A Cornucopia of cocktails in Whistler

Savour the art of the shaken and stirred at the ski resort’s annual food and drink fest

Cocktails are served! This year’s Whistler Cornucopia event takes place Nov. 9-19. Darby Magill photo

If you think Whistler Cornucopia is just about wine, think again. Sure, there’s no shortage of Chardonnay, but the annual food-and-drink festival is also about beer, whisky and, above all, cocktails.

In fact, Whistler has generally become a great destination for cocktail lovers. As Mary Zinck, the manager of travel media for Tourism Whistler, says, “I don’t think there is a place that you can go where you can’t get a good drink.”

But from Nov. 9-19, the very best place to try a mixed drink at the mountain resort will definitely be Cornucopia. There are seminars where you can learn how to pair cocktails with chocolate, add carbonation to your gin and master the skills you need to make classic cocktails. There are grand tastings such as Poured, grazing events like Savour, an experiential mixology workshop at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a Bloody Caesar Battle at Bearfoot Bistro and, of course, plenty of cocktails to sip and savour at the many dinners, brunches, lunches, parties and other events.

For Rob Kharazmi and Emily Ross, this year’s Cornucopia festival will be especially memorable. That’s because the bartenders at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler will be playing host to Mica Rousseau, the 2016 winner of Diageo World Class Mexico, who’ll be visiting Whistler from their sister property in Mexico City.

“We’re really looking forward to having him here,” says Kharazmi.

The Ant Man cocktail by Mica Rousseau, head bartender at Four Seasons Mexico City. The winner of Best Bartender at the 2016 World Class Mexico competition will be in Whistler during Cornucopia 2017 for Mezcal y Maize, a series of “après” parties, as well as a mezcal master class. Four Seasons Whistler photo

Rousseau hails from the creative bar concept Fifty Mils, the No. 61 top bar in the world. He will be leading two events: an intimate (and instantly sold out) mezcal master class on Nov. 11; and Mezcal y Maize – A Taco Après Party, which will be held each afternoon except Friday from Nov. 12-18 at Sidecut, the Four Seasons’ restaurant.

Sidecut’s executive chef Eren Guryel will team up with Rousseau to offer a trio of elevated gourmet tacos, each paired with one of Rousseau’s inventive drinks, amidst a cool DJ vibe.

Rousseau is the kind of bartender who has a deep respect for the classics and a reverence for fine service, but who can’t resist the challenge of creativity. One of his winning drinks at World Class was poured from a chocolate coffee pot he made himself, for instance, while one of his signature drinks at Fifty Mils comprises mezcal, avocados and, yes, ants.

“Mixology has that kind of romanticism that allows us to tell a story with a drink, and to create an authentic experience for guests,” he has said.

Although Rousseau was born in France, he has become a passionate advocate for Mexican ingredients, especially the smoky, spicy local spirit mezcal. He even has his own bespoke mezcal, Four Fifty Mezcal, created with four friends and available only at Fifty Mils.

It’s a passion he shares with Kharazmi and Ross, who’ve created their own mezcal cocktail for Sidecut’s Sea to Sky menu (see recipe).

“I love mezcal. Mezcal is an essential tool in the bartender’s toolkit,” says Kharazmi. “I appreciate how different it is, and how it stands alone. You can make any classic cocktail and replace the main ingredient with mezcal.”

Just the craftsmanship of mezcal is fascinating, he adds. The agave plants are wild-harvested and the piñas roasted underground in wood-fired pits for up to three days before fermentation and distillation, which imbues it with flavours of pineapple, citrus, chocolate, spice and always that tantalizing whiff of smoke.

But whether your taste runs to mezcal or Mimosas or Caesars, Cornucopia has got you covered for just about every type of cocktail you can crave. So why not head up the Sea to Sky this November and taste something new? For tickets and info, visit whistlercornucopia.com.

—by Joanne Sasvari

Make the Mountain Mezcal Sour.

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