Bartender in a bottle

Raise a glass to the supporting cast of B.C.’s cocktail scene—local craft syrups, sodas, tonics and other mixers

Odd Society Spirits joins the craft soda trend with its zingy housemade ginger beer. RD Cane photo

Forget the genie. Professional bartending expertise is captured in each bottle, can and jar of these B.C.-born cocktail mixers, which are often natural and preservative-free, too. To let loose your cocktail creativity, just add craft spirits.

Craft soda

Cold-pressed ginger extract, lemons and a just-right amount of cane sugar are all that goes into Dickie’s Ginger, the Vancouver small-batch, unpasteurized game-changer for your Dark ’n’ Stormy or Moscow Mule.

Odd Society Ginger Beer (from the Vancouver craft distillery) adds chili peppers, citrus and a little booze to the mix (it’s 4 per cent ABV), putting the beer in ginger beer.

Phillips Soda Works (from the Victoria brewer) offers bottled craft cola, root beer, ginger ale and orange soda, plus tasty cucumber mint and artisanal dry tonic water in just-right-sized cans.

Vancouver brew collective Callister Brewing has its own line of tasty craft sodas, from traditional tonic to fancy blends of raspberry-Earl Grey and ginger-mint.

Shrubs

The words “drinking vinegar” might not seem to go together, but trust us: so-called shrubs create a balanced base for tart-sweet cocktail (or food) recipes.

Vancouver’s Thirsty Whale Elixirs come in bright-tasting strawberry-rhubarb, cranberry-ginger and apple-spice combos.

Mixers and Elixirs features the pure fruit essence of nectarine, quince and black currant in its shrubs, plus blends of cherry-thyme, cucumber-pepper, apple-mint and, perhaps the most B.C. flavour of them all, apple-salal berry.

Booze Witch (from Kelly Ann Woods of Gillespie’s Fine Spirits in Squamish) makes complex plum-rosemary, peach-lavender and blueberry-lime shrubs.

Tonics

There are times when you need to up your tonic water game from Schweppes or Canada Dry. For those times of need, Vancouver-made Bowman Bottling syrup produces a nicely bitter amber-coloured tonic that’s crafty looking and allows you to control the sweetness level in your G&Ts. 

If you value transparency, clear tonic syrups from Rootside Provisions in Esquimalt, in traditional dry and a lovely cardamon-citrus flavour, are the ticket. They make a killer ginger beer mix, too.

Syrups and mixes

If you have a SodaStream or a bottle of club soda, all you need are a few syrups and you’ve got a world of cocktails.

For tea-infused “apothecary sodas” using foraged botanicals and herbs, just say Namasthé for sassafras and cola syrups from the Pemberton tea company.

Vancouver-based Cahoots offers a rich simple syrup plus hibiscus and lavender variations, as well as Old Fashioned, French 75 and Moscow Mule mixes that instantly elevate your mixology.

With a dozen fruit cordials and an all-natural ginger syrup, Frostbites Syrup Co. is cocktail ready: find recipes at frostbitesfun.com/recipes.

Bar essentials

The PoCo product taking the bartending world by storm is Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer, which has the vegan power of 100 egg whites in a tiny bottle. Just a few drops make a perfect pisco or whisky sour.

Vancouver-based Walter named its craft Caesar mix for the drink’s storied founder, Calgary bartender Walter Chell.  It’s gluten free, Ocean Wise, all-natural and delicious.

Simp’s Serious Caesar Mix from Kelowna has a touch of maple syrup and is MSG-, gluten- and fish-free (and vegan); the company also bottles a simple syrup for cocktailian needs.

Fans of picklebacks need to know Vancouver’s Barrelhouse Brine, makers of not only artisan pickles but Sourback Cocktail Mix, a pure pickle brine made from vinegar and herbs. Plus they offer spicy jarred Fresh Pack Pickle Pineapple, which muddles nicely into a killer mojito or Old Fashioned.

So you think you’re a brewer? A dash of Phillips Fermentorium Hop Drop Elixir makes any beer (or cocktail) rival a chewy IPA.

Think you’re a distiller? Find out by infusing white spirits into “rum,” “gin” and half-a-dozen other botanical mixes, which Graveley & Sons sells in ready-to-fill glass bottles.

Find it

Sips Cocktail Emporium, Modern Bartender and Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver stock and ship many local brands. Local grocery and private liquor stores also stock some: check product websites for locations.

—by Charlene Rooke

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