Thursday, January 6, 2011
Monday, November 22, 2010
Last weekend a family engagement took me out to Calgary, and it was an eye-opener for sure. On November 11, Remembrance Day, we decided to celebrate my cousin Alex’s graduation with a big family dinner and a big bowl of punch from the big silver family bowl. I was recently given Dave Wondrich’s fantastic new book “Punch” and was busting to try out one of the old recipes. The Canadian Punch was fittingly selected partly for its name and partly for its ease of ingredient acquisition: no whale cholesterol in this one (you, laugh but at least one of his receipts calls for it…yum), so off the The Willow Park Wine Store to round up a few bottles.
I was also very keen to compare the selection at this, one of Calgary’s premier liquor retailers, (in fact, the largest privately owned liquor store in Canada) to the old LCBO offerings back home. This also happened to be the day that Willow Park has its 15th annual Remembrance Day wine sale. Apart from a minute of silence at 11 am, the rest of the day is filled with wine reps, and importers shouting as they hawk their wares, by the case where possible. At some point early on they were selling wine at a buck a bottle, but by the time we got there the wines were all in the 6-8 dollar range. Cheapola. Mahem. Sadly there were no deals on premium bourbons or funky rare absinthes but the spectacle of free enterprise happening at a liquor store warmed the cockles of my wee heart nonetheless. The Alberta Liquor guide led me to believe that there was some Yellow Chartreuse to be had at Willow Park but I could not find it and I probably picked the wrong day to have a customer service issue. The cocktail ingredient selection was every bit as good as any Ontario LCBO and maybe a tiny bit better but not much. I selected a bottle of good old Alberta Premium rye and a bottle of 114 proof Guyanese Demerara rum for the punch and we waited 45 minutes to check out.
The Punch was very good although I don’t know why it’s called “Canadian” when it calls for pineapples, lemons, rum and Wonderich specifies NOT to use Canadian whisky unless it is 100% rye which very few are. To be continued…
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Here is a story in the Victoria Times Colonist about this great event. I have to say that Victoria has really established itself at the forefront of the Canadian cocktail world. This proves more than anything that cocktailing is a culture in the true sense of the world. A place does not have to be one of the biggest cities in Canada to sustain a vibrant scene where people learn from each other and get together to learn and create drinks, bars, events, and products (gin, bitters, etc) which further feed the development of the culture.
Let's hope that the rest of us catch up soon.
Let's hope that the rest of us catch up soon.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Because I couldn't get out to Victoria myself, I have deputized Darcy O'Neil of Art of Drink as our correspondent to this fine event. Read his latests posts. He is a) a good writer b) Canada's premier cocktail blogger, so you are in good hands.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I don’t pretend to be an expert on cocktails or ingredients such as whisky etc. I have devised this blog as more of Canada-specific portal to the wider world of all things mixed bevy. There are so many excellent blogs out there written by people who have been part of the scene WAY longer than I have. I have linked their sites here and will continue to add more. Their blogs talk about new and interesting ingredients, gear, events, competitions, histories, reviews and recipes, old and new. They are our sherpas and native guides on a voyage of delicious discovery. It turns out , lucky us , there are three such fine resources in our midst and when you get a chance, visit these three great Canadian booze blogs.
The world’s foremost expert on Canadian whisky, Davin de Kergommeaux keeps up the ultimate resource on this most important element of so many cocktails, canadianwhisky.org . Take pride in our own home-grown “water of life” especially since it is one of the few things we have excellent access to in Canada. Davin has also made contact with Canucktail and sounds like a straight up guy (probably takes his whisky that way.) He will be at WhiskyLive. Track him down.
Nick Nemeth lives in St. Catherines, ON and runs Cocktails and Cordials. Another friendly and extremely knowledgeable cocktailian, Nick has pointed out that old tom gin has been available at the LCBO since early this summer. He also says that maraschino comes and goes from the Lickbo and, “has a habit of rotating in and out of the LCBO, just long enough for us cocktail geeks to re-stock before it disappears again!” If Nick says re-stock, RESTOCK! He will also be at Whisky Live. This makes me think I need to go.
Finally, Darcy O’Neil of Art of Drink lives and/or works in London, ON and is one of the original die-hards of the cocktail world. His blog is linked universally and has an amazing amount of info on it, some of it related to doing our thing on this side of the 49th.
A last note. I guess its not surprising that the people I have met so far (virtually, for the most part) Nick and Davin, among them, are very friendly, encouraging and welcoming. They are doing something they love and, after all, if thing get stressful, they always know where to get a good drink.
Monday, October 11, 2010
For all you whisk(e)y lovers out there with a couple of bucks in your pocket, this might be a fun event to attend. It bill itself as: "The world’s greatest celebration of the whiskies of the world, now in its fifth year, [and] Canada’s whisky tasting event of the year, bringing the celebration of whisky to Toronto."
It is taking place on Friday, Oct 22 at Halls F & G of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
According to their site, "Whisky Live Toronto brings all the very best whiskies from around the world under one roof. Appealing to both the enthusiast and the novice Whisky Live Toronto has expert advice on hand as well as the opportunity to learn about the whisky basics.
"It is the ultimate whisky experience with such a stunning range of whiskies, delicious food, Masterclasses, live music and regular nose-off competitions. And with more room for more whiskies and more food, this should be the best whisky event ever."
Hope so. People more interested in mixed cocktails, like me, might find this kind of event a bit one dimensional as it will largely be about single malts and other kinds of whiskey that are supposed to be drunk unadulterated. Their site does mention cocktails, however, and hard core cocktailians are always interested in raw ingredients, so be our guest, go and report on your findings.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
First of all, This is why I WISH I was in Victoria next weekend: Art of the Cocktail. This wonderful looking event is actually a fundraiser for the Victoria Film Festival. If you are anywhere close and there are still tickets available, head on over. See lots of super bartenders, brand ambassadors and cocktail luminaries such as Dr. Cocktail himself, Ted Haigh.
You Victorians are so lucky, they make delicious artisanal gin and orange bitters in your town and now this! Stratford (Ont.) hosted its own itty-bitty (but fabulous) cocktail fundraiser a couple weeks ago. Cocktails for a Cause seems to be a trend. Lets keep it up.
Next announcement: as promised, a formerly unavailable product is now (sort of) available at the LCBOntario. Drum roll please. OLD TOM GIN!!!! Good news: you can get it. Bad news: as soon as it was available, it was discontinued just as quickly. As of this entry, the LCBO was still in possession of 132 bottles of this magic elixir (Hayman’s brand).
For the uninitiated, old tom is a kind of gin like London dry or genever. It is the gin that London dry gin is “dry” compared to, which is to say it is sweetened and, is often more heavily flavoured than dry gin. It preceded dry gin and was, for a long time more popular. It is often called the “missing link” between genever (dutch or Geneva) gin and the modern dry style. In its day, it served an important function. Before modern distillation techniques took hold, unaged liquor often had a harsh, jetfuelish taste. The flavours and botanicals added to early gins helped mask this nastiness. Old tom was the English industrial revolution, mass-produced version of gin. It was designed to be cheap, and drunk straight, often on-the-run.
The story goes that it got its name from London tavern owners in the 1800s who installed a plaque in the shape of a cat on the outside of their establishments. The plaque had a slot for a coin and a tube going inside. A “drive-thru” patron could get a shot of this stuff outside by putting a coin in the kitty’s mouth and putting their cup (or mouth) under the spout. YIKES! No slot for an age of majority card…