When it comes to home bartending, bringing your cocktail game from good to great is in the little details. While you can buy better spirits and have the fancy bartender tools, if you’re not focused on the other aspects like syrups, garnishes and bitters, you’re missing out on the key elements of a great cocktail.
While it may seem daunting to think about starting from scratch with speciality ingredients, it’s not as hard as it seems, and will make your cocktails truly your own creation at the end of the day.
Here are a few options that will help you avoid the generic store bought products:
Bourbon Soaked Cherries
Forget maraschino cherries, they are awful anyway. These homemade bourbon soaked cherries work amazingly in Manhattan’s and Old Fashioned’s, and are also great gifts.
1 cup bourbon
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1-inch strip orange peel
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 pound cherries, pitted
Method: Combine the bourbon, sugar, orange juice and orange peel in a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Combine the bourbon mixture and the cherries in a 15-ounce sterilized container and seal. Allow the contents to cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. Chill for at least three days before using. The cherries will keep for up to 2 months.
Hibiscus Simple Syrup
Add the refreshing quality of hibiscus to simple syrups to help elevate gin and vodka based cocktails to a new level. Omit the hibiscus for a straight simple syrup recipe.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
0.5 cup dried hibiscus petals
Method: Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugars are dissolved.Take off heat and add hibiscus petals, let soak for a maximum of 15 minutes. Strain out petals and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Thai Chili Tincture
Think of this like an essential oil for your cocktail. This Thai chili tincture will add a spicy kick to any cocktail that suits a more robust profile with just a few simple drops.
3 oz dried Thai chili
8 oz vodka
Method: Infuse chilies into vodka for 3 days, shaking occasionally. Strain into a dropper.
Bitters are an essential part to many great cocktails, and as with most recipes, there are a ton of variations you can play with once you get the hang of creating your own. Here’s a good place to start.
1 medium lemon
1 bottle grain alcohol
40 drops gentian extract
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece fresh ginger, cut in half
4 whole allspice berries
4 whole cloves
Method: Using a vegetable peeler, remove lemon zest in strips, leaving the whites behind. Combine lemon zest and all remaining ingredients in a quart jar with a tight lid. Close and store at room temperature. Let steep 14 days, shaking the jar every other day. Using a coffee filter, strain alcohol from spices and store in a jar in a dark, cool place.
Summer in BC is fantastic; especially when it comes to craft beer releases. Craft breweries around the province are pushing the boundaries and creating some truly killer special releases for the summer season. We’re talking about fresh fruit, summer flavours and crushable releases.
Here’s a small selection of some of the most releases currently available:
Backcountry Brewing: That’s not a knife…This is a knife
Not just one, but two special releases from Squamish based Backcountry Brewing are worth mentioning this season. That’s not a Knife is a “southern hemisphere IPA” brewed with Topaz and Ella hops. It has tropical fruit notes and restrained bitterness makes this beer soft and juicy.
Meanwhile, This is a Knife is a double IPA hit with a massive dose of Galaxy hops. It has big tropical notes and a heavy mouthfeel. The contrast between the two is a great example of hop diversity.
Twin Sails: Stiff peaks
Hot damn this is a good beer! Stiff Peaks Double Milkshake IPA is brewed with lactose and a light malt profile of Pilsner and Wheat then conditioned on a huge amount of Raspberry, Blueberry and Blackberry. It’s then dry hopped it with Citra and Brewers Gold hops just in case you were worried it wasn’t going to taste like a proper IPA.
It’s been a full three years since this beer was last available, so grab a bottle before it’s gone once again! The seasonal favourite pours a beautiful rose colour with a luscious pink head, magnificent aromas, and flavours of freshly picked raspberries.
Postmark: Could you be more pacific
The official beer for Seawheeze 2018, it doesn’t get more summer than this. This hazy ale gets its juicy name from the generous amounts of El Dorado hops used, giving it a luscious tropical fruit-citrus aroma and flavour. Lighter and more refreshing than its bigger brother the hazy IPA.
