale Brasserie Francaise, comes awfully close.
You’ll have a hard time stopping once you start siping this vanilla, cognac and hibiscus taste sensation, aptly named the Heavenly Hibiscus.
In fact, once I started sipping I had a hard time putting down the glass, so intoxicating is its combination of cognac, vanilla liqueur and apple juice. It’s strong and rich, with the heady scent of vanilla transformed into something drinkable. There are also hibiscus flowers in there — Nguyen makes his own cordial (see recipe, below) — and a splash of lemon juice for tartness. The drink is intended to demonstrate that cocktails made with cognac can be light, long and easy to drink. I may have asked him for a to-go cup (request denied).
- 1-1/3 oz Chateau Montifaud VS cognac
- 2/3 oz Giffard’s Vanille de Madagascar
- 1/2 oz Hibiscus Cordial*
- 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
- 2 oz apple juice
- Garnish: 3 thin apple slices, skewered
Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with three thin apple slices artfully arranged on a skewer.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. hibiscus flowers from Silk Road Spice Merchant
Method: Combine sugar and water and heat until just simmering and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add hibiscus flowers. Let steep like a tea. When cool, strain out flowers and refrigerate cordial.
— Recipes courtesy James Nguyen, Royale Brasserie Française
This modern classic was created by New York-based bartender Sam Ross. These days, it’s rare to come up with a brand new cocktail that becomes so popular everyone starts putting it on their list, but that’s what’s happened with the Paper Plane.
Simple, balanced and delicious. The easy-to-execute Paper Plane is a must-duplicate at home. Photo courtesy Earls.67.
I discovered it at the new Earls.67 on Stephen Avenue. It’s a perfect transition drink for fall — the lime and Aperol are bright and sunny, while the bourbon and Amaro hint at cooler days.
I also like its simplicity. Like The Last Word and the Negroni, it’s a drink where you mix the ingredients in equal parts; so, it’s almost impossible to mess up — an important consideration if you’re shaking up more than two!
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 oz Aperol
- 1 oz Nonino Amaro
- 1 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Fine strain into a coupe glass.
— Recipe courtesy Earls.67
Don’t let the cool long weekend forecast keep you from making some coconut rum blender drinks! With Captain Morgan Coconut Rum, it’s a tropical party no matter the weather. We brought a bottle to Fernie for August long weekend, and in no time it was empty. Basically, we called on our Belizean ingredient repertoire and tossed fruit into a blender, along with ice and coconut rum, then pressed “frappe.”
The end result is a Frozen Coconut Rumbin, which approximates a blended coconut version of a Rumbin, or a coconut rum version of a Rotten Fruit Rummy. A few of these will get you to your happy place speedy quick.
This tropical blender drink might look out of place in the mountains. Who cares?
Frozen Coconut Rumbin
- 2 oz Captain Morgan Coconut Rum
- 1 ripe banana
- 3-4 large chunks watermelon
- 2 handfuls ice
- Water to blend, if necessary
- Garnish: Half a banana
Method: Add ingredients into a blender and blend. If mixture is thick, add a bit of water to dilute. Garnish with a half banana.