Tag Archives: classic cocktails

Drink of the Week: Dawa Cocktail

An African holiday calls for a cocktail from the continent. A classic cocktail most people have heard of is the Dawa. The word dawa is Swahili for medicine and after sampling the drink — a strong mixture of vodka, lime juice and honey — I can see it’s been appropriately named.

Dawa means “medicine” in Swahili.

The Dawa first made a name for itself in Kenya, where it’s as popular in Nairobi  as it is on safari as a sundowner cocktail. Since Tanzania borders Kenya, the drink is equally popular there.

Perfect to sip on safari: cold, refreshing and strong.

I love the libation’s simplicity: muddled lime, honey and brown sugar meets crushed ice and cold vodka. It’s simultaneously sweet, tart and strong. And did I mention refreshing? Dawa, indeed.

Dawa Cocktail

  • 2 oz vodka (I used Zubrowka)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 lime, quartered then cut into chunks, plus lime wheel garnish
  • Crushed ice

Into a rocks glass place lime chunks, honey and sugar. Muddle just enough to release the lime juice and mix with the honey and sugar, but not so much as to mash the pith (that will release a bitter flavour). Add some crushed ice, then the vodka and stir to combine ingredients and bring up the lime from the bottom of the glass. Add more ice until the glass is full, then garnish with a lime wheel.

Honey and brown sugar add just the right balance of sweet.


Drink of the Week: Aviation

I first heard of an Aviation cocktail in Victoria last October. I was in town for the Art of the Cocktail festival where I toured Victoria Spirits (makers of Victoria Gin) on the Saanich Peninsula. I asked gin distiller Peter Hunt what his favourite gin cocktail was. His answer: “An Aviation.”

Upon returning to Calgary I wrote a Spirited Calgary cocktail column called Tempting gin cocktails. I wanted to include an Aviation but didn’t want to purchase its obscure ingredients. So imagine my delight to discover an Aviation on the menu at Milk Tiger Lounge last week.

The pre-prohibition Aviation recipe calls for Creme de Violette.

The pre-prohibition recipe favoured by Milk Tiger bartender Nathan Head includes Creme de Violette, which adds the lovely lavender hue pictured above.

I already love gin with lemon juice (hello, Tom Collins), and the floral and sweet notes of the Creme de Violette offset the tart lemon and enhance the gin. You just need a little Creme de Violette, ditto the sweet maraschino liqueur. In a word — love — and I’m glad I finally understand why gin-lovers adore this drink.


  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • 1/4 oz Creme de Violette (Giffard brand)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied or maraschino cherry (a good homemade one, or a brand like Luxardo, not the scary red ones).

— Recipe courtesy Nathan Head, Milk Tiger Lounge

Drink of the Week: Whiskey Sour

Tourism BC hosted a dinner at Model Milk last month for Calgary-area travel writers, the idea being to inspire us to visit our beautiful neighbour to the west. It worked. After an amazing meal spent chatting with the folks who represent different parts of the province, we had visions of ourselves chilling in Lotusland, cavorting on Vancouver Island or wine touring in the Okanagan. To seal the deal, there were cocktails by bartender Stephen Phipps.

I especially liked the whiskey sour. I am partial to sours, as I wrote in a previous blog; now, I like them with whiskey. I am not what you’d call a whiskey drinker, so this surprises me, but maybe it had something to do with the Forty Creek rye whiskey used in the drink. Or the red wine and black pepper syrup (Phipps is keeping that recipe under his hat). Or that hint of sweet maple syrup on the finish. Yum. I’ll be back for another.

Smooth, yummy and delightful whiskey sour. Thanks Model Milk!

Whiskey Sour

  • 2 oz Forty Creek Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz red wine and black pepper syrup
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg white
  • Touch of Quebec maple syrup
 Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and dry shake. Add ice and shake vigorously then double strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a wink and a smile.
— Courtesy, Stephen Phipps, Model Milk

Drink of the Week: Bloody Caesar

If there’s one cocktail that says Canada — or at least Calgary — it’s the Caesar. The drink was invented in Calgary in 1969 by bartender Walter Chell, who wanted to add a twist to the established Bloody Mary. The game changer? Clamato juice.

Caesars are, arguably, an acquired taste. I’ve lived in Calgary now for 15 years and don’t love them. But after trying the Bloody Caesar at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel last weekend, I think I’m ready to re-explore this relationship. It probably has something to do with the fact they make their own horseradish sauce (you can see little bits of it floating at the bottom of the glass) and add balsamic vinegar — another twist! — but this Caesar is the best I’ve tasted. So, Hail Bloody Caesar! I’m a convert.

Bloody Caesar

  • 1-3/4 oz Finlandia vodka
  • 8 oz Clamato juice
  • 3 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 2 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • Lime juice (to taste)
  • Fresh horseradish (to taste)
  • Balsamic vinegar (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Lemon wedge and celery stick garnishes
  • Celery salt to rim glass

Rim a hurricane glass with celery salt then pack with ice. Build the drink over ice, stir, garnish and serve. Note: The Fairmont Banff Springs kicks up the garnishes a notch by opting for a lime wedge, speared olive and a pickled asparagus spear. Like!

— Courtesy Rundle Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel

Drink of the Week: Tom Collins

Are we entering a new “golden age” of cocktails? Given the buzz surrounding the return to classic cocktails and all the resto-lounges in Calgary making craft cocktails, such as Model Milk and Raw Bar, it’s a valid question. Clearly, it’s not just the anticipation of Mad Men Season 5 (premiering March 25!) powering the cocktail renaissance. There’s a groundswell of interest in classic drinks, dark spirits and even artisan gin. For someone who writes about cocktails, it’s pretty exciting.

Contributing to this phenomenon are websites like Twitter and Facebook, where drinks aficionados can tweet cocktail stories or post pictures of their latest cocktail creation. In fact, a recent story on The Next Web credited social media with powering the cocktail storm. It’s true. One of my Facebook friends recently launched a blog, Just Cocktails, where he posts recipes and snaps of amazing-looking sips. He then promotes all his new blog entries via Twitter and Facebook, so thirsty followers can get some ideas for cocktail hour.

Which brings me to this week’s drink. It’s a classic and features the other white spirit: gin. If you haven’t yet met him, says hello to Tom Collins. He’s refreshing, balanced and his gin bite is just right. He’s also an amazing companion on sunny patios and at wedding receptions (just be careful not to guzzle, like, four, in quick succession). Enjoy!

He's tall, thirst-quenching and will turn any gal into a cheap date. Meet Tom Collins.

Tom Collins

  • 2  oz Bombay Sapphire gin
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup*
  • Top with club soda
  • Orange wheel garnish

Shake the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup with ice and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with club soda and garnish with an orange wheel. Serve with a straw. *To make simple syrup combine equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.