B.C. Spirits Gift Guide: 2021 Edition

Start your festive shopping now.

Photo courtesy of Okanagan Spirits

In a holiday season with some international supply-chain blips, shop local—and shop soon!—for B.C. small-batch spirts holiday gifts. Limited-edition and seasonal items sell out fast, so if you happen to miss out this season, get on e-newsletter lists or follow distilleries on social media to watch for the next drop, and be very nice (not naughty) until next year. Many items from last holiday season are bound to be available again, so check out last year’s guide, too.

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Hot Buttered Honey Shine

Hot Buttered Honey Shine. Photo courtesy of Naramata Inn

This cocktail created by Naramata Inn bar manager Laura Landrie captures the taste, smell, and warmth of the holidays all in one glass. It’s a festive update on traditional hot buttered rum, with DEVINE Distillery’s Honey Shine Amber, made from B.C. honey, replacing the rum.

• 1 oz Devine Distillery Honey Shine Amber

• 0.5 oz honey syrup (see note below)

• 1 Tbsp Spiced Butter Mix (see recipe below)

• 2 dashes cardamom bitters

• 3 to 4 oz hot water

• Garnish: cinnamon stick

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Spirited gift ideas

The Alchemist tasting panel reviews bottles to share

A bottle of something distilled can make a great gift, even if it’s just for yourself. Getty Images photo

Now that we’re socializing again and heading into holiday season, it’s time to upgrade our gifting game. Whether you’re looking for a host gift or something to tuck under the tree, a bottle of spirits is a present with presence. And we figured no one would have a better idea of what to give than our tasting panel, so we asked them for their suggestions for gift bottles under $100, and the cocktails they’d make with them. This issue, our team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, J-S Dupuis, Robyn Gray, Trevor Kallies, Kaitlyn Stewart and David Wolowidnyk. Here’s what they had to say. Shop and sip accordingly.

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Pineapple Daiquiri

Pineapple Daiquiri. Getty Images photo

David Wolowidnyk recommends this tropical variation on the classic, perfect for wintry days.

• 2 oz Stiggins’ Pineapple Rum

• 0.75 oz lime juice

• 0.5 oz simple syrup (see method below)

• Optional: Add 0.5 tsp of maraschino liqueur for another layer of complexity

• Garnish: Pineapple slice

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Amaro Spritz

Amaro Spritz. Getty Images photo

Kaitlyn Stewart recommends this elegantly bittered variation on a classic spritz.

1.5 oz The Woods Amaro

0.5 oz elderflower liqueur

1 dash grapefruit bitters

Cava (sparkling wine), to top

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Brown Derby

Brown Derby cocktail. Getty images photo

This Prohibition-era classic, updated by Robyn Gray, was named for the hat-shaped Los Angeles diner and originally called a De Rigueur cocktail.

• 2 oz Bakers 7yr Bourbon

• 1 oz grapefruit juice

• 0.75 oz honey syrup (see note)

• 2 tsp lime juice

• Garnish: Grapefruit slice.

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Spooky by Design

As legend would have it, architect Sir Francis Rattenbury haunts the halls of the Empress Hotel. Getty images photo

Come the dark, gloomy days of fall, it’s easy to imagine ghosts all around us, especially in a historic building like Victoria’s Fairmont Empress. Several spirits are said to roam its venerable halls—and one in particular.

“When you have thousands of people in a building for more than 50, 60, 100 years, with all of those collective experiences, the residue they leave behind and the wake—we all leave a wake like a boat behind us—allows the past to invade upon the present,” says Dan Aykroyd, host of the T+E show Hotel Paranormal. “At the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which opened in 1908, guests report seeing the hotel’s architect, Sir Francis Rattenbury, roaming the halls.”

Rattenbury designed some of B.C.’s most famous structures, including the Parliament Buildings. But by 1935 he was back home in England, living in disgrace with his scandalous second wife, Alma, when his chauffeur (who was her lover) beat him to death with a mallet.

He was buried in an unmarked grave in England, but has apparently chosen this hotel across the globe as his favourite haunt. So if you spot a thin, dapper, mustachioed gent swinging a cane in the vicinity of the Empress’ former lobby, chances are that’s just the ghost of “Old Ratz” checking in.

True, he designed several other hauntable buildings, but wouldn’t you choose to stay at the Empress, too?

Make the Nightmare Before Christmas Cocktail. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Nightmare Before Christmas. Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Empress Hotel

This boo-zy concoction is only available at the Fairmont Empress’ Q Bar from October 29 to 31, but with this recipe, you can enjoy its spooktacular flavours all through fall.

• 1.5 oz Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey

• 0.75 oz ghost pepper reduction (or other hot sauce)

• 1 oz lemon juice

• 0.5 oz Amaro Averna

• Garnish: 1 toasted marshmallow, powdered blood orange (available online or at gourmet markets)

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A new Signature from St-Rémy

Cellar master Cécile Roudaut introduces a brandy that balances quality with versatility

St-Rémy Signature is as enjoyable on its own as it is in a cocktail. Supplied photo

Cécile Roudaut loves her job. “Every day I learn new things and this brings me happiness,” says the master blender for St-Rémy. “I have the opportunity every day to taste very high-quality products. Each day I make something different. My role is to perpetuate tradition, but also to innovate.”

Roudaut was in Vancouver recently to launch St-Rémy Signature, the exciting new blended brandy she has created for Rémy-Cointreau. “I asked for a project: ‘Can I have a budget to buy some casks?’” she says. Of course, they said yes. “And the results were very pleasant.”

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Boozy reads for cosy days

Pour yourself a cocktail and curl up with one of these new releases.

B.C., distilled

If you’re looking for a guide to the province’s distilleries, the spirits they produce and the cocktails you can make with them, then Shawn Soole is the guy to take you there. The bar manager of Clive’s Classic Lounge in Victoria is an award-winning mixologist, hospitality entrepreneur, podcaster (Post Shift) and author of several books, including his latest, The BC Spirits Cocktail Book (FriesenPress). It’s got everything you need to know about 57 of B.C.’s artisanal distilleries, with creative cocktail recipes to enjoy along the journey.

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