Shaking up the awards world

Bar Raval’s Elise Hanson has been crowned the world’s Most Imaginative Bartender. Photo courtesy of Bombay Most Imaginative Bartender

If it’s spring it must be competition season and Canada’s best bars and bartenders are winning awards all over the place. Here are just a few that have made news the past few months.

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A Japanese whisky pilgrimage

Taste the 90-year legacy of Nikka Whisky at these essential stops

Yoichi, Japan, is in many ways similar to Scotland, which is why Masataka Taketsuru chose it as the site for the Nikka Whisky distillery. Photo courtesy of Nikka Whisky

In most parts of the world, the whisky made there (or the brandy, vodka, rum…) is the result of what grows and thrives in a particular place. The century-old Japanese whisky industry is entirely unique: It’s based on one person’s DNA, and his global quest for whisky excellence.

The grandfather of Japanese whisky founded two of its most famous labels more than 100 years ago: Suntory, in 1923; and Nikka, in 1934. In Nikka’s 90th anniversary year, the brand invited a select group of whisky-philes to trace its founder’s path across Japan. Here’s a taste of Nikka whisk-tory.

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A tale of three bourbons

To celebrate National Bourbon Day in the U.S. (June 14, 2024), we take a deep dive into American whiskey, through three Kentucky distillery tours.

To kick off Jimmy Russell’s 70th anniversary year with Wild Turkey, the renaming of the visitor center commemorates Jimmy’s unwavering dedication to crafting bourbon his way. Photo courtesy of Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey: Shooting for Third-Generation Greatness

To dive into the world of Wild Turkey whisky, first consider going shooting. Picking off clay pigeons at the Anderson County Sportsman’s Club is a unique way to experience the lore behind the whiskey made nearby in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. It started with a spirit the Ripy brothers made starting in the 1800s that was sold by grocer Austin Nicholls (a name that still graced Wild Turkey labels until recent years). On 1940s hunting trips, a Ripy executive shared some of that whiskey, which became popularly known among straight shooters around the world as Wild Turkey.

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Hot Spots: Prophecy

The gleaming bar at Prophecy, the highly anticipated new lounge at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Jonathan Thompson photo

We’ve been waiting impatiently to see what’s going into the grand space under the Rosewood Hotel Georgia where Prohibition used to be. We’ve been waiting just as impatiently to learn where Jeff Savage would land after leaving Botanist Bar last year.

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The Alchemist Spring/Summer 2024

iStock/Getty Images Plus/Beo88 photo

Sometimes—well, most of the time, really—all we crave is the clean, icy-cold flavour of a Martini, the botanical bite of the gin and delicate floral essence of the vermouth. And it seems we’re not alone. Although the Martini has been around for at least a century and likely longer, it has never been trendier than it is right now. (Unless you include the syrupy “tinis” of the 1990s, which we don’t.)

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Where to Drink Right Now in “Bourbon City”: Louisville, Kentucky

At Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, guests can tour the commercial distillery, taste signature whiskies and stop at the On3 cocktail bar. Photo courtesy of Heaven Hill Brands

On historic blocks in downtown Louisville, Whiskey Row along West Main Street is a modern drinkers’ paradise. Today, not just bourbon distilling but bourbon education is the thing: many distilleries now refer to themselves as “campuses” and tasting-room experiences often approach the level of masterclasses. Bourbon nerds abound.

The crop of downtown distillery tasting rooms means you don’t even have to leave Louisville to experience the range of Kentucky bourbon. Another bonus: these tasting rooms have great gift shops with brand swag, bourbon accessories and, of course, rare bottlings (more secret-stash stores are below, too). You can walk all of Whiskey Row in about 30 minutes, or hop on a Bird or Lime rental scooter to speed between stops — no impaired scooting, please!

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Honouring a Bartender Handshake

Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto represent Canada’s hot bar scene at North America’s 50 Best Bars 2024 in Mexico.

Vancouver’s Botanist Bar was number 24 at north America’s 50 Best bars 2024. Supplied photo

On a balmy night in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a new North America’s Best Bar 2024 was crowned: Handshake Speakeasy in Mexico City. At the same time, 2024 represented a strong showing for Canadian bars, with seven places landing on the list from the Great White North. Dozens of Canadians representing several bars made the trip to San Miguel de Allende for the ceremony, busily making plans for collabs, guest shifts and pop-ups with their North American and global colleagues in attendance.

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Exploring BC’s best: Over 200 artisan spirits to be featured at BC Distilled

BC Distilled returns (this time at the Italian Cultural Centre) on Saturday, April 13. Photo courtesy of BC Distilled

BC Distilled, Canada’s leading artisan distillery showcase, is set to return from April 10th to 14th, offering a dynamic lineup of events for local enthusiasts of craft spirits. This year, the Main Tasting will be hosted at the Italian Cultural Centre, following the closure of its previous venue, the Croatian Cultural Centre.

Highlights for the week include the highly anticipated Distillers Dinner at Forage, guided whisky tastings with recent Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame inductee Davin De Kergommeaux, and the showcase of 30 distilleries’ products. Additionally, Legacy Liquor will host an on-site pop-up retail shop on April 13th, ensuring attendees can take their favourite spirits home.

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Where to drink right now in New Orleans

Post-Mardi Gras and before Tales of the Cocktail is the best time to visit NOLA: The cocktail scene is hot, and the weather not-yet swampy.

The Brandy Crusta is the crown jewel of Jewel of the South. Facebook.com/jewelfothesouthnola photo

Bar Stars

Jewel of the South

A 20-year vet of the New Orleans bar scene, co-owner Chris Hannah presides most nights over this restaurant bar, shaking up his perfected Brandy Crusta and other iconic drinks. Though you can hit it on a Wednesday for Casual Caviar happy hour, or dine lavishly on the likes of tripe, pig head and beef tongue made into savoury dinner plates, the bar itself hits hard enough to have landed at No. 5 on North America’s 50 Best Bars and be named the Best Bar in the South in 2023.

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