Steel and Oak: Subtropic
Dry hopped with copious amounts of Galaxy, Mosaic and Centennial, Subtropic has big notes of pineapple, papaya, and melon riding along fluffy oats, spelt, and pilsner malt. Subtropic India Pale Ale is like being in a tropical rain forest, picking fruit right off the tree, taking a bite, and then having the clouds open up in a refreshing downpour of juicy goodness.
The 26th annual Great Canadian Beer Festival returns to Victoria on September 7 & 8, 2018. Tickets are on sale now. The GCBF is a non-profit society created for the purpose of introducing consumers to new beers and raising awareness of craft brewing in the local community and beyond.
The GCBF is the longest-running beer festival in Canada and first took place in 1993 at the Victoria Conference Centre with 2000 attendees. The now two-day event takes place outdoors at Royal Athletic Park and hosts up to 9000 thirsty, craft beer lovers from all over the world.
This year the festival will host booths for 65+ breweries and two cideries, featuring over 240 beers and ciders. GCBF is thrilled to introduce the BC Ale Trail-er, showcasing ten additional breweries from across B.C., the Alberta Brewers Tent featuring four Alberta breweries, and welcomes a selection of new and returning breweries from Ontario and Quebec. The festival offers a variety of local food vendors serving up both West Coast and ethnic flavours, and non-stop entertainment featuring Bucan Bučan, local buskers, performers from Island Circus Space and more!
Event Details Where: Royal Athletic Park, 1014 Caledonia Ave, Victoria When: Friday, Sept 7 from 4 – 9pm and Saturday, Sept 9 from 12 – 5pm Tickets: $40pp incl tax (plus fees). Includes your taster glass, program and BC Transit Get Home Safe bus ticket. On sale now. Tokens: Beer tokens available on site for $2 per 4oz taster. Cash-only.
Mid-July feels like the right time of year to celebrate the Mojito; it’s peak summer, we’re all looking for drinks that will help quench the thirst, and Mojitos are just a really good social drink. So this July 11th, let’s celebrate the Mojito with some creative twists on the classic.
First a little fun history. The origins of the Mojito can actually be traced back to the early 1500s, in fact it may be the earliest recorded cocktail in human history. Sir Francis Drake landed in Havana to sack the city of its gold. The invasion was unsuccessful as his crew were suffering from dysentery and scurvy. Local South American Indians were known to have remedies for many diseases, so a small party went ashore to Cuba and came back with ingredients for a medicine.
Using aguarediente de cana, mint leaves, and the juices from sugar cane and limes the crew put together a tonic which turned out to be effective. We know now that the lime juice was the helpful ingredient, and after that a cocktail named “El Draque” became popular in Cuba after that time, and supposedly named after Drake himself.
Fast forward a few hundred years and the creation of the Bacardi company in the mid 1800s was most likely the cause of the booming Mojito popularity, supported by the likes of drinkers like Ernest Hemmingway sealed the deal for it to become one of the most popular modern cocktails.
With the history lesson over, let’s get on to making some cocktails!
Bacardi Cardamom Mojito
2 oz Bacardí Superior
1 oz cardamom syrup (1/4 cup cardamom pods, 1 cup boiling water and
6 mint leafs
1 oz fresh lime juice
Method: In a highball glass, muddle mint leaves with cardamom syrup and lime juice. Blend in rum. Fill glass with crushed ice and top with soda. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Coconut Blueberry Mojito Popsicles
3 tbsps honey
0.75 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups coconut milk
0.25 cup white rum
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
0.5 cup sparkling water
Method: In a pitcher, whisk the honey and lime juice until dissolved. Add the coconut milk, rum, and mint and whisk until well mixed. Add the sparkling water and stir once. Divide the mixture in popsicle molds, add fresh blueberries and set the sticks in place. Transfer to the freezer and chill overnight, or until solid.
