Bottled Up! with Alex Carruthers

Alex Carruthers. Adam Chilton photo

This wild child has carved his own path in the industry, securing his place in the bar scene at an early age after passionately needing to be around live music. Currently working the wood in Gastown’s beloved music spot, Guilt & Co. as well as repping the new and alluring spirit called Trakal, he doesn’t stop there, concurrently pursuing acting, music, and his motorcycle license. He’s so damn charismatic, I can’t help but think of Brian Flannagan from the movie Cocktail, but don’t ever tell him I said that. This month’s feature bartender is the one and only Alex Carruthers.

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Vancouver’s Jeff Savage among top tier at Diageo World Class

Although Singapore takes the title, Canada once again shakes up the world’s biggest cocktail competition

Jeff Savage, World Class Canada 2019 winner, was among the was among
the top bartenders at the Global Finals. Photo courtesy of Diageo World Class

Note: This is the third in an Alchemist series following Diageo World Class 2019 from planning the competition to the National Final in Whistler and through to the Global Final in Scotland.

He came so close. Vancouver’s Jeff Savage made it to the final eight at the Diageo World Class Final. And he won the Singleton State of Mind award. But in the end, the diminutive Bannie Kang from Singapore took home the ultimate prize.

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Return of the green fairy

The spirit that supposedly drove a generation of French artists mad is back in B.C., where distillers are reinventing absinthe

The traditional way to serve absinthe is by filling a fountain like this one at Botanist with ice water, then dripping it through a sugar cube on a spoon into the spirit, where it creates the cloudy effect known as the louche. Dan Toulgoet photo

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ear. Vincent Van Gogh’s escapades might have delivered the final cut to the fashionable, anise-flavoured spirit absinthe, invented in Switzerland in the late 18th century and favoured by Belle Époque bohemians. Seen as highly addictive and dangerous, it was banned in the U.S. and much of Europe for nearly a century, until 2007.

Likely the poor quality or high-proof base spirit—not the relatively small amount of hallucogenic thujone, naturally found in absinthe’s bittering agent, wormwood (Artemesia absinthium)—was responsible for absinthe-attributed naughtiness. But its reputation as the bad boy of the spirits world persists, as does its role in cocktails, particularly of the French-influenced New Orleans school, such as the Sazerac, Corpse Reviver No. 2 and La Louisiane.

Here are five local absinthes to try, from newcomers to B.C.’s standard-bearers.

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Vancouver’s Jeff Savage among the top eight at Diageo World Class 2019

Jeff Savage. Photo courtesy of Diageo World Class Canada

Congratulations to Vancouver bartender Jeff Savage, who made it to the final eight at the Diageo World Class Final on September 26 in Glasgow, Scotland. He also won the Singleton State of Mind award.

But, in the end, Bannie Kang from Singapore took home the ultimate prize, beating out 54 bartenders from around the world to become World Class Bartender of the Year.

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Absinthe Mojito

Jeremie Dyck photo

Okanagan Spirits’ anise-flavoured take on the Cuban classic.

• 1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 6 mint leaves
• 1 oz Taboo Absinthe
• 1 cup crushed ice
• Sparkling water
• Garnish: 1 lime wheel

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Bohemian Mule

Jakub Janco photo

At Arbutus Distillery, they use their own house-made ginger beer, but any good commercial one would work as well.

• 1 oz Baba Yaga Absinthe
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
• Ginger beer

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The Green Beast

istockphoto.com photo

This modern take on an absinthe frappé was invented about a decade ago by French bartender Charles Vexenat for Pernod Ricard. At Pemberton Spirits, they make it with The Devil’s Club Organic Absinthe instead.

• 1 oz simple syrup
• 1 oz absinthe
• 1 oz fresh lime juice
• 4 oz water
• Garnish: 4 slices cucumber

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Mac and cheese, revised

Supplied photo

Tired of the same old, same old wine-and-cheese pairing? The folks at The Macallan have got you covered.

They’ve recently partnered with Toronto cheese wiz Afrim Pristine (owner of Cheese Boutique and author of the book For the Love of Cheese) and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional Elizabeth Chubbuck to pair fine fromage with, yes, single malt.

Turns out, they go surprisingly well together.

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Roll out the barrel

Where B.C. was once a major barrel producer, today distillers are scrambling to find casks

Whisky and barrels at Legend Distilling in Naramata. Jason Lehoux photo

There’s a spot on the Seawall of Vancouver’s northeast False Creek that should be a pilgrimage—or maybe mourning grounds—for B.C. whisky fans. Under the Cambie Bridge in Coopers’ Park, a plaque marks where the Sweeney Cooperage set up shop in 1889, becoming an important international manufacturer of wooden barrels. It closed in 1981, three decades too early for the current demand from B.C. distillers.

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