Summer spirits

The Alchemist tasting panel reviews sips for the sunny season

Hot weather demands lighter spirits and less complicated cocktails. Getty Images photo

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. 

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Pisco Punch

Pisco Punch. Getty Images photo

A twist on the classic from bartender David Wolowidnyk, Acquafarina.

• 2 oz Barsol Pisco – Quebranta

• 1.5 oz fresh pineapple juice

• 0.75 oz fresh lemon juice

• 0.5 oz orgeat (almond syrup)

• Garnish: pineapple slice

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Check In

Grant Sceney’s Check In. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Pacific Rim

Recipe by Grant Sceney, Fairmont Pacific Rim.

• 1 oz Tanqueray gin

• 0.67 oz Blueberry Lavender Oleo (see note)

• 0.67 oz lemon juice

• 0.25 oz Luxardo Bitter Bianco

• 3 oz Blue Mountain Brut (or other sparkling wine)

• Garnish: Thyme flower

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Perfect Pairings

Why cocktails might just make a better partner for food than wine

Vancouver Cocktail Week opened with a perfectly paired brunch at Botanist Restaurant. Here an egg yolk raviolo and crisp serrano ham partner with a cocktail of gin, citrus and a green tea ginger cordial. Jana Bizzarri photo

Move over Pinot, Tempranillo and Albariño. Wine pairings are fine, but cocktails are increasingly gaining recognition for the role they can play in taking a dining experience to the next level.

The growing trend was on full, tantalizing display during Vancouver Cocktail Week 2022, with cocktail-paired brunches and dinners at spots like Botanist, Tableau Bar Bistro and Carlino proving to be particularly popular. 

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Cocktail Pairing Rules

Here’s what you need to know before shaking up a list of cocktails to go with your next dinner party menu.

Getty Images photo

• Keep an eye on the alcohol content. It’s socially responsible and besides, too high an ABV will dull the palate and overwhelm delicate flavours. Include low- and no-proof drinks in your lineup.

Bittered drinks, like the Negroni or Boulevardier, are designed to whet the appetite, and should be served with savoury appetizers.

• Just as high-acid wines are the food-friendliest, the tart flavour of citrus-forward drinks can complement a wide range of foods.

• White spirits and fresh herbs go best with lighter dishes like seafood and fresh summer greens.

• Darker spirits like whisky, brandy or aged rum go best with red meat. A rye Manhattan is classic with grilled steak while a bourbon Old Fashioned is ideal with BBQ pork.

• One easy shortcut is to match a region’s spirit to its cuisine, for instance: sake-based cocktails with Japanese cuisine; tequila ones with Mexican; rum with Caribbean. 

• Dessert cocktails should complement rather than match—a raspberry-flavoured French Martini goes better with chocolate mousse than, say, an Espresso Martini. 

Behind Blue Eyes

Behind Blue Eyes pairs well with Asian pork dishes. Photo courtesy of Laowei

Recipe courtesy of Alex Black, managing partner, Laowai.

Pair with: Asian-flavoured pork dishes.

• 2 oz Lapsang Bourbon (see recipe below)

• 1 oz Salted Asian Pear Syrup (see recipe below)

• 4 drops Apothecary Mystic Caravan Bitters 

• Absinthe mist 

• Garnish: dehydrated pear slice, lapsang tea smoke

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Boom time

Vincent Vanderheide leads a talented bar at Victoria’s Boom + Batten

Beverage director Vincent Vanderheide. Photo courtesy of Boom + Batten

Boom + Batten is a dazzling contemporary hot spot with a prime location on Victoria’s Inner Harbour. It’s also one of the city’s best places to get a well-made cocktail, thanks to the skills of beverage director Vincent Vanderheide and his team. “I always like to say it’s not a bad office,” he says with a laugh. 

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