Flor Ultimate Mojito
2 oz Flor de Caña Gran Reserva 7
0.5 oz Lime Juice
0.25 oz Superfine Sugar
Method: Muddle lime juice with sugar in a collins glass. Add mint leaves and muddle again. Fill glass 2/3 full with crushed ice and add rum. Top off with champagne float. Garnish with sprig of mint.
Blood Orange Mojito
8 sprigs of mint
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz white rum
1 oz blood orange juice
1 tbsp simple syrup
2 oz sparkling water
Method: Add the mint and lime juice to a collins glass. Muddle together to extract the mint. Add in rum, blood orange juice and simple syrup. Fill glass with ice and top with sparkling water. Garnish with a slice of blood orange and a sprig of mint.
Pineapple Twist Mojito
2 tsp sugar
Half of a fresh lime
2 sprigs of mint
1.5 oz Havana Club Anejo 3 Anos rum
3 oz fresh pineapple juice
Method: Add sugar and lime juice to a collins glass and mix to combine. Add mint and muddle. Add rum, ice and pineapple juice and mix to combine. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and mint sprig.
Toronto’s Mill Street Brewing recently announced that they are upping their organic beer game, by certifying their entire core beer lineup as 100% organic.
The company is no stranger to organic beer; they’ve been offering their core Mill Street Lager, and 100th Meridian as organic for some time now. But as one of a handful of beer companies in the country that can boast organic products, they are doubling down that consumers will find this an increasingly important aspect to their ever expanding drinking choices.
Starting immediately, Cobblestone Stout and Tankhouse Ale will join Original Organic Lager and 100th Meridian as organic. A recent national survey conducted by Mill Street revealed that organic beer is in high demand and in fact, 74% of Canadians who want cleaner beer options expect the variety in their organic beer choices to keep up with the increasing availability of organic food products.
That survey also found that 1 in 4 Canadians believe there is a lack of organic beer options on store shelves, a statistic that I can definitely agree with. Organic beer is difficult to ensure, it means a higher standard for ingredients and a rigorous process, so it’s no surprise there aren’t many breweries that can boast an organic certification at the moment.
“We first brewed our organic beer in 2002 and being organic certified is no easy feat, so I am proud to share our new organic core lineup with beer lovers across Canada,” says Joel Manning, Head Brewmaster, Mill Street Brewery. “Every step of our brewing process is deliberate and pursued with rigour. We are excited to offer Canadians a best-in-class organic beer that has been produced with care. We are constantly focused on what we do best – delivering the experience of truly unique, premium beers.”
Mill Street’s new organic lineup is now available in stores.
Happy Independence Day to our neighbours to the south!
While there are plenty of great craft brewers in Canada, we pale in comparison to the number of brewers in the US of A cranking out some beloved craft beer. There are so many craft brewers in the states, it can be hard to keep track of whose-who; in fact, the number surpassed 6,000 at the end of 2017!
With that many breweries, it can seem like an impossible task to settle on the very best of the best. Well, the American Brewers Association took on that challenge, and has been producing a crowd sourced list of the best beer in America for the last 16 years.
This year, the survey includes Top Ranked Beers, Top Breweries, Best Portfolio and Top Imports. So just who rises to the top in this massive marketplace? For fans of craft beer, the top ten may not be much of a surprise:
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
Russian River Pliny the Elder
The Alchemist Heady Topper
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (tie for 5th)
Founders CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout) (tie for 5th)
Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) (tie for 5th)
Three Floyds Zombie Dust
Founders Breakfast Stout
WeldWerks Juicy Bits (tie for 10th)
Founders All Day IPA (tie for 10th)
Pliny & Heady Topper are consistently battling it out for the best American IPA, but Bell’s looks to have surpassed the both of them twice in a row now. Founders breakfast stout (and its varieties) continue to be a favourite. But as you can see, outside of Founders the entire top ten is made up of IPA’s or hoppy pale ales, which goes to support that craft beer drinkers just aren’t that original.
