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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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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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


Stealth Distilleries Corporation

Master distiller Randy Poulin and Stealth president John Pocekovic specialize in vodka made from field-dried Okanagan corn.

#3-20 Orwell St. North Vancouver
604-916-4103
StealthVodka.com


PRODUCTS:

• Stealth Vodka
• Stealth Vodka No. 9


TASTING NOTES:


Stealth Vodka No. 9

FRAGRANCE: A hint of alcohol on the nose with a small touch of cream.
FLAVOUR: Slight bit of grain with white pepper.
FEEL: The palate is smooth with a tiny element of alcohol warmth.
FINISH: Fairly abrupt.
BEST ENJOYED: In your favorite mixed vodka drink.
THE BOTTOM LINE: As craft vodkas go it is right up there. Packaging is bartender friendly, with a decent neck to grab onto. —Trevor Kallies, February 2017


Stealth Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Caramel, butterscotch even.
FLAVOUR: Toffee, candy corn.
FEEL: Light.
FINISH: Dryer than the nose suggests.
BEST ENJOYED: In a shaken cocktail with fruit or citrus.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A New World-style vodka for those who like sweeter drinks. —Josh Pape, October 2017


Mad Laboratory Distilling

Truly handmade using a small homebrew mill and a pump, Mad Laboratory’s vodka is triple distilled and carbon filtered from Armstrong barley and Champagne yeast.

119-618 East Kent Ave., Vancouver


PRODUCTS:

• Mad Lab Vodka
• Mad Lab Gin
• Mad Dog Single Malt White Spirit


TASTING NOTES:


Mad Lab Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Clean, light fragrance of sweet wheat, vanilla, and hints of doughy bread.
FLAVOUR: Very smooth, lightly sweet with notes of black pepper, hint of vanilla.
FEEL: Silky and dry.
FINISH: Super clean, lightly creamy.
BEST ENJOYED: Stirred, straight up with a twist.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Brand new distillery, only the 4th batch made; Mad Lab nailed it. —Wendy McGuinness, July 2016


Mad Lab Gin

FRAGRANCE: Sweet and fruity.
FLAVOUR: Clean and citrusy.
FEEL: Tickling mouth-feel.
FINISH: Spicy, biting.
BEST ENJOYED: In a White Lady (gin, Cointreau, lemon).
THE BOTTOM LINE: A six-botanical cucumber gin that is delicate and nuanced. Very clean tasting. —Robyn Gray, February 2017


Mad Dog Single Malt White Spirit

FRAGRANCE: A brewery in the morning. Lovely. 
FLAVOUR: Toasted pumpernickel bread. 
FEEL: Punchy, then round. 
FINISH: Honey. Long and sweet.
BEST ENJOYED: As a sour. Heavy on the angostura, or even with 10 ml of amaro. 
THE BOTTOM LINE: Not sure about the white whisky trend, but this is a good indicator of the aged spirit Mad Dog will produce. —Josh Pape, October 2017