The win marks an exciting shift in small-scale distilling across the country
After seven years of domination by B.C. and Ontario, an Alberta distillery has taken home the top prize at the 2024 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition.
In a series of blind tastings, a cross-Canada panel of judges selected The Fort Distillery‘s Mountain Pass Whisky as the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year. The Fort Saskatchewan distillery prevailed over more than 80 small-scale spirits producers from 10 provinces and territories, who entered nearly 300 products in the competition; its whisky was only the second ever to win CASC’s top award.
Ontario’s Paradigm Spirits Co. wins Whisky of the Year at the 2024 Canadian Whisky Awards
For nearly a century, residents of London, Ontario, smelled toasty corn aromas coming from what was formerly a grain facility and then a Kellogg’s Cornflakes factory. These days, it’s the scent of whisky mashes — and victory — that’s wafting from Paradigm Spirits Co., a distilling and blending enterprise located in that space since 2020. It won Whisky of the Year on January 18 at the 2024 Canadian Whisky Awards for its 2022 Heritage Collection: 19 Year Single Grain Oloroso Blend Whisky bottling.
With the Dry-uary season upon us, here are some favourites for those taking a break from cocktails, or looking for some fresh 2024 drink-spiration.
When renowned a popular U.S. drinks writer began curating a list of non-alcoholic spirits on his Alcademics blog (pioneering brand Seedlip was the first entry), it felt like a novelty niche on the cocktail scene. Today the list is approaching 200 brands, and with so many non-alcoholic alternatives on the market, including many Canadian brands, it can be hard to know what to try.
But first, to tackle the elephant in the room: why can non-alcoholic products cost the same as traditional, boozy ones? High-quality products often use the same distillation process as traditional spirits, which are then de-alcoholized (those with allergies, note: de-alcoholized spirits can legally still contain less than 0.5 per cent alcohol: about the same as a ripe banana, and less than soy sauce). That means a more involved, often more expensive, production process. Others are developed in a complex process of combining flavours, textures and botanicals to re-create the taste and mouthfeel of alcohol.
Amongst these favourites, we’ve leaned into low-sugar, low-additive Canadian brands, because although there are fewer international barriers to shipping these products than with alcohol, why not support local?
A great bottle of whisky has always been the ultimate holiday gift, but this year Scotch brands are leveling up with immersive whisky experiences that include exclusive tastings, food pairings and even hotel stays. If your whisky tastes run more local, snap up a presale bottle of Sheringham’s rye-forward whisky, coming in 2024: it’s bound to be as stellar as their award-winning gin.
Whether it’s for après or waiting out a no-snow day, the mountain village has plenty of fine drinking options. And if what you crave most is a beer while watching the game in good company, you’ll find the locals huddled at Stinky’s on the Stroll and other casual watering holes!
Wild Blue Restaurant + Bar
Whistler’s most-lauded new restaurant is fronted by a big, beautiful, boomerang-shaped bar, just as pleasant a place to while away an evening as the plush, shiny dining room: the full menu is available at the bar, and service is superb. Crush a plate of raw oysters with a Martini (there are six on the menu, but ask for one made with Copperpenny 006 Oyster Shell gin), and try creative mixology like the Phoenix, a Lot 40 Rye sipper fortified with Cocchi Americano Rosa and sherry, and topped with Laphroaig for a smoldering, savoury finish. A helpful glossary of “Intriguing Techniques & Ingredients” is your cheat sheet to deciphering some of the complex culinary-bar techniques used here. The B.C. edition of Fernet Hunter (a collab with Endeavor Snowboards) is available here, and would make an amazing amaro caldo on a chilly day.
Watch for: An eye-popping $49 deal this winter for a three-course menu during the week (Sunday through Thursday).
Look for the sign and go up the stairs to this sexy, intimate spot for drinks and snacks—soon!
The only tell that there is a sexy, intimate Japanese-inspired cocktail and raw bar tucked in the space above a bustling Fraser Street Greek restaurant is the clever metal sign positioned above eye level to the right of an unadorned orange-hued door.
The concept is “neighbourhood watering hole-meets eclectic cocktail room,” in the 52-seat, 900-square-foot space.
Revellers can expect to find live music and comedy served up alongside fun drinks and eats created by the Havana team.
“Our live stage will be a hub of local talent and personalities, bringing our community together through performances that make each visit a unique experience,” said Tyson McNamara, Stage Manager, in a media release from The Flamingo Room. “We believe in the power of supporting local artists, providing a space where their creativity shines.”
Food and drink menu: Shareable dishes, cocktails and mocktails with tropical vibes
The Flamingo Room’s executive chef, Andrew Hounslow, will serve up a food menu of playful snacks with a South Floridian twist, like a share-able Cubano sandwich (on a stick!), Huevos Diablos, Tajin-spiced compressed watermelon, and a jicama and chickpea “ceviche.”
The drinks program was created by Beverage Director Alexa Greenman, and features several tropical drinks (including zero-proof mocktails). Expect to find shareable cocktails for groups and a locally-focused beer and wine list, too.
The Flamingo Room’s food, drink, and merriment will be showcased in a space described as offering “a lush space layered full of playful textures and saturated colours” with “banquet booth seating, decorative lighting, a warm wood bar, and a forthcoming bespoke feature mural wall.”
“We look forward to welcoming guests into an intimate, tropical space, where inventive drinks and snacks are underscored with amazing live music and comedy,” said Reuben Major, Managing Partner of Havana Vancouver and The Flamingo Room.
“I’m so proud of our team for their dedication and hard work bringing The Flamingo Room to a reality. It’s been a long time coming, and we’re excited to open our doors!”
When The Flamingo Room (1212 Commercial Dr) officially opens on Dec. 6, it will operate Wednesday to Sunday, from 5 p.m. to late.
Whether you’re shopping for spirited holiday gifts, booking a private party or imbibing some seasonal cheer, there’s no cozier time to visit a Toronto distillery tasting room. Here’s a flight of three you could even knock back all in one fun day.
The founders of Vancouver’s beloved and departed ‘nerd bar’ are behind an exciting new venture
Does your cat, dog, or parakeet need a little help from the great beyond? Or do you just need a fun new spot to grab a drink?
What looks like a pet psychic business in Gastown at 238 Abbott St is actually the clever cover for an upcoming new cocktail bar and restaurant from the creative minds that brought Vancouver its beloved—and departed—Storm Crow bars.
If you’ve ever seen, or taken part in, a round of welcome shots offered to insiders at a mixology-forward bar, you’re already familiar with the bartender handshake.
The cocktail renaissance of the last 20-some years spurred the tradition of bartenders pouring a little something (often something unknown or slightly unpalatable to the general drinking public) for visiting colleagues. To enter a bar and receive a so-called bartender handshake drink is like being part of a secret society. Global trends started this way, as uber-local greetings: San Francisco bartenders were pouring handshake shots of Fernet-Branca 20 years ago, and Chicago has cornered the market on ultra-bitter Malort. There’s even a world-ranked bar in Mexico city called (wait for it…) Handshake, which has a menu of little welcome snack-tails.