The top breweries in America reflect the top 10, but you should still consider this list as the ultimate American craft beer pilgrimage:
Bell’s Brewery, Inc. (Comstock, MI)
Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)
Russian River Brewing Co. (Santa Rosa, CA)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, CA & Mills River, NC)
Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, DE)
Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA)
The Alchemist (Stowe, VT)
Three Floyds Brewing Company (Munster, IN)
As for top importers, Canada makes a mark, with Unibroue coming in on the top 3:
Unibroue La Fin du Monde (Canada)
Looks like American’s still prefer to have their Belgian style beers imported, as only one American Belgian beer made the full list (and it was a kriek).
For the entire list you can visit the Brewers Association page here.
Long summer nights are perfect for making some refreshing cocktails and kicking back on the patio. While there are a lot of options out there, the cocktails below find some interesting ways of bringing in summer flavours without being too complicated.
Take these five for a spin, and I’m sure your guests will think you’ve pulled out all the stops.
Summer cocktails should be all about fruit and refreshment. This summer fizz brings both to the table without skimping on the rum.
1.5 oz 7 year rum
0.5 oz ginger syrup
0.5 oz peach purée
0.5 oz lemon juice
1 egg white
Method: Dry shake rum, ginger syrup, peach puree, lemon juice and egg white. Re-shake with ice, and strain into a collins glass. Top with soda and garnish with fresh ginger and lemon peel.
Blackberry Mint Julep
This twist on the original mint julep brings some summer sweetness with the addition of the muddles blackberries.
2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
0.5 oz Chambord
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz turbinado syrup (aka. golden sugar simple syrup)
5 muddled blackberries
6 mint leaves
Method: Pour all ingredients in a shaker and mix well. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with a sprig of mint and a blackberry.
Despite the name, this is a perfect summer cocktail and one that will lead to many a good nights.
0.5 oz Tropical Passion Fruit Syrup
1.5 oz gin
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz Aperol
barspoon honey syrup
Method: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake hard for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
If tequila is your drink of choice, this unique cocktail will add a whole new way of enjoying your spirit.
2 oz Strawberry tequila
0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
0.75 simple syrup
1 egg white
Method: Add tequila, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain, and remove ice from cocktail shaker. Pour contents back into shaker and add egg white; shake again for a dry shake. Double strain into a collins glass and top with club soda. Garnish with a whole strawberry.
Not as sweet as it appears, this cocktail is tart, fairly dry and seriously strong. A great alternative to a gin sour.
1.5 oz gin
0.5 oz applejack
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.25 oz grenadine
1 egg white
Method: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake well without ice. Add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
Oh Canada, you beautiful country. With your vast wilderness, waterways, wildlife and beer. This year, Canada Day celebrations across the country are going to be lit, so fire up the BBQ and stock the cooler with some of the best Canada has to offer.
Red Racer Across The Nation Collaboration Pack
What better way to celebrate Canada than a collaboration pack that brings together brewers from all across the country? Each province and territory is represented here (with the exception of Nunavut) and there’s enough variety that there’s sure to be something in the pack worth celebrating.
Salt Spring Wild Cider- Hopped Apricot
This cidery makes use of the wild apples that grow on Salt Spring Island and blends them with fruit from 100-year-old heritage trees and organic orchards. The Hopped Apricot uses Cascade hops, apricots, and organic apples, to make a Hefeweizen-esque style that will please both beer and cider fans.
Georgian Bay- Cranberry Gin Smash
The newest addition to the Georgian Bay canned cocktail lineup, the Cranberry Gin Smash is made with natural lemon, lime, and cranberry flavours, with a hint of coriander.
Muddler’s Moscow Mule
Finding a proper cocktail in a can is sometimes impossible, that’s why it’s refreshing to see a ready-to-drink, canned Moscow Mule made locally in Vancouver. It’s made with freshly pressed ginger, a hint of lime and – of course – vodka.
