Now that we’re all spending so much more time at home, this is a good opportunity to brush up on our home-bartending skills. That means learning at least a few recipes to serve to the people in your bubble and, eventually, all the many friends you’re making on Zoom.
The most important drink you should know how to make is the one you like best. That’s also the best advice for stocking your liquor cabinet, though for your sake I hope it’s something simple, like a highball, rather than, say, a Ramos Gin Fizz, which requires egg whites, orange blossom water and a seltzer bottle, among other things.
After that, it’s best to start with classics. They are, after all, classics for a reason—they taste good, and they work—but they are also a good place to start experimenting if you want to get creative. Here are five drinks every home bartender should have in their repertoire.
The cocktail kit is the best way to bring your favourite bar home
It’s been a long day and all you want to do is get into your pyjamas (if you ever got out of them, let’s be real) and settle in with a good cocktail. But it’s just too much effort to make one yourself. Never fear, thirsty reader. The cocktail kit is here to help.
During the pandemic, many Vancouver restaurants have turned to takeout and some have added cocktails to their to-go menus. What you get varies depending on the establishment. Most offer some sort of mixer, bottle of spirits and garnish; some also offer top-quality ice as well as tools and glassware. Not only do these kits quench your thirst, they also make great gifts and, best of all, support your favourite establishments when they need it most.
Here are just some to try. Note that in restaurants sales of alcohol must be accompanied by sales of food; check the websites for details regarding price and availability.
Plenty a tall tale has crossed the polished oak; after all, bartenders like to dish out lively anecdotes along with the gin and spiced nuts. But when it comes to boozy myths, legends, outright lies and wholesale whoppers, “more cling to the Martini than any other cocktail.”
So writes Robert Simonson in his IACP-nominated book The Martini Cocktail (Ten Speed Press). He is fascinated by the outsize role the Martini has played in popular culture ever since its invention in 1849, or maybe it was the 1880s, or possibly 1906, who knows?
Looking back at the year that changed Vancouver’s cocktail culture
When Vancouverites look back at 2010, we think of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, a rain-soaked Wayne Gretzky and all those red mittens. But the really big news that year could be found at the bottom of a cocktail glass.
Proper cocktail bars were finally opening all over town. Global spirits brand reps started showing up to dole out samples. The organizers of Tales of the Cocktail reached out to see if Vancouver would be a good site for Tales on Tour. (Spoiler alert: Yes, in 2011 and 2012.) And Imbibemagazine discovered “a Galapagos of mixology, a place where cocktails have evolved independently from the rest of the drinking world.”
Ten years later, we revisit the year that changed the city’s cocktail culture.
A week ago, Peter Hunt had just returned to Victoria from a trip to New York when he decided to go shopping. But customers concerned about COVID-19 had gotten there before him.
“I was in the stores and there was no hand sanitizer around,” says the president of Victoria Distillers. “Then I was chatting with my wife, who works in the public service, and my aunts and uncles, who are paramedics, and they were having trouble finding hand sanitizer, too. Trying to find it was stressing them out.
It happened slowly, then all at once. Was it just a week ago we were still joking about bumping elbows instead of shaking hands? Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has rolled over absolutely every aspect of our lives, and that includes our vibrant culinary culture.
Across British Columbia, people in the hospitality industry have taken proactive action against the virus, not waiting for government to tell them to change the way they do business.
“This is just what we do,” says Trevor Kallies, president of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Bartender Association and the creative force behind one of Vancouver’s most dynamic cocktail events. “This” isn’t just making great drinks, although it’s that, too. Mostly, though, it’s coming together to help those who need it most.
What you need to know for making the recipes in The Alchemist.
Measurements: For the most part, our recipes are in imperial volume (fluid ounces, teaspoons and cups). We might occasionally use weight (for instance, an ounce of tea leaves for an infusion); in those cases, it will be noted.
Tools: The essentials are a cocktail shaker (cobbler or Boston), mixing glass, jigger, citrus juicer, Hawthorne and fine mesh strainers, muddler, bar spoon, sharp knife and vegetable peeler. Any special tools will be noted.
Glassware: You could fill your cupboards with different types of glassware, but you only really need three (aside from wine and beer): a stemmed “cocktail” glass, either the V-shaped martini or curved coupe; the short, stubby rocks or Old Fashioned; and the tall, narrow Collins.