The Alchemist tasting panel discusses their favourite tequila and mezcal
For years, we’ve been reading that tequila is about to become the “it” spirit. This year, it seems, it’s finally happened. Mind you, some of us have been enjoying this Mexican agave-based spirit, along with its smoky cousin mezcal, all along. Agave spirits have increasingly become luxury products savoured by connoisseurs, which may surprise those who’ve only had a disastrous brush with cheap mixto and are still feeling the hangover. A good tequila is made from 100 per cent farmed blue agave, while mezcal can be made from any number of wild agaves. Mezcal is also typically enjoyed unaged, while tequila can be unaged (also known as plata or silver), “rested” in oak for up to a year (reposado) or aged (añejo or extra añejo). Agave spirits are complex, fascinating and delicious, so we asked our tasting panel to share their favourite and what cocktail they’d make with it. This issue, our team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, Adam Domet, Robyn Gray, Jay Jones, Trevor Kallies, Jeff Savage and Kaitlyn Stewart. ¡Salud!
The Alchemist tasting panel samples the fortified, aromatized elixir
Vermouth is not just an essential ingredient in many cocktails, it is already a cocktail, a wine fortified with spirits and flavoured with herbs, spices and other botanicals. And it’s enjoying a major comeback right now.
Five of Vancouver’s top bartenders gathered on a rainy afternoon at Tableau Bar Bistro to taste this beguiling product: Sabrine Dhaliwal, bar manager of Juke Fried Chicken and Beetbox; Adam Domet, bar manager at Pourhouse; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of Elisa Steakhouse; and Katie Ingram, bar manager at Elisa Steakhouse.
They all love vermouth. “It’s rich in flavour and lower in alcohol,” Ingram said. “And we’re all flavour junkies. So we get that fix of citrus and bitterness and everything you’re looking for.” Besides, with prices as low as $12 for a litre bottle, vermouth is also a complete bargain.
The panel tasted 16 local and international vermouths. Here’s what they had to say.
The Alchemist tasting panel samples Canadian and American rye spirits
Our bartender tasting panel is never short of opinions, but no other spirit has ignited passion the way rye whisky did. Maybe because it’s our national spirit (sort of). Or maybe it’s just because bold flavours inspire bold statements.
Seven of Vancouver’s top bartenders gathered on a rainy afternoon at Homer Street Café for the tasting panel: Alex Black, bartender and mental health advocate; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia; Katie Ingram, bar manager at Elisa Steakhouse; Grant Sceney, Fairmont Pacific Rim; and, from Homer Street Café, Rob Scope and David Wolowidnyk.
They loved the sweet spice and rich, bold flavour of the rye. But they differed on whether Canadian or American is better, and whether it has to be 100 per cent rye or can be a blend of grains. And they admitted that as much as they love rye, it’s a hard sell to consumers, many of whom are unfamiliar with it and prefer the simple sweetness of bourbon.
The panel tasted 12 rye-based spirits. Here’s what they had to say.
The Alchemist’s tasting panel revels in the complexities of made-in-B.C. amaros, vermouths and aperitifs
Consider them the supporting actors of the cocktail world: complex, helpful and a little bitter. Vermouths, aperitifs and amaros are typically fortified wines—though some are sweet enough to be considered liqueurs—flavoured with botanicals such as citrus peel, spices, roots and herbs. They typically have a somewhat bitter profile, hence the name “amaro,” which means bitter in Italian.
It takes a sophisticated palate to appreciate a good bitter drink, so not too surprisingly, Vancouver bartenders were eager to sample the best of B.C. amaros. We sat down with Alex Black of Tableau Bar Bistro, Amber Bruce of The Keefer Bar, cocktail consultant Sabrine Dhaliwal, Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and The Botanist’s Jeff Savage to get at the bitter truth.
In the months before the Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s subterranean bar, Prohibition, opened, head bartender Brad Stanton spent countless hours obsessing over every detail, from a state-of-the-art ice-maker to stylish copper bar tools.
One of the things he obsessed over most was the glassware.
This drink – created by Robyn Gray and Brad Stanton, head bartenders at Prohibition in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia – taps into several of 2017’s cocktail trends: infusions, new white spirits, and mixing multiple spirits together. Note that you can purchase jars of hibiscus flowers in syrup at stores like Gourmet Warehouse, or make your own using the recipe below.
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.