B.C.’s craft distillers breathe new life into an old spirit
Over the last few decades, brandy has developed a branding problem. Not the Brandy who rose to fame with hits like The Boy is Mine in the late 1990s; rather, the once-venerable tipple that today is often seen as old fashioned, dull and enjoyed exclusively by the elderly.
Perhaps you’ve had it before in your grandma’s flamed Christmas pudding, drunk an occasional Sidecar at a hip cocktail spot or heard a reference to it in a Drake or Megan Thee Stallion song.
But outside of Cognac—a sub-category of brandy that has been embraced and promoted by the rap community—brandy has not been an intuitive or even conscious choice for most Gen Xers, millennials or Gen Zers.
Despite its waning popularity, there seems to be a trend emerging in British Columbia that just might clutch brandy out of the doldrums and back en vogue. Whether coincidental or created through circumstance, a number of B.C. wineries, cideries and distilleries have recently released their own small-batch, terroir-driven brandies—and they’re good, really good.
Bartenders and distillers step up to help those in need
What’s better than sipping a finely crafted cocktail? Saying cheers to charity. Several bars and distilleries throughout B.C. are adding a dash of do-good to their drinks; here are just a few.
At Olo, the Apple Flip is served with a side of Julien Fremont Calvados to round out the apple experience.
• 2oz House Spiced & Solera Aged Honey Shine ‘Rum’ by Devine Vineyards
• 0.5oz Sea Star ‘Prose’ Riesling & Apple Dessert Wine
• 0.5oz Apple & Shiso Syrup
• One whole egg
• Okanagan Spirits Taboo Absinthe Spritz
The Alchemist’s tasting panel samples B.C. vodkas for a taste of the province’s most crowd-pleasing spirit
Nazdarovya! With the FIFA World Cup kicking off this month in Russia, our thoughts have turned to vodka. (That and Neymar’s incredible comeback, of course.)
Vodka is often described as a “colourless, odourless, flavourless” spirit, but its clean subtlety is sometimes just what we crave. And so we asked our Alchemist tasting panel comprising some of Vancouver’s top bartenders—Olivia Povarchook of Vij’s Restaurant, Katie Ingram of Toptable Group and Josh Pape of Gooseneck Hospitality (Wildebeest, Bells and Whistles, Bufala, Lucky Taco)—to sample eight artisanal B.C. vodkas, share their thoughts and suggest cocktails to make with them.
Here’s what they had to say.
Mix up this rosé-based sangria recipe ahead of your next outdoor gathering.
• 3 cups dry rosé wine
• 0.5 cup brandy
• 0.5 cup Okanagan Spirits rhubarb liqueur
• 2 cups white cranberry juice
• 2 cups sliced strawberries
• 1 mango, peeled, pitted and cubed
• 2 cups soda water
In a large container such as a gallon-sized glass jar, combine all ingredients except soda water. Seal container and refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight. Remove fruit, place in ice moulds or freezer bags and freeze.
Artisan distilling started a conversation about the terroir of spirits. But can you taste those uber-local ingredients in the bottle?
On the drive up to Saanichton from Victoria, hand-lettered signs for honey and free-range eggs compete with honour-system farm stands exchanging wildflowers, produce or jam for money stuffed in a can. When I arrive on an oceanside hilltop, Ken Winchester points out 25 acres of certified organic vineyards, maple and fruit trees and, farther in the distance, barley being farmed to his specs before it’s malted at Phillips Brewery in Victoria. “I’m also a beekeeper, among other things,” says the deVine winemaker and Bruichladdich-trained distiller, gesturing to the hives. He’s more than that: he’s a farm-to-flask disciple.
This classic cocktail was created in 1984 by Dick Bradsell, in London.
• 1.5 oz London Dry gin
• 0.75 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
• 0.5 oz simple syrup (see note)
• 0.5 oz Okanagan Spirits Blackberry Liqueur
Combine gin, lemon and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Cap cocktail with crushed ice. Drizzle blackberry liqueur over the top of the cocktail. Garnish with fresh organic blackberries. Serves 1.
De Vine Spirits. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Spirits were high at the fifth annual BC Distilled festival at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on April 14, which brought together 40 artisan distilleries from around the province, including a dozen new distilleries that have opened in the last year.
It can take years before brown spirits get to market. Here’s how B.C. distilleries keep their businesses liquid in the meantime
Imagine you make widgets: finely crafted, artisan widgets. Customers pay more for vintage widgets, so there are laws around how old they have to be as well as their quality. You spend a couple of years building your factory with expensive, traditional widget-making equipment. You hire workers, pay for raw materials, power and utilities, and finally fill a warehouse with a bunch of bulky, heavy containers, then wait a few years before you can sell any of your exquisite stock at a premium price. In the meantime, you absorb labour and storage costs to maintain your inventory, which you lose a mysterious chunk of every year as some widgets slip through the cracks and just disappear into thin air.