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
Drinking Old Fashioneds is the fashionable thing to do, it’s true. There’s one on seemingly every menu — with slight variations like unique bitters flavours such as black walnut — and they’re a fan favourite among men.
I came across this French version of an Old Fashioned, called a Tres Fashionable, at Parc Cafe and Brasserie while researching my June Spirited Calgary column for the Calgary Herald, which is all about the proliferation of French bistros and cocktails (running June 13). The Tres Fashionable uses a mix of cognac and Calvados instead of bourbon or rye, and it’s sweetened with a touch of vanilla syrup. This cocktail works on a sunny patio or sipped inside a warm room on a rainy spring evening. Salut!
Parc Cafe and Brasserie makes an Old Fashioned using French ingredients.
- 1-1/2 oz Camus Cognac VS
- 1/2 oz Boulard Calvados (Pays d’Auge)
- 1/2 oz vanilla syrup
- Toasted oak bitters (Napa Valley Bitters)
Method: Into a mixing glass add the cognac, Calvados and vanilla syrup. Add ice and stir for approximately 30 seconds. Spritz a rocks glass with a spray of toasted oak bitters. Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the rocks glass and then add one more spritz of bitters on top of the drink.
— Recipe courtesy Matt LaRocque, Parc Cafe and Brasserie
I attended a holiday party a couple weeks before Christmas and the host shook up this delightful — and light — take on a traditional eggnog. It’s called a Norfolk Flip; the recipe is featured in the latest issue of Culinaire magazine. Traditionally a ‘flip’ was a drink heated with a fire poker — this method caused the liquid to steam and bubble, a technique called flipping. Eventually bartenders began using eggs to create the desired frothy effect.
A delicious alternative to a traditional eggnog.
The beauty of this drink is it’s made without milk or cream, but still tastes smooth and rich — the secret is the egg (and the spiced simple syrup). This cocktail makes a nice fireside sip throughout the holidays, or toast with it on New Year’s Eve. Cheers!
Happy holidays everyone!
- 1 oz cognac (I used Courvoisier VS)
- 1 oz dark rum (I used Mount Gay Eclipse)
- 1 oz spiced syrup*
- 3 drops bitters
- 1 whole egg
- Nutmeg garnish
- 1:1 raw sugar to water boiled and steeped with a desired amount of cloves, green cardamom, pimento and fresh grated cinnamon.
Combine the fresh cracked egg and liquid ingredients in a shaker. Dry shake to emulsify egg, then add ice and shake again. Strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube inside. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.
— Recipe modified from Culinaire, by Tarquin Melnyk