Golden Oldie

The name may sound dated, but the Old Fashioned remains a classic for a reason. The Alchemist asked Sabrine Dhaliwal, Bar Manager at Uva, to let us in on its secrets.

Sabrine Dhaliwal stirs up a classic. Dan Toulgoet photo.

The Old Fashioned is amazing — simple and complex at the same time. On paper it is minimal — spirit, bitters, sugar and water (via the dilution of ice) — but what is critical for an Old Fashioned is getting that balance right. You get the balance right, you have a beautiful cocktail, but if you don’t, there’s nowhere to hide. The fewer the ingredients in a cocktail, the more skill needed to make it.

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Whisky Business

The second edition of Davin de Kergommeaux’s Canadian Whisky is out now. Contributed photo

When it came out in 2012, Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert established Davin
de Kergommeaux as the foremost authority in the country on the spirit. As the second edition is published, The Alchemist asked its author about the state of the Canadian industry today.

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Shake Shack

Behind the scenes of competitive cocktails

Steady hands are needed when creating drinks for competitions. Talia Kleinplatz photo.

Nothing says Monday morning quite like arriving at a bar at 10.30 a.m. ready to drink all day. The scene at Main Street’s Cascade Room is organized chaos. Bartenders, usually never seen out before noon, are slugging coffee offered both straight up or spiked.

There are crates and boxes all over the place. Recognizable labels of Scotch, rye, mescal, Cognac and more jostle beside unlabelled bottles of homemade fat-washed and syrupy concoctions. This is clearly a serious affair.

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Pisco Fever

The South American grape brandy offers bartenders so much more than a simple sour

Katie Ingram, head bartender at L’Abbatoir. Lou Lou Childs photo.

Katie Ingram is a sucker for history. The head bartender of Gastown’s L’Abbatoir is talking pisco, the South American spirit that shows up in sours the world over, and in no time at all, she’s taken us right back to the Ice Age.

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Prodigal sons

How Sons of Vancouver is riding the big boom in small spirits

James Lester (L) and Richard Klaus bring a clear point-of-view to Sons of Vancouver. Lucy-kate Armstrong photo

It will be just two short years in February since Sons of Vancouver opened for business—with a 700-litre still repurposed from a dairy pasteurizer. And, like so many of the distilleries around B.C., owners James Lester and Richard Klaus have barely had time to pause for breath.

Take the past few months of 2016 as an example: Sons ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to upgrade to a proper—and much bigger—still, opened a tasting room, and will release a special barrel-aged edition of their signature No. 82 Amaretto in time for the holidays.

It wasn’t meant to happen this fast.

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Cool beans

Bartenders are embracing how the unique properties of cold brew works in cocktails photo

Your morning cup of coffee may perk you up nicely, but that same java is more than ready to do the same for your cocktail hour. Forget the drip-filled wine glass containing a shot of Bushmills or Tia Maria, loaded with sugar, and covered with a slick of whipped cream from a can. And step back from the classic, yet oh-so-1980s, Espresso Martini. Coffee cocktails have upped their game.

And what’s behind this fashionable return? It’s all about that barista favourite, cold brew.

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Gin fizz

The gin and tonic is sophisticated again

Whistler’s Bar Oso is just one of many drink-forward destinations elevating the traditional gin and tonic. Pat Allan photo

Jason Redmond expected to be impressed by many things about Spain, but he couldn’t have guessed the biggest takeaway from his trip last summer would be a new take on a humble highball.

“I was really surprised at the big signs outside all the little cafes and bars claiming they were selling the best ‘Gin Tonic,’” the bar manager of Whistler’s Spanish-influenced Bar Oso recalls.

“It was a really big deal, and one I had no idea about beforehand.”

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Love on the rocks

Can creative cocktails compete with wine for a place at the dinner table?

Maenam’s play on a sidecar, the Rusty Bumper, infuses salted plum and cumin and pairs well with several dishes, including an eight-spice ling cod and Yum Plah salmon salad. Alexa Mazzarello photo

The relationship between cocktails and food lacks commitment in many people’s minds. Sure, a good Martini with a plate of freshly shucked oysters is a sexy start to any date, but is it the basis for a long-term love affair?

Spirit-based drinks have more success at the brunch or lunch table, either adding a bit of fizz to eggs Benedict, or providing a restorative hair-of-the-dog to the morning after the night before. The Mad Men-style three-Martini “business meeting” of old fashioned expense accounts has largely become a thing of nostalgia, and few ladies who lunch appear to have the same determination to drink as heartily as did their predecessors.

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Gin Tonic

Long Table, Vancouver’s original micro distillery, is fuelled by passion.

Lou Lou Childs photo

Charles Tremewen loves gin. So much so, he hocked his house to start making it himself. He launched Vancouver’s first micro distillery, Long Table, in February 2013, and hasn’t looked back.

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