Brickworks Ciderhouse- Batch : 1904
This cider immediately brings visions of fresh orchard apples, lively citrus zest and a hint of spice. There’s just a touch of homemade apple pie filling that really makes this unique.
Truly Spiked & Sparkling- Colima Lime
Let’s face it, drinking can be a lot of calories; add that on to a BBQ celebration, and we’re talking a big day of indulgence. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Truly cocktails are only 100 calories and 1 gram of sugar, so it’s almost like you’re cheating!
It’s not every day you run across a traditional alcohol made out of fermented milk.
But that’s exactly what the industrious Mongolian people have been doing for years. Arkhi is typically found in rural areas of Mongolia and is distilled on domestic stoves from fermented mare’s milk, known as kumis. It’s a bit of a process to get a very small amount of return:
The milk is placed in a wok on the stove.
A special vat without top and bottom is placed on top of the wok.
In the center of the vat, a collector bowl is connected to a wooden channel leading out through the wall.
On top of the vat, a second wok serves as a lid, filled with cold water.
When the stove is fired up the milk vaporizes, starting with the alcohol.
The steam condenses when it touches the cold lid, and the convex shape leads it to drip right into the collector in the center.
The cold water on top gets replaced twice. The first round gives the highest quality liquor, the third and last round the lowest.
The wooden channel leads the condensate into a jar or bottle.
The lack of temperature control given by the simple equipment results in a concentration of only about 10% alcohol, but nevertheless has a good reputation among Mongolian men as it was the highest percentage alcohol they achieved.
Arkhi has a cheese-like taste, which is no surprise there, with an indistinct bitterness. Obviously it’s quite strange for those who sample it for the first time. It might require some repeat efforts to be finally able to enjoy.
Generally, Arkhi isn’t readily available commercially. There is one product out there but overall it’s hard to find. While travelling in Mongolia, the milking season for horses tends to be between mid-June and early October so that tends to be the best time to try and find Arkhi.
Careful with poorly made Arkhi though, a sure sign that it’s not properly prepared is the distinct smell of goats (you’ll know it when you smell it).
A Calgary judge, on Tuesday, ordered the Province of Alberta to pay over $2 million in damages to two out of province breweries for violating interprovincial trade with a provincial beer tax.
Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Gillian Marriott found Saskatchewan’s Great Western Brewing Company is entitled to receive $1.9 million in restitution and Ontario-based Steam Whistle Brewing is eligible for $163,964. These restitutions come from Marriott’s findings that Alberta’s per-litre beer tax markup scheme introduced by the government in 2015, and changed in 2016, violated section 121 of the Canadian Constitution.
The essentials of the beer tax are simple. In an effort to support Alberta small breweries, the provincial government introduced a per-litre beer tax on out of province imports. When it was first introduced in 2015, beer produced in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan was given a lower markup per litre compared to beer produced in other parts of Canada. The markups varied depending on how much each brewery produced and imported.
Then in 2016, the tax was changed, applying a markup of $1.25 to every litre of beer regardless of where it was produced. However small Alberta craft brewers were given monthly grants to make up the difference between the lower 2015 markup and the uniform 2016 amount, which is what pissed off outside breweries.
Saskatchewan’s Great Western Brewing and Ontario’s Steam Whistle filed a court order that the policy violated free trade between provinces, a decision that was granted on Tuesday.
The court decision marks the second major setback this month to the province’s program.
In a decision released June 11, a three-person panel ordered the government to repeal or amend the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program (ASBD) within six months. This came from a complaint laid by Calgary beer importer Artisan Ales. The panel found the ASBD to be non-compliant and issued a six month timeline for changes.
Basically, while Alberta is in its right to work towards supporting the growing craft industry within its borders, the way they’ve gone about it is completely wrong. Protectionist beer policies are only going to harm the consumer, when the province should really be looking at other avenues that help encourage new brewery development, rather than punish outside influences.