Enter the dragon

Is Baijiu the new tequila?

Baijiu is beginning to make its mark on western cocktail menus. Lou Lou Childs photo

As unlikely as it sounds, the infamous Chinese firewater baijiu—a pungent brew capable of bringing tears to eyes and setting throats ablaze—could be the hot new ingredient for bartenders.

Clear, potent (50 per cent-plus alcohol by volume) and often compost-pile fetid, the centuries-old spirit distilled from sorghum and other grains is also the world’s most consumed liquor.

Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

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Gin fizz

The gin and tonic is sophisticated again

Whistler’s Bar Oso is just one of many drink-forward destinations elevating the traditional gin and tonic. Pat Allan photo

Jason Redmond expected to be impressed by many things about Spain, but he couldn’t have guessed the biggest takeaway from his trip last summer would be a new take on a humble highball.

“I was really surprised at the big signs outside all the little cafes and bars claiming they were selling the best ‘Gin Tonic,’” the bar manager of Whistler’s Spanish-influenced Bar Oso recalls.

“It was a really big deal, and one I had no idea about beforehand.”

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The Stump Gin & Tonic

Bar Oso photo

A West Coast take on a global classic

INGREDIENTS:
• 2 oz Fermentorium Stump Coastal Forest Gin
• 4-6 oz Fermentorium Artisanal Dry Tonic, depending on taste

METHOD:
Garnish with a sprig of rosemary smacked between your palms, a thin slice of lime,  and juniper berries.

Serve in a large (approx 20 oz) Burgundy bowl.

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Locovore libations

Island-to-glass cocktails rule the bar at Olo

The concept of “farm-to-table” isn’t new for B.C. restaurants. What’s served from behind the wood is now also joining the sustainable locavore movement for a more complete offering. Brad Holmes, owner and executive chef at Olo in Victoria, has long been a vocal proponent of this movement, and his cocktail program reflects that. “Our whole restaurant is seasonal; the menu changes with what’s available on any given day and season. I always wanted to bring that to the bar. And now, with all of the great gins and vermouths and other local products, we can offer something that was grown in B.C., produced in B.C. and served in B.C.”

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Love on the rocks

Can creative cocktails compete with wine for a place at the dinner table?

Maenam’s play on a sidecar, the Rusty Bumper, infuses salted plum and cumin and pairs well with several dishes, including an eight-spice ling cod and Yum Plah salmon salad. Alexa Mazzarello photo

The relationship between cocktails and food lacks commitment in many people’s minds. Sure, a good Martini with a plate of freshly shucked oysters is a sexy start to any date, but is it the basis for a long-term love affair?

Spirit-based drinks have more success at the brunch or lunch table, either adding a bit of fizz to eggs Benedict, or providing a restorative hair-of-the-dog to the morning after the night before. The Mad Men-style three-Martini “business meeting” of old fashioned expense accounts has largely become a thing of nostalgia, and few ladies who lunch appear to have the same determination to drink as heartily as did their predecessors.

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Ma Kham Wahn

Alexa Mazarello photo

A tasty Thai experience.

• 2 oz bourbon, infused with coffee and makrut lime leaf*
• 0.75 oz makrut lime leaf simple syrup
• a dash of fresh ginger juice
• 1.5 oz of tamarind water
• A dash each of pomelo bitters and old fashioned bitters

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Bittersweet symphony

The latest twist in the tale of the Negroni

Classic, White or Boulevardier­—a Negroni is a sexy, sophisticated drink. Alexa Mazzarello photo

For a drink so simple, the Negroni is one impressively complicated cocktail.

It contains only three ingredients—equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari—but those three ingredients comprise a world of flavours and aromas: bitter, sweet, citrus, floral, herbal, spicy, medicinal. It has a sexy backstory, except that it isn’t true.

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A classic Negroni

A classic Negroni. Alexa Mazzarello photo

When only the original will do.

• 1 oz gin
• 1 oz sweet vermouth
• 1 oz Campari

Place all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

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The Cosmopolitan

John Burns, our man at the bar, reveals the not-so-guilty pleasures of drinking alone

Roxana Bikadoroff illustration

man walks into a bar. He’s alone; it’s the same old story. Maybe he’s looking for company, or to get out of that hotel and watch the game, or just to unwind. So he orders a drink and it’s the right drink and it’s made well. He takes a breath, a sip. A breath, a sip.

Even in the age of 24/7 social check-ins and check-outs, it’s still possible to head to a bar and just…be. It’s one of my signal pleasures when I travel, which I do often for work. (I’m writing this on a plane now as it happens, en route to a bar.) After a wall of meetings, I want some alone time, but not alone alone. Follow? I want bustle around me but stillness within—perhaps that’s one definition of the right cocktail at the right spot.

Exactly a year ago, I was sitting in Munich’s Haus der Kunst, the gallery Hitler built to glorify Nazi art. On the main floor of that austere relic is one of the city’s best watering holes. There’s something both seedy and worldly about the Goldene Bar. Rattan chairs cluster conspiratorially around tables onto which fat candles slowly melt. Servers are friendly, children come and go, everyone’s wearing scarves and exactly nobody glances at the walls and their patently racist gilt paintings (original, from the ’30s) depicting the countries of the spirits served. It’s voyeur heaven, made perfect by a Cosmopolitan jolted by local bitters and (a quirky touch) a shot of Munich’s famed helles beer.

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