Wild Blue is just the latest establishment to offer exceptional cocktails at the mountain resort
Mention Whistler, and powder-packed bowls, emerald glades and sweeping vistas likely pop to mind. But these days the resort town’s dining scene is just as much of a draw as its stunning scenery—and alongside it is a cocktail culture snowballing as fast as the 7th Heaven Express.
From Bearfoot Bistro’s nitro-infused Martinis and Araxi’s Firecracker Margarita to Il Caminetto’s Negroni vault and Alta Bistro’s oak-barrel-aged cocktails, Whistler takes its drink-making seriously. Now the ante has just gone up with the recent opening of Wild Blue Restaurant + Bar.
Out of the Wild Blue
Focusing on Pacific Northwest cuisine, with sustainable seafood and local ingredients as cornerstones, Wild Blue is headed by an industry dream team including: Restaurant Hall of Fame inductee Jack Evrensel, founder and former operator of Toptable Group; Iron Chef Alex Chen; respected restaurant director Neil Henderson; and executive chef Derek Bendig, whose previous experience includes representing Canada at James Beard House in New York City and working at a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in France.
And leading the cocktail program is bar manager Zack Lavoie, formerly of The Keefer, The Diamond, Australia’s Sum Yung Guys and Bar Oso.
With hospitality being the name of the game for a clientele that comes from all over the globe, the cocktail menu had to feature a little something for everyone, Lavoie explains.
“With this in mind, we looked at the most popular cocktails in the world and used them as the foundation for our inspiration,” he says. “Then, we broke them down into four simple categories—tart and punchy; refreshing; spirit-forward; and classic Martinis—then tweaked them to our tastes using modern techniques.”
He adds, “With the rich and sultry tones of the room, classic Martinis have already become a staple of the dining experience, particularly the Vesper. Seasoned Martini drinkers have been overjoyed to see a version of the Gibson.”
Among the ingredients that Lavoie—an avid snowboarder—is “stoked” to work with are products from Cocchi, the Italian company that has been making wine-based aperitifs since 1891. “I’m a big fan of what they offer and don’t see them often enough in B.C.,” Lavoie says. Consider Cocchi Americano Rosa, its base of Piedmont red wines enhanced with extracts of gentian, cinchona, citrus zests, rose petals, and other botanicals. Lavoie showcases the cherry-hued aromatized wine in Wild Blue’s house cocktail, the Phoenix. With peated Scotch as a fragrant garnish, the bold sipper also consists of sherry and rye.
Other Wild Blue cocktail highlights? The Sanita, which Lavoie made for his Paloma-loving sister, using lime-cordial foam instead of lime juice along with Patrón silver tequila, grapefruit and agave. Inspired by the French 75 and named after an Italian pistol of the same era, the Beretta incorporates limoncello with citron vodka, Italian herbs, lemon and prosecco. Then there’s the Strawberry Daiquiri. It is a resort town, after all, and Lavoie is a big fan of the classic cocktail. “Although we all secretly love a blended version, we shake ours very hard and have refined it by creating a strawberry oleo saccharum and adding a touch of Liquore Strega to the mix, with white rum and lime bringing it back to its Daiquiri roots,” he says.
Inspired by nature
Elsewhere in Whistler, the art of the cocktail can be found at the Raven Room Restaurant & Cocktail Bar, recently named one of Canada’s Best Bars by Canada’s 100 Best. The drinks list draws inspiration from the mountain town’s natural surroundings and changes seasonally, the team behind it being especially fond of rare flavours.
Take the low-ABV Shiso Fine, made with Moonlight shochu infused with its namesake Japanese herb, a member of the mint family. Light, refreshing, and ideal after a day of invigorating outdoor exertion, the concoction also has Gekkeikan plum wine infused with green tea as well as lime and green-tea syrup.
The recently revamped Braidwood Tavern at Four Seasons Whistler Resort & Residences has elevated its cocktail offerings (the Margarita menu has proven to be a huge hit) while keeping with its mountain cabin-like feel. Bartender Rocio Mogollon describes the menu as “playful, trendy, and fun.” “We always try to add a wow factor to each cocktail,” Mogollon says. “Nevertheless, we have some pillars as the backbone: Go local and go seasonal whenever possible.”
For winter, Mogollon recommends the Polar Bear Express from the bar’s hot chocolate cocktail program. With vodka, Chambord, white chocolate ganache, coconut milk, coconut whip cream, and raspberry powder, it’s served in a bear glass mug “that brings us back to our best winter memories”. The Mezcal-based Maria Bonita, named after an actress from the Golden era of Mexican cinema, is another standout, with yellow Chartreuse, grapefruit, and a mix of spices that includes cinnamon and black cardamom.
An iconic room
Finally, Mallard Lounge at Fairmont Chateau Whistler is an iconic spot beloved by locals and visitors alike for its live music, sumptuous comfiness and consistently solid craft cocktails.
“When we compose the cocktail menu, we approach it a little differently every time,” says Jack Broadhead, assistant director of food and beverage. “At the core is always taste. Everything must be delicious first. From there we want to inject interest and locality. We always try to ask: Why is this cocktail special or how does it relate to the Sea to Sky?”
Mallard Room bartender Lina Khandaker created the eye-catching Castaway Old Fashioned. She wanted an approachable take on the classic that would fit with the room’s warmth—it’s best sipped by the fireplace. “The first thing you’ll notice is the smell of the applewood smoke, mixed with a single piece of oud. Think lighting incense: That’s the smell you’ll get,” Khandaker says. “The Woodfordis a smooth, warm bourbon with notes of cinnamon, cocoa and spices, and the Taylor Fladgate 20-year adds some floral and citrus balance. The house-made barrel-aged bourbon maple syrup adds a sweet kick.”
She adds: “I wanted a big visual wow, which we achieved perfectly with a beautiful presentation using the smoke top at the tableside, then pouring the drink over a big ice cube in front of the guest. This cocktail is a lovely sensory experience; it looks, smells and tastes fantastic. It’s a perfect late-night sipper.”
—by YVR Barfly