Fruitful endeavour

Family-owned distillery crafts world-class spirits from homegrown harvests

With its extended growing seasons and miles of fruitful orchards and rolling vineyards, B.C.’s Okanagan Valley is known best as Canada’s wine country. The site of many a weekend winery tour and the occasional fruit stand pit stop, one can hardly say “Okanagan” without also uttering “wine.” A lesser thought of connection? Distilled spirits.

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The heat is on

Cool treats for the summer season

Put a scoop in it: Bella Gelateria mixes their award-winning gelato with classic and new cocktails. Supplied photo

The sun’s out, you’re feeling mellow. What better way to cool down without taking the chill off, than by enjoying a sweet, boozy treat?

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Tropical thunder

Kristi-Leigh Akister expands The Union’s bold, exotic repertoire

In Vancouver, you’re more likely to inherit an incredible cocktail program and back bar these days than have to build one from scratch. That said, there’s always room to improve.

Take Union bar manager Kristi-Leigh Akister. The vibrant young bartender stepped into the role established by Cascade bar manager Nick Devine and 17-year industry veteran Arthur Wynne just over a year ago, and has since established an innovative new cocktail menu and rotating draft list to pair with the restaurant’s Pan-Asian bibimbaps and bahn mis.

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Enter the dragon

Is Baijiu the new tequila?

Baijiu is beginning to make its mark on western cocktail menus. Lou Lou Childs photo

As unlikely as it sounds, the infamous Chinese firewater baijiu—a pungent brew capable of bringing tears to eyes and setting throats ablaze—could be the hot new ingredient for bartenders.

Clear, potent (50 per cent-plus alcohol by volume) and often compost-pile fetid, the centuries-old spirit distilled from sorghum and other grains is also the world’s most consumed liquor.

Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

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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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Locovore libations

Island-to-glass cocktails rule the bar at Olo

The concept of “farm-to-table” isn’t new for B.C. restaurants. What’s served from behind the wood is now also joining the sustainable locavore movement for a more complete offering. Brad Holmes, owner and executive chef at Olo in Victoria, has long been a vocal proponent of this movement, and his cocktail program reflects that. “Our whole restaurant is seasonal; the menu changes with what’s available on any given day and season. I always wanted to bring that to the bar. And now, with all of the great gins and vermouths and other local products, we can offer something that was grown in B.C., produced in B.C. and served in B.C.”

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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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Ma Kham Wahn

Alexa Mazarello photo

A tasty Thai experience.

• 2 oz bourbon, infused with coffee and makrut lime leaf*
• 0.75 oz makrut lime leaf simple syrup
• a dash of fresh ginger juice
• 1.5 oz of tamarind water
• A dash each of pomelo bitters and old fashioned bitters

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Dream team

Sabrine Dhaliwal takes over the guest experience at UVA

Sabrine Dhaliwal didn’t have to join UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar—with her bartending pedigree she would have had her choice of bar manager positions in this town. So why sign on to run the room that had, to date, been defined by Vancouver’s cocktail queen Lauren Mote?

“Why not?” Dhaliwal counters, with a playful smile. “I’ve known Lauren for about five years, so I’ve been fortunate enough to see how she built her cocktails and what avenues she goes in. I’m fortunate in that way to have an insight into that realm.”

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Bittersweet symphony

The latest twist in the tale of the Negroni

Classic, White or Boulevardier­—a Negroni is a sexy, sophisticated drink. Alexa Mazzarello photo

For a drink so simple, the Negroni is one impressively complicated cocktail.

It contains only three ingredients—equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari—but those three ingredients comprise a world of flavours and aromas: bitter, sweet, citrus, floral, herbal, spicy, medicinal. It has a sexy backstory, except that it isn’t true.

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