Gin + Vermouth + Campari = A beloved Italian drink you can sip at local restaurants and bars (and support great causes, too)
It’s time to raise your glass in celebration of one of the world’s most beloved cocktails, as bars and restaurants mix things up for a good cause for the return of Negroni Week.
The elegant aperitif is traditionally made with one part gin, one part vermouth rosso, and one part Campari, and is garnished with orange peel.
However, for Negroni Week, participating venues offer up their own renditions, available to customers with proceeds going to a charity of choice. This year, Negroni Week will be celebrated from Sept. 13 through 19.
Bénédictine’s storied role in cocktails old and new
If you’re the sort of person who likes their cocktails served with a side of storytelling, then Bénédictine is the drink for you. Consider it the Forrest Gump of the spirits world, popping up at just the right moments and in the just the right cocktails.
Bénédictine is an herbal liqueur produced in France, based on Cognac, sweetened with honey and flavoured with 27 herbs and spices including saffron, hyssop and lemon balm. Like Chartreuse, it was originally produced centuries ago, concocted by monks as a medicinal tonic.
When this cocktail appeared in the 1935 Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, it was an equal-parts cocktail and, like La Louisiane, has been made stronger and less sweet over time. Some versions are almost Martini dry; this one retains enough liqueur to highlight its sweet spice.
The original La Louisiane cocktail dates back to the late 19th century in New Orleans, where it featured equal amounts of rye, vermouth and Bénédictine. This contemporary version, which is far less sweet, is adapted from The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan (2011).
‘Knowledge is meant to be shared,’ says Bacardi’s Kevin Brownlee
Countless bartenders have arrived at their profession from unlikely origins, but Kevin Brownlee doesn’t consider his career trajectory odd. He believes he simply traded one education role for another. A former public-school teacher, he transitioned from sitting behind a classroom desk to standing behind a bar after realizing his greatest love is hosting, as well as constantly improving his knowledge of spirits and cocktails. Honing his skills in revered Vancouver dining rooms such as West, Pourhouse and AnnaLena, he subsequently won multiple awards, including first place in Grey Goose’s Pour Masters competition. Brownlee is now Portfolio Ambassador for Bacardi.
Whisky in just two weeks? Get a taste of the “synthetically aged spirits” world
It’s amber in the glass, with aromas of toasted bread, fresh-cut wood, apple and pear. It’s flavours of butterscotch with clove and pepper spice. I’d blind-taste it as a young but promising Canadian whisky from a craft distillery, somewhere on its three-year journey to the glass.
“It’s two weeks old,” says Steve Watts, distiller and founder of South Surrey’s Mainland Whisky, of his Time Machine Hungarian Oak bottling. One of the craft renegades experimenting with accelerated maturation and “synthetic” aged whisky, the Texas-trained distiller says, “There are so many people who are traditionalists in this industry—I don’t need to be a traditionalist.” While his Time Machine spirits can’t be labeled “Canadian whisky,” Watts says, “I see this as a product not to replace barrel-aged whisky, but as something totally different.” (He eventually plans to release traditional wood-matured whiskies, too.)
The Cowichan Valley distillery wows the world with its handcrafted spirits
Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley may seem far away from just about everywhere, but that doesn’t mean the world isn’t taking notice. That’s thanks to an artisanal distillery named Ampersand Distilling Co., which is scooping up all sorts of awards for its carefully handcrafted spirits.
Earlier this year, for instance, the World Gin Awards awarded the distillery’s flagship Ampersand Gin “Canada’s Best Classic Gin.” It’s been made since 2014 from B.C.-grown wheat, eight botanicals and fresh spring water from the five-acre farm owned and operated by the Schacht family, Stephen and Ramona, their son Jeremy and his wife Jessica.
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!