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.”
Can creative cocktails compete with wine for a place at the dinner table?
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.
• 2 oz bourbon, infused with coffee andmakrut 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
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.
John Burns, our man at the bar, reveals the not-so-guilty pleasures of drinking alone
A 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.
Canada’s first custom crush facility moves into spirits
When Okanagan Crush Pad opened in 2011, it was the first custom-crush facility of its kind in Canada. With a focus on showcasing the fresh minerality of local grapes, OCP allowed small growers to make and market their own wines. Since then, the facility has grown by leaps and bounds. “We’ve graduated about 12 different wineries and have our own two labels, Haywire and Narrative,” says Matt Dumayne, OCP’s chief winemaker. The famed concrete eggs that replaced the traditional oak barrels for aging have been so successful that the facility has now phased out oak and invested in even more of the space-shaped vats over more concrete tankings totaling 60,000 litres.
Now, Dumayne gets to add another title: that of chief distiller. “I’d done some distilling previously in New Zealand, which is the only country in the world where it’s legal to distill in your own home,” he laughs. “I’d played around with brandies and grappas, and other spirits.”
The turning point was when OCP started looking into making a fortified, port-style wine. “We wanted to use our own wine, instead of a grain-based spirit from elsewhere,” explains Dumayne. “We received our license last October, and started by bottling a brandy-style grape spirit, made from seven different varietals. Each varietal makes for a different flavour profile, so there was a lot of experimentation at first.”
The result is the first release under the winery’s Narrative label, Spirit of the Vineyard, a triple-distilled spirit with a clean, fresh profile. And, while Dumayne states that vodka is not in the plans, he’s quick to point out that Spirit of the Vineyard can be used as a substitute for vodka. “It’s clear and very pure,” he explains. Nor is that the only spirit that OCP is launching.
In November, barely a month after the license was granted, Dumayne was contacted by Vij’s Restaurant Group about creating a handcrafted gin to celebrate the launch of the new location on Cambie Street in Vancouver. “We worked very closely with Vikram, Jay Jones and Mike Bernardo to create something very distinctive. It was a rush, but we had it bottled and ready for the opening,” noted Dumayne.
The result was Vij’s Bolly Water, a London Dry-style gin, savoury and a little spicy, with hints of fennel and anise—both ingredients that are heavily used in Vij’s kitchens. And with Vij’s Bolly Water under its belt, OCP is now working on its own Narrative gin, called 12 Botanicals, which leans more toward the fresh, citrus-driven style.
As for the future, Dumayne is working on some longer-term projects. “I’m aging some grape spirit in old wine barrels. It’s all experimental at this point. It will be at least three to five years before we have anything, but we’re aiming for something lively and fresh, with subtle French oak notes.”
Okanagan Crush Pad, based in Summerland B.C., is open for tours, tastings and has a retail centre that offers their full line of spirits and wine. The winery is located on Switchback Organic Vineyard, home to roaming sheep, chickens and ducks.
THIS POST IS SPONSORED BY: Okanagan Crush Pad,
16576 Fosbery Road, Summerland,
How a vintner became one of B.C.’s leading distillers
Though his reputation preceded him, I first met Ken Winchester, fittingly, in a winery. Back in 2005 he was growing grapes and making wine at Vancouver Island’s only certified organic vineyard, at Saanich Peninsula’s Barking Dog Winery. Welcoming, travelled, and unpretentiously smart, he became a quick and easy friend, and was an early advocate for drinking and supporting local.