Sunny days demand thirst-quenching cocktails like Margaritas, Palomas and Ranch Water, which all just happen to be a showcase for tequila. And that might just make tequila our favourite summer spirit.
The Alchemist tasting panel reviews high-end spirits
Sometimes nothing will do but the highest of high-end spirits. Perhaps there is an important anniversary to commemorate, a business deal to cement, a mentor to thank. Or maybe you are just lucky enough to stumble upon a tasting where you can sip something rare that’s been aging in a barrel for decades. Whatever the event, there comes a time when you may be able to enjoy an ultra-premium spirit—or a cocktail that’s been made with it. We asked our tasting panel to share some of their favourites and the cocktails they’d make with them (if they could afford to). This issue, our tasting panel team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, Robyn Gray, Grant Sceney and David Wolowidnyk. Here’s what they had to say.
The Alchemist tasting panel reviews sips for the sunny season
Once summer’s warmer, sunnier weather finally arrives, we crave drinks that are lighter and easier, more refreshing and less complicated. No one knows that better than the bartenders who craft all your Margaritas, G&Ts, spritzes and other summertime thirst quenchers. So we asked them to share their favourite warm weather spirits, and the cocktails they would make with them. This issue, our tasting panel team comprises bartenders J-S Dupuis, Robyn Gray, Jeff Savage, Grant Sceney and David Wolowidnyk. Here’s what they had to say.
The Alchemist tasting panel reviews bottles to share
Now that we’re socializing again and heading into holiday season, it’s time to upgrade our gifting game. Whether you’re looking for a host gift or something to tuck under the tree, a bottle of spirits is a present with presence. And we figured no one would have a better idea of what to give than our tasting panel, so we asked them for their suggestions for gift bottles under $100, and the cocktails they’d make with them. This issue, our team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, J-S Dupuis, Robyn Gray, Trevor Kallies, Kaitlyn Stewart and David Wolowidnyk. Here’s what they had to say. Shop and sip accordingly.
The Alchemist tasting panel discusses their favourite tequila and mezcal
For years, we’ve been reading that tequila is about to become the “it” spirit. This year, it seems, it’s finally happened. Mind you, some of us have been enjoying this Mexican agave-based spirit, along with its smoky cousin mezcal, all along. Agave spirits have increasingly become luxury products savoured by connoisseurs, which may surprise those who’ve only had a disastrous brush with cheap mixto and are still feeling the hangover. A good tequila is made from 100 per cent farmed blue agave, while mezcal can be made from any number of wild agaves. Mezcal is also typically enjoyed unaged, while tequila can be unaged (also known as plata or silver), “rested” in oak for up to a year (reposado) or aged (añejo or extra añejo). Agave spirits are complex, fascinating and delicious, so we asked our tasting panel to share their favourite and what cocktail they’d make with it. This issue, our team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, Adam Domet, Robyn Gray, Jay Jones, Trevor Kallies, Jeff Savage and Kaitlyn Stewart. ¡Salud!
The Alchemist tasting panel reviews their at-home essential spirits
For most issues of The Alchemist, we gather our tasting panel and sit in a room somewhere sampling our way through a dozen or so bottles of, say, rye whisky or vermouth. But with a pandemic upending everything, we couldn’t do that this time around. At the same time, since we’ve all been spending so much time chez nous, we wondered what our panelists were drinking at their own homes. So we asked them to recommend a bottle they consider essential for a home bartender, and what cocktail they’d make with it. This issue, our team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, Adam Domet, J-S Dupuis, Robyn Gray, Jay Jones, Trevor Kallies, Jeff Savage and Kaitlyn Stewart. Here’s what they had to say. Sip and shop accordingly.
Recipe by Adam Domet, bar manager, Pourhouse
• 1 oz Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon
• 0.5 oz Gonzales Byass Oloroso sherry
• 0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
• 2 tsp simple syrup (1:1)
• 5 raspberries
• 1 oz sparkling wine
The Alchemist tasting panel samples the fortified, aromatized elixir
Vermouth is not just an essential ingredient in many cocktails, it is already a cocktail, a wine fortified with spirits and flavoured with herbs, spices and other botanicals. And it’s enjoying a major comeback right now.
Five of Vancouver’s top bartenders gathered on a rainy afternoon at Tableau Bar Bistro to taste this beguiling product: Sabrine Dhaliwal, bar manager of Juke Fried Chicken and Beetbox; Adam Domet, bar manager at Pourhouse; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of Elisa Steakhouse; and Katie Ingram, bar manager at Elisa Steakhouse.
They all love vermouth. “It’s rich in flavour and lower in alcohol,” Ingram said. “And we’re all flavour junkies. So we get that fix of citrus and bitterness and everything you’re looking for.” Besides, with prices as low as $12 for a litre bottle, vermouth is also a complete bargain.
The panel tasted 16 local and international vermouths. Here’s what they had to say.
The Alchemist tasting panel samples Canadian and American rye spirits
Our bartender tasting panel is never short of opinions, but no other spirit has ignited passion the way rye whisky did. Maybe because it’s our national spirit (sort of). Or maybe it’s just because bold flavours inspire bold statements.
Seven of Vancouver’s top bartenders gathered on a rainy afternoon at Homer Street Café for the tasting panel: Alex Black, bartender and mental health advocate; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia; Katie Ingram, bar manager at Elisa Steakhouse; Grant Sceney, Fairmont Pacific Rim; and, from Homer Street Café, Rob Scope and David Wolowidnyk.
They loved the sweet spice and rich, bold flavour of the rye. But they differed on whether Canadian or American is better, and whether it has to be 100 per cent rye or can be a blend of grains. And they admitted that as much as they love rye, it’s a hard sell to consumers, many of whom are unfamiliar with it and prefer the simple sweetness of bourbon.
The panel tasted 12 rye-based spirits. Here’s what they had to say.
The Alchemist tasting panel gathers for a round of international gins
Summer is the season for refreshing gin cocktails, so it was only natural to think juniper for this issue’s tasting panel. Juniper, of course, is the signature flavour that defines gin, which is typically a grain spirit (though there are some fruit-based ones) that has been infused with botanicals that can include citrus peel, flowers, herbs, spices, stems, roots, seeds and fruits.
Think gin and you tend to think London Dry, the crisp, juniper-forward style developed in London in the 1830s. But there are a wide range of styles from all over the world. To sample a selection of them, we gathered at Tableau Bar Bistro with some of the city’s top barkeeps: Alex Black, bar manager of Wildebeest; Sabrine Dhaliwal, cocktail consultant and Pourhouse bartender; Adam Domet, bar manager of Pourhouse; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia; and Ryan Johnson, bar manager of Tuc Craft Kitchen.
The panel blind-tasted 12 international gins. Here’s what they had to say.