Female spirit

Meet some of B.C.’s women distillers, a group so small it begs the question: Why are there still so few?

Shelly Heppner, founder and distiller of Bespoke Spirit House in Parksville. Photo by Dayman-Langen Photography

March 8, 2020, likely passed in a blur for Shelly Heppner. Around International Women’s Day, she was firing up her brand-new stills to produce Virtue Vodka and Jezebel Gin at Bespoke Spirit House in Parksville, which received its distilling green light in February. “Gin is such a vixen! I do want to have a couple of different gins that will have female-oriented names,” says Heppner, who also plans to make small-batch eaux-de-vie from Vancouver Island fruit.

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Demystifying vermouth

The Alchemist tasting panel samples the fortified, aromatized elixir

Vermouth ranges from palest straw to deep ruby red, with flavours to match. Dan Toulgoet photo

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.

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JOEY’s Jungle Bird

JOEY’s Jungle Bird. Supplied photo

In this updated tropical classic, Campari is swapped out for subtler Aperol. 

• 1.5 oz Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum (formerly Appleton Estate V/X)
• 0.5 oz Aperol
• 0.5 oz lime juice
• 1.5 oz pineapple juice
• 0.5 oz cane or simple syrup
• Garnish: Fresh lime wheel

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B.C. distilleries are keeping your spirits up

B.C. distilleries are answering the call during Covid-19 by providing delicious artisan spirits as well as hand sanitizer to our communities

Support your local distillery by purchasing their products online. Istock photo

In these surreal times, it’s been extremely heartening to see an overwhelming number of BC distilleries find innovative ways to help the most vulnerable in their surrounding communities. News of distilleries producing and distributing sanitizer to the those on the front lines of this pandemic broke last week with a growing number of producers (including some breweries and wineries) quickly following suit. Over the weekend, the B.C. government further validated these efforts by granting temporary permission to all distillers to produce and distribute alternative products as long as they meet certain federal regulatory requirements; primarily that they contain a sufficient amount of alcohol to kill the virus.

Surely, it’s a role many distilleries never envisioned they would fill, but, in this new reality, it’s inspiring to see how communities are able to come together in trying times, with other local businesses generously donating bottles and essential ingredients to the cause.

While many distillers have shifted their production to focus on producing hand sanitizer for the time being being, many are still selling their products online. Here we’ve compiled an evolving list of B.C. distilleries that are helping keep your spirits up during these trying times with delivery services and online bottle shops.

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Lillet Spritz

The Lillet Spritz is a perfect spring sipper. Dan Toulgoet photo

This pretty-in-pink cocktail from Tableau Bar Bistro is an ideal aperitif before a meal, as well as the perfect spring sipper.

• 1.5 oz Lillet Rosé
1.5 oz Époque Tradition Sémillon Moelleux (or other aromatic off-dry white wine)
• 1.0 oz grapefruit juice
• 2.0 oz club soda
• 1 dash Bittered Sling Grapefruit & Hops Bitters

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The Allure

The Allure, an apple-based cocktail created by Jo Last, senior bartender at London’s Beaufort Bar. Photo courtest of Beaufort Bar at the Savoy

Cocktail created by Beaufort Bar senior bartender Jo Last, who says: “Few fruits are featured more in magic than the apple. From Greek mythology with Aphrodite through the Garden of Eden with Eve and all the way to folklore with Snow White, the humble apple unites stories of power, envy and temptation.”

• 1 oz Grey Goose vodka
• 0.5 oz apple blossom-infused Martini Ambrato
• 0.25 oz 30&40 aperitif (a blend of calvados, pommeau and rum)
• 0.75 oz apple cordial
• 1 oz malic solution

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Spring forward with the latest issue of The Alchemist

This pretty-in-pink Lillet Spritz from Tableau Bar Bistro is an ideal aperitif before a meal, as well
as the perfect spring sipper. Dan Toulgoet photo

We likely won’t be gathering on a crowded patio any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the return of spring. And this issue of The Alchemist has got plenty of seasonal sips and stories to enjoy wherever you are.

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Artisan distillers turn their hands to sanitizers

Sweet Orange + Gin Sanitizer produced by Victoria’s Nezza Naturals and Victoria Distillers is being donated to the region’s health-care workers. Supplied photo

A week ago, Peter Hunt had just returned to Victoria from a trip to New York when he decided to go shopping. But customers concerned about COVID-19 had gotten there before him.

“I was in the stores and there was no hand sanitizer around,” says the president of Victoria Distillers. “Then I was chatting with my wife, who works in the public service, and my aunts and uncles, who are paramedics, and they were having trouble finding hand sanitizer, too. Trying to find it was stressing them out.

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