Sipping Tofino

Wolf in the Fog’s bar manager Hailey Pasemko. Wolf in the Fog photo

When you’re surrounded by wild bounty the way Tofino is, it only makes sense to use it however you can. And so Wolf in the Fog’s bar manager Hailey Pasemko transforms huckleberries into bitters, infuses gin with salal or spruce tips, and fat-washes vodka with salmon.

Now she’s looking beyond Tofino, to the great spirits being produced across B.C., for her new “Local Legends” cocktail program.

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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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Foxtrot Tango Whisky for the win

Victoria’s new cocktail lounge evokes the cool retro vibe of 1950s Los Angeles

The new Foxtrot Tango Whisky bar at the Doubletree by Hilton Victoria. Foxtrot Tango Whisky photo

It’s the cool new cocktail lounge Vancouver has been waiting for. Too bad it’s all the way over there in Victoria.

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The sweet seduction of salt

Vij’s bartender Olivia Povarchook putting the (salty) finishing touches on a Smoking Dog. Dan Toulgoet photo

As we get set to celebrate BC Day on Aug. 7, let’s raise a glass to the province’s greatest unsung local ingredient, the one that can transform our cocktails from ordinary to sublime: Salt.

Throughout history, this tasty and essential mineral has been used as a currency, a preservative and a flavour enhancer. Wars have been fought over the stuff. And there’s a whole ocean of it right on our doorstep.

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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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All hail the Empress’ new reign

Victoria’s grande dame gets a makeover with a sexy new bar and a truly royal namesake gin

The new Q Bar at the Fairmont Hotel Empress in Victoria, BC. Fairmont Hotel Empress photo

The gin is sky blue – that’s right, blue – and it has a delicate floral aroma. Add a little tonic water, though, and it magically turns a beautiful royal purple.

“It’s spectacular, isn’t it? It goes from that nice blue, then you pour the tonic in there, it swirls around, and you get that nice pink colour,” says Peter Hunt, president of Victoria Distillers. “It’s certainly something fun for bartenders and mixologists to play with.”

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Through the grapevine

How a vintner became one of B.C.’s leading distillers

Room with a view: deVine’s distillery looks out at Mount Baker. Supplied photo

Though his reputation preceded him, I first met Ken Winchester, fittingly, in a winery. Back in 2005 he was growing grapes and making wine at Vancouver Island’s only certified organic vineyard, at Saanich Peninsula’s Barking Dog Winery. Welcoming, travelled, and unpretentiously smart, he became a quick and easy friend, and was an early advocate for drinking and supporting local.

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Balancing Act

Simon Ogden encourages his customers to put their drinks in his hands

Bartender Simon Ogden. Supplied photo.

Balance. Whether it’s blending the elements of the perfect cocktail or juggling work and play, balance is key.

It’s a philosophy bartender Simon Ogden takes to heart, both behind the bar and in life.

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