I spent last weekend in Whistler at Cornucopia, a 10-day festival that celebrates all-things-food-and-drink in the mountain town known for its bacchanalian vibe come ski season. I had heard stories of great Cornucopia parties involving vodka shots in an ice room and seminars featuring 10 whiskey samples, and was eager to see if the festival lived up to the hype. I wasn’t disappointed.
I’ll be sharing some snapshots of Cornucopia in a couple of publications in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of how Party Night No. 1 played out…
1. Cocktails and dinner at Alta Bistro. Yes, please! I tried the cocktail special, a Strega Sour. Strega is an Italian liqueur with 70 herbal ingredients including saffron, fennel and mint (as I’ve come to learn, the Italians can make booze out of pretty much anything). Alta mixed the Strega with gin, lemon, honey syrup and an egg white to make a light and well-balanced sour with just a hint of liquorice (from the fennel). Everyone loved it.
- 1-1/2 oz Boomsa gin
- 1/2 oz Strega
- 3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey-to-water ratio)
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz egg white
- Nasturtium leaf garnish
Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Fine strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a nasturtium leaf (if in season).
— Recipe courtesy Alta Bistro, Whistler
2. Belvedere Ice Room at Bearfoot Bistro. This is just what you need after cocktails and wine at dinner. In the corner of the bar is a Belvedere-sponsored freezer room with walls of ice into which are carved niches that house over 40 bottles of different brands of premium vodka. To go inside the freezing space (it’s kept chilled at -25C) for a private vodka tasting you don a Canada Goose jacket (they’re rated for something like -100C, so you’re actually kind of hot), and send up a prayer that you don’t pass out after four vodka shots in five minutes (and get left inside the freezer overnight). The theory behind the room is that the cold tamps down the alcohol’s heat so you can actually taste the vodka flavours. Like kids in a dangerous candy shop, we tried regular, cherry, grape and salted caramel.
3. And then there was the bobsled. Bearfoot Bistro’s owner, Andre Saint-Jacques, keeps a bobsled suspended from the ceiling in the restaurant’s wine cellar. Naturally, we found ourselves wandering about down there after four shots of vodka. We asked Andre if we could get into the bobsled and the next thing we knew, he was lowering it down using some kind of hydraulic system. We piled in for a very strange photo op.
Ah Whistler, the party carries on no matter the season! And, if you love skiing, you’re in luck — Whistler Blackcomb opens for the 2014-15 ski season November 22.