Thanks to the antics of Bob and Doug McKenzie back in the 90’s, there’s a stereotype of Canadians as beer drinkers. Others might think of the Great White North when they reach for a sip of ice wine or a dram of Canadian Club rye whiskey, or that great Canadian invention, the Bloody Caesar. But with the 150th anniversary of Confederation upon us, maybe it’s time for us to raise the cocktail glasses. Ontario is home to a number of distilleries whose output mixologists and chefs are putting to use — especially this year, with special concoctions to celebrate our national anniversary.
At the recent London Food & Wine Show guests were presented with some interesting takes on mixology. The Western Fair District hospitality services, under the guidance of Chef Kyle Fee (who is also an instructor at Fanshawe College’s culinary program), brought forward a very entertaining offering. Chef Fee combined a local treat, London Ice Cream, with cider. Salty Caramel ice cream is blended with apple cider (Peller Estates No Boats on Sunday craft apple cider is outstanding), poured into a glass that has been rimmed with brown sugar and cinnamon, and topped with a bit more ice cream and beer, to create a very Canadian float. I wonder if the people running the Apple Pie Trail in the Blue Mountains around Collingwood will have this on the menu soon?
Local craft breweries such as Cowbell in Blyth are mixing up cocktails using beer and spirits. Glassroots on Richmond Street in London uses Cowbell’s Country Kolsch with vodka to make a Caesar beer cocktail. It also has a beer-topped Old Fashioned, one of the several classic mixed drinks which have seen a revival of late.
If you are a strawberry fan, Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville sells Strawberry Gin — delightful on the rocks, or in an appropriately coloured gin and tonic for your Canada Day celebrations. Whitney Rorison has the fantastic job of being Hospitality Manager at Dillon’s. With that job came the not-so-fantastic task of cleaning, by hand, 84 flats of strawberries last summer from Tigchelaar Farms in Jordan. The result is proudly called, “strawberries locked into a bottle to enjoy year