Amour for amaro

The Alchemist’s tasting panel revels in the complexities of made-in-B.C. amaros, vermouths and aperitifs

The lineup (l to r): Long Table Distillery’s Linnaeus Amaro No. 1, de Vine’s Moderna Vermouth, The Woods Spirit Co’s Pacific Northwest Amaro, Goodrich and Williams’ Bitterhouse Rubato, Bitterhouse DaMan and Bitterhouse LaDame aperitifs, Legend Distilling’s Naramaro amaro, Odd Society’s Mia Amata amaro and Bittersweet Vermouth. Dan Toulgoet photo

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.

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Blueberry Gin Smash

• 1.5 oz Queensborough Gin
• 0.5 oz dry vermouth
• 0.5 oz maple syrup
• 2 dashes aromatic bitters
• 5 fresh blueberries
• 3 lime wedges
• 1 mint sprig
• Tonic water

Add bitters, blueberries and limes into the glass and muddle them. Add Queensborough gin and dry vermouth and stir. Add ice cubes and top up with tonic. Add some crushed ice to the top of the glass and garnish with some blueberries and mint.

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Hanky Panky

The Hanky Panky. Jennifer Gauthier photo

This classic cocktail was created by Ada Coleman, circa 1903, London. 

• 1 oz Beefeater London Dry Gin
• 1 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (or other sweet vermouth)
• 2 dashes Fernet Branca

Chill a coupe glass with water and ice. In a mixing glass, add ingredients with ice and stir gently for about 20 seconds. Strain into the coupe and garnish with a slice of orange peel. Serves 1.

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Ambrosia

Mia Glanz’s Ambrosia. RD Cane photo.

Created by Mia Glanz

INGREDIENTS:
• 1.5 oz Odd Society Wallflower Gin
• 0.5 oz Sheringham Akvavit
• 0.4 oz Martini Bianco Vermouth infused with vanilla (see note)
• 0.25 oz Rose Wintergreen syrup
• 0.5 oz citric acid
• 4 dashes Dillon’s ginseng bitters
• Garnish: Lemon zest

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The Last Word: A classic Bronx

A classic Bronx, shaken the Nick and Nora way. Dan Toulgoet photo, taken at D/6 Bar & Lounge, Parq Vancouver.

“The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to foxtrot time, a Bronx to two-step time, but a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”

Nick Charles (William Powell) covers the essentials in the 1934 classic movie The Thin Man.

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From vermouth to high volume: Cocktail trends for 2018

Some of Vancouver’s top bartenders give their thoughts on what’ll be hot next year

Glass straws will be seen more widely as bars strive toward more sustainable practices. The Last Straw Co. photo
Glass straws will be seen more widely as bars strive toward more sustainable practices. The Last Straw Co. photo

Raise your glass to the end of 2017, a year that brought us one disaster after another, from raging wildfires to the near-daily perp walk of sexual predators. Between all that and the inescapability of frosé, it’s a year we’re mostly happy to forget.

And so we look forward to 2018. We checked in with some of the city’s top bartenders to discover what’s shaking for the New Year.

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Copper Harvest

Brian Grant's Copper Harvest. Photo: Dan Toulgoet
Brian Grant’s Copper Harvest. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

An elegant, spirit-forward cocktail created by Brian Grant, distiller and co-founder of Resurrection Spirits.

INGREDIENTS:
• 2 oz (60 mL) Resurrection Spirits White Rye
• 1 oz (30 mL) Carapano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
• 2 dashes orange bitters

METHOD:
Place all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir well. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Finish with flamed orange peel oil and garnish with an Amarena cherry. Serves 1.

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Madame Colet

Madame Colet by Sabrine Dhaliwal. Dan Toulgoet photo

A complex, pensive cocktail by Sabrine Dhaliwal inspired by the 1932 film Trouble in Paradise. Dhaliwal imagines that this is the drink the character of Mariette Colet would be drinking as she ponders the whirlwind of events that befall her in the movie.

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