Family-owned distillery crafts world-class spirits from homegrown harvests
With its extended growing seasons and miles of fruitful orchards and rolling vineyards, B.C.’s Okanagan Valley is known best as Canada’s wine country. The site of many a weekend winery tour and the occasional fruit stand pit stop, one can hardly say “Okanagan” without also uttering “wine.” A lesser thought of connection? Distilled spirits.
Kristi-Leigh Akister expands The Union’s bold, exotic repertoire
In Vancouver, you’re more likely to inherit an incredible cocktail program and back bar these days than have to build one from scratch. That said, there’s always room to improve.
Take Union bar manager Kristi-Leigh Akister. The vibrant young bartender stepped into the role established by Cascade bar manager Nick Devine and 17-year industry veteran Arthur Wynne just over a year ago, and has since established an innovative new cocktail menu and rotating draft list to pair with the restaurant’s Pan-Asian bibimbaps and bahn mis.
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.