H Tasting Lounge takes flight

Globally inspired cocktail program soars at the Westin Bayshore

Chiara Fung and Dylan Williams behind the bar at H Tasting Lounge. Dan Toulgoet photo

Bright, airy and colourful, with a contemporary design that embraces both mid-century and Art Deco motifs, H Tasting Lounge at The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver, is certainly one of the city’s most elegant cocktail spaces.

But its beauty goes far beyond plush pastel furnishings and dramatic crystal chandeliers.

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Shaking up the Fraserhood

At Escobar, small bites, bold flavours and creative cocktails add a taste of something new

Thomas Bullock and Ayur Media photos

In Latin cultures, food and drink are meant for sharing with friends and family. And that’s the whole idea behind the Fraserhood’s newest hotspot, Escobar, and its tapas-and-cocktails menu.

It’s simply the way co-owner Alex Kyriazis and his partners like to dine. In part, they crave the bright, fresh flavours of Latin cuisine. But they also prefer the fun of sharing. After all, says bar director Bobby Kordonis, “You get to taste more when you share.”

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Mark your calendars

Sure, you could enjoy cocktails alone in your back yard. Or you could join the crowds having fun at these great events here at home and abroad over the next few months.

Deighton Cup photo

Deighton Cup

Don your fancy chapeaux and hoist your glasses! The ponies hit the track once again on July 21 for the 10th annual Deighton Cup at Hastings Racecourse. Some 5,000 people gather at the track to gamble on the ponies while enjoying swish fashion, buckets of bubbly, fine cigars, gourmet cuisine and, of course, cocktails. The event includes an annual mixology competition, plus sweet summer sippers to enjoy trackside. deightoncup.com

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Ninja’s Dream

Bobby Kordonis’ Ninja’s Dream. Thomas Bullock/Ayur Media photo

• 2 oz lemongrass-infused sake (see note)
• 0.75 oz Edmond Briottet Pamplemousse Rose liqueur
• 0.5 oz Aperol
• 0.5 oz lemon juice
• Fee Brothers 3 dashes rhubarb bitters

Measure all the ingredients and place them into a mixer, pack with ice and shake for 10-15 seconds. Fine strain the cocktail into a small coupe glass and garnish with a locally foraged nasturtium leaf.

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Business in the back, party in the front

Distillery tasting rooms are some of the hottest cocktail bars in B.C. Here are a few to try in the Vancouver area.

The tasting room at Surrey’s Central City Brewers & Distillers is a welcoming space to sample spirits and enjoy a cocktail or two. Duncan Joseph photo.

Distillery visits aren’t just for spirits geeks—although staff (even the distillers) are usually keen to tour guests through the production line. Even micro-distilleries now offer flights, cocktails and tastings, some spiked with snacks or entertainment. More reasons to visit: You can buy bottles right from the source, including seasonal and limited releases, only-at-the-distillery products (such as collaborations with local brewers or food producers) and even cocktail accoutrements. Since many distillery tasting rooms are small, family-run affairs, call ahead or check social media for hours, especially if your group is more than a few or would like a tour.

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Sons of Vancouver’s amaretto earns global amore

North Van distillery wins worldwide attention thanks to Kaitlyn Stewart — but many have already fallen in love with its nutty liqueur

Sons of Vancouver’s James Lester with the No. 82 amaretto. Dan Toulgoet photo

What might just be Vancouver’s coolest cocktail lounge isn’t in a fancy hotel or a downtown hipster hangout. Heck, it isn’t even in Vancouver and it isn’t, for that matter, actually a bar.

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There’s new life in the old tomcat

Gin’s dark past comes to light as distillers go back to the drink’s barrel-aged roots

Early gin was stored and shipped in barrels, so it was naturally darker. Modern barrel-aging aims to add vanilla and spice complexity to gin’s botanicals. Dan Toulgoet photo

To the superstitious, a black cat is a bad omen. But to underground drinkers during Prohibition, spotting a sign depicting an old tomcat meant you’d hit the gin jackpot.

A precursor to the crisp and clear London dry gin, Old Tom gin was stored and shipped in wooden barrels, so it had a naturally darker hue. Sometimes it was sweeter or more resiny, thanks to the addition of sugar or, yes, turpentine. Swill or not, Old Tom was probably better than no Tom.

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Canada’s new cocktail queen

Diageo World Class winner Kaitlyn Stewart brings her cool consistency to the global stage

Kaitlyn Stewart, bar manager at Vancouver’s Royal Dinette, is the 2017 winner of Diageo’s World Class Canada.
Fred Fung/Royal Dinette photo

If there were any lingering doubts that Vancouver has become a world-class cocktail city, Kaitlyn Stewart has just laid them to rest.

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Roots and Wings Distillery

Rebekah Crowley and Rob Rindt built a distillery and tasting room on their Fraser Valley farm where they crop 30 acres of potatoes and corn.

7897 240th St., Langley
778-246-5247
RootsAndWingsDistillery.ca

Read more about Roots & Wings Distillery.

PRODUCTS:

• Vital Vodka
• Double Vice Coffee Infused Vodka
• Rebel
• Jackknife Gin


TASTING NOTES:


Vital Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Vanilla, cream corn, créme brulée.
FLAVOUR: Custard, funky earth notes, white pepper, this IS a potato and corn vodka.
FEEL: Slightly viscous, but buttery in a very good way.
FINISH: A load of spice stays around for a minute.
BEST ENJOYED: Will make a buttery Martini that packs a spicy finish, or a Moscow Mule.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Surprisingly ballsy finish after a sweet nose, cool product. —Shaun Layton, February 2017


Hops and Honey Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Malty, resiny, touch of buttery corn.
FLAVOUR: Faint coriander spice, danky, dry pepper, honeysuckle.
FEEL: Creamy on the palate.
FINISH: Nice subtle black pepper, piney, slightly bitter.
BEST ENJOYED: Would make a great collins style drink, looking forward to this in a Michelada or a Caesar.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I wouldn’t put it in the vodka category, theres a lot going on. A very intriguing spirit. —Shaun Layton, July 2017


Rebel

FRAGRANCE: Cooked corn and orange.
FLAVOUR: Corn comes through with playful citrus notes and a touch of smoke.
FEEL: Mild creaminess.
FINISH: A little baking spice on the front, a touch of smoke on the back. 
BEST ENJOYED: Could sub into a sour or Old Fashioned with some ease.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An interesting take on a young (soon-to-be) corn whisky. —Trevor Kallies, October 2017