A barrel of fun

Private-cask whisky sales are a “futures” investment in B.C.’s small-batch distillers. Here’s how and why they do it.

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They’re lined up like Papa, Mama and Baby Rye: 20-, 10- and five-litre mini-barrels, their ends embossed with the names of proud owners who, in eight weeks or so, get a crash course in craft spirits aging—and their own one-of-a-kind bottles of Custom Rye.

“We were kind of inspired by beer growlers,” says Brian Grant. He and Resurrection Spirits partner David Wolowidnyk charge customers once for the barrel ($150 to $350 depending on size), which they can pay the distillery to fill with white rye (or even gin) multiple times, at the bargain price of $37.50 a bottle. Vancouver’s Homer Street Grill and Unwind are among bar clients already serving their own private batches.

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A cocktail glass full of light

Talia Kleinplatz photo

When Devin McKeigan created her cocktail for the Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition, inspiration shone around her like a bright beam of light.

“Within the industry I’ve met so many people…everybody fuels my light, not just in the hospitality industry, but everyone I’ve met. It’s all of us working together,” says the bartender for the Toptable Group’s newly opened Elisa Steakhouse.

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Mi Luz

Mi Luz means “My Light” in Spanish and pays homage to the light within that burns strong when everyone stands tall and together. Talia Kleinplatz photo

• 2 oz Bacardi Añejo Cuatro rum
• 0.75 oz Martini Bianco vermouth
• 0.25 oz rich apple demerara syrup (see note)
• 2 dashes Scrappy’s Seville Orange Bitters
• 2 to 3 spritzes of salted caraway solution (see note)

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The New Ice Age

Oversize cubes, spheres, sticks, flakes and pebbles: It’s not just frozen water anymore—artisanal ice is a full-fledged cocktail ingredient

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The artisanal iceman cometh, and he’s not at all cold. With a short reddish beard, bright blue eyes and a friendly face, Dex James is downright warm, as he performs what looks like a magic trick. In the Dang Good Ice storefront in the Fraserhood, he pours water on a mammoth, crystal-clear, square-sided stick of ice in a highball glass and…it disappears.

Artisan ice can be the nearly invisible ingredient that helps deliver cocktail perfection—including king cubes so beautifully clear, one of the tenders behind the Fairmont Pacific Rim lobby bar tells me that imbibers of its white Lucky Negroni frequently ask, “Where’s the ice?” Juleps with flakes or pebbles from a Scotsman ice machine, rocks drinks over chunky Kold Draft cubes or cocktails crowned with a flawless diamond or sphere are just a few of the signs of the new ice age in B.C. bars.

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Painkiller

Earls Painkiller. Photo courtesy of Earls restaurants

This tiki-style cocktail is Earls restaurants’ version of the classic originally created by Pusser’s Rum. It uses two different styles of iceregular cubes and crushed.

• 0.75 oz coconut milk
• 0.75 oz passion fruit syrup
• 1 oz Bacardi Superior white rum
• 1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
• 1 oz pineapple juice
• 1 oz orange juice
• 0.25 oz lime juice
• Dash Bittered Sling Kensington bitters

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Blonde Negroni

Andrew Kong’s version of the Blonde Negroni. H Tasting Lounge photo

There are numerous recipes for a white or blonde Negroni, but this is the variation preferred by Andrew Kong, bartender at H Tasting Lounge. What makes it stand out is the perfectly clear king ice cube.

• 1.25 oz Long Table Distillery Dry Gin
• 1 oz Luxardo Bianco Bitters
• 1 oz Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano

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Treebeard

Jeff Savage’s Treebeard cocktail. Botanist photo

“The drink is intended to be a Canadian highball, that is, a drink that is spirit forward, but is also balanced and refreshing,” says Jeff Savage, Botanist’s head bartender, who created the cocktail. The large, crystal-clear ice cubes are precisely measured to fit the glassware and are cut with a band saw. They are also adorned with the Botanist logo: The custom metal stamp is placed on top of the cube and gravity does the rest.

• 1.5 oz Canadian Club Rye Whisky
• 0.5 oz gin, preferably St. George Terroir Gin
• 1.5 oz birch water
• 1 oz Smoked Tea Syrup (recipe follows)

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3 cocktails for your Kentucky Derby viewing party

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old and 10 Year Old Scotch. Supplied photo

The Kentucky Derby is just around the corner—May 4th to be exact—and every year at this time the Mint Julep takes first place as the cocktail of choice. We have compiled three cocktails worth considering for your Kentucky Derby party—cocktails with a twist on the classic go-to.

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The Glenrothes Punch

Glenrothes Punch. Supplied photo

No party is complete without a boozy punch. Make this one for your Kentucky Derby viewing party next weekend. 

• 1 2/3 cups The Glenrothes 10 Year Old
• 1 2/3 cups strong black tea
• 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
• 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 cup Oleo-Saccharum
• 7 dashes bitters
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
• Orange and lemon wheels for serving 

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The Golden Dram

The Golden Dram. Supplied photo

A celebratory cocktail for your Kentucky Derby viewing party. 

• 1 oz The Glenrothes 12 Year Old
• 1 sugar cube soaked in bitters
• Prosecco

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