Tag Archives: cocktails and drinks

Drink of the Week: Blackberry & Mint G&T

The leaves are just past their peak, hinting at cold weather to come, but this sweet stretch of Indian summer calls for a gin and tonic! I propose this lovely berry twist on the classic, with a handful of mint from your outdoor planter before a killing frost claims it.

The taste of summer transitions to fall with the addition of Creme de Cassis.

The G&T taste of summer transitions to fall with the addition of Creme de Cassis.

Blackberry & Mint G&T

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 1/2 oz Creme de Cassis
  • 2 oz gin
  • Top tonic
  • Garnish: Two blackberries and a mint sprig

Method: In a tall glass, muddle mint leaves with lime and Creme de Cassis. Add gin, fill the glass with ice, then top with tonic. Stir. Garnish with two blackberries and a mint sprig.

Drink of the Week: Bees Knees (with Brugal rum)

I haven’t written about rum cocktails for awhile, so it was fortuitous that I received samples of a trio of Brugal rums from the Dominican Republic: the Brugal 1888, a sipper; Brugal Anejo, a dark rum; and Brugal Extra Dry, a light rum perfect for summer cocktails like the mojito or daiquiri. Brugal’s angle with the light rum is that it’s “extra dry.” How does this translates with taste? It’s light and crisp and not too sweet. And it mixes well with lemon juice and honey syrup to create the rummy Bees Knees.

This twist on a Bees Knees cocktail features smooth Brugal rum and bitters for extra spice.

This twist on a Bees Knees cocktail features smooth rum and bitters for extra spice.

Yes, it’s true that Bees Knees is a wedding season cocktail traditionally made with gin, but I think it works really well with rum. The honey syrup is naturally sweet, the perfect foil to the dry rum and tart lemon juice. I also love the addition of Angostura bitters — they add a spicy kick reminiscent of a rum punch but in a much lighter, more summery cocktail.

Bees Knees

  • 2 oz Brugal Extra Dry Rum
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 ratio honey to water)
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe (I used a martini glass).

— Recipe courtesy Brugal Rum

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: Margarita

Please don’t hate me because I love margaritas. I know I tend to go on about them and recently blogged about a Prickly Pear Margarita, but they really are just the right combination of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Plus, it’s Cinco de Mayo tomorrow — voted one of the Top 10 booziest holidays by Time magazine — so what better excuse do you need to rim a rocks glass with salt, juice some limes and shake up the best party cocktail ever?

It’s a party in a glass, but way classier to drink than shooting back tequila poppers all night.


  • 2 oz 100 percent agave reposado tequila (I like Casa Herradura)
  • 1 oz Cointreau (or Controy if, like me, you’ve recently returned from Mexico with a couple of bottles)
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp. (or to taste) agave nectar or simple syrup
  • Coarse sea salt to rim glass, if desired
  • Lime wheel garnish

Rim a margarita glass with sea salt and then fill with crushed ice. In a shaker, combine tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and syrup. Shake with ice then strain into the margarita glass. Garnish with a lime wheel. Repeat (they’re like potato chips: you can’t have just one).

Go ahead, dive right in! Mmmm … margaritas …

Drink of the Week: Mojito

Ever since I wrote a mint cocktails story for Easter, I’ve had the refreshing spring herb on my mind. So, I popped in to Mercato today and grabbed a bunch, then I stopped off at Zyn on my way home for a bottle of Mount Gay Eclipse Silver and voila! I had the makings for a mojito.

Spring, in a glass. I heart mmmminty mojitos.

I tried my first mojito at an all-inclusive resort years ago and got hooked. I love the way mint completes this cocktail. It would be good with just rum, sugar and lime juice, but add mint and enjoy another level of complexity. It’s no wonder Cuba quickly nabbed the mojito as its national cocktail and, incidentally, Ernest Hemingway couldn’t drink enough of them.

The secret to a good mojito is the muddling. Some bartenders will utterly pulverize the mint (I had the misfortune of sampling my first and last blended mojito in Mexico last month. Truly, it was awful), but that’s overkill. Bruise it just enough to release the oils and you’re gold. Enjoy!


  • 12 fresh mint leaves
  • 1-1/2 oz light rum
  • 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup*
  • Top with soda water
  • Mint sprig and lime wedge garnish

Lightly muddle mint in the base of a Collins glass. Add rum, lime juice and simple syrup. Half fill the glass with crushed ice, then stir with a bar spoon to bring up the mint. Add more crushed ice and stir again. Top with soda water, stir again and serve with a straw to avoid mint-tooth.

*To make simple syrup, heat equal parts sugar and water in a sauce pan until sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.

— Recipe adapted from Cocktails Made Easy by Simon Difford

Drink of the Week: Raspberry Mojito

It’s officially spring, which means we can start making cocktails with mint. A friend just informed me you can purchase seeds for “mojito mint” — as opposed to regular mint — so I’m thinking that planting a large container of mint with the kids will be an upcoming project. I love mojiitos because they’re refreshing, delicious and versatile — you can muddle different berries (strawberries, etc.) with the mint for a seasonal twist. Mojito party to follow later this spring.

I was in Banff on the weekend for a professional development workshop with TMAC Alberta. After eight hours of learning about social media, how to write travel pitches and take great photos, it was time for a cocktail at Earl’s. I wrote a column last June about how Earl’s has undergone a cocktail makeover by trading out their mixes for fresh ingredients, so I was eager to sample one. I ordered the Raspberry Mojito:

This drink is pretty and tasty too. But I would either make it using more rum, or serve it in a smaller glass. Hello, spring!

Lovely, isn’t it? It tasted good too — a nice balance between sweet (simple syrup) and sour (fresh lime juice). You could also taste the muddled mint and fresh raspberries. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact you couldn’t taste the rum, which meant I drank it way too fast. I would either increase the amount of rum to 2 oz, or make it in a shorter glass.

Earl’s Raspberry Mojito in Banff

  • 1 oz light rum
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup*
  • 10 mint leaves
  • Handful fresh (or frozen) raspberries
  • Top with soda water
  • Lime wedge garnish

Muddle the rum, lime juice, simple syrup, mint and raspberries in the base of a Collins glass. Fill half way with ice, then add half the soda water. Stir to bring up the mint and raspberries (so they won’t clog your straw), then top with more ice and soda. Serve with a straw.

*To make simple syrup, heat equal parts sugar and water on the stove in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.

— Recipe courtesy Earl’s in Banff

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.