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!
Three ‘extremely drinkable’ cocktails from Donnelly Group’s Trevor Kallies
I’ve been crafting and designing cocktails for close to 20 years. There are a handful I can look back on with a great deal of pride and, of course, a handful that I would love to forget, but those closest to me can’t seem to let go. (There was an incident with a blue whale candy circa 2003.) Regardless of the wins and losses, there is a fairly steady evolution of where it started and how it’s going.
I realized extremely early in my role as Beverage Director for Donnelly Group that 95 per cent of the drinks I design that find their way onto the 14-plus menus around Vancouver and Toronto are not for me. Not for my enjoyment anyway. I can appreciate their flavour, their ingredients, the spirits and brands found within, of course. When I say “not for me,” I am referring to the fact that a great cocktail is designed for the enjoyment of the guests and to capture the brand of the bar, not to appease the hubris of the bartender.
Here are a handful of relatively recent cocktails that we’ve been pouring at some of the venues. They’re extremely drinkable (if I do say so myself) and not overly cost- or technique-prohibitive to be made at home.
Available at Brass Fish. I typically have three cocktails that I’ll order when time calls for a cocktail. A Negroni is likely what I am most known for ordering. Number 2 would be a Margarita (rocks, half-salt rim). For the past few years I have led our team in overall Martinis consumed. I can’t get enough of them. The Modern Martini is our flagship Martini on the Brass Fish menu. It’s the type of Martini that will gateway you into drinking more Martinis. You’re welcome. It’s a rare occasion when I don’t have a bottle of this in my home freezer for an after-work libation.
• 1.5 oz gin (preferably Beefeater for the citrus punch)
• 0.25 oz dry vermouth (Dolin if you have it; Martini Dry also works)
Available at Brass Fish and The Three Brits. This one quickly became a staple at Brass Fish when we opened in February 2020. It found its way onto a few other menus and holds its own in the overall sales of cocktails in the pubs.
• 2 oz silver tequila (preferably Olmeca Altos 100% Agave)
Available at Granville Room. I basically grew up as a bartender at Granville Room so it will always hold a special place for me. Good Vibes Only is a drink that came along mid-2020. It started as a Collins-style drink and found its way into the frozen drink machine and is currently being poured in slush format.
• 2 oz gin (preferably Beefeater London Dry, which has lots of citrus and juniper)
“This is just what we do,” says Trevor Kallies, president of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Bartender Association and the creative force behind one of Vancouver’s most dynamic cocktail events. “This” isn’t just making great drinks, although it’s that, too. Mostly, though, it’s coming together to help those who need it most.
The theme of this year’s Vancouver Pride Parade is “50 Years and Still Fighting” and with many across the city and region set to join in the celebration on West End streets, there are venues across Vancouver that are stepping up to raise awareness and money for Pride-related causes.
The Mackenzie Room has rallied together eight other restaurants for a week-long joint-effort cocktail fundraiser to align with Pride – and being a great ally is the fitting theme.
With a few aromatic tweaks, the Donnelly Group’s Trevor Kallies has updated the classic cocktail created by Walter Chell in 1969. If you prefer it zero proof, he suggests substituting Seedlip non-alcoholic spirit for the vodka.
• 2 oz Absolut vodka OR Seedlip Garden 108 • 1 dash Tabasco hot sauce • 1 dash Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce • Top with Walter Caesar Mix
Garnish: • Celery salt rim • Skewer of Castelvetrano olive, pickled onion and cucumber spear • 1 lime wedge • Sprig of rosemary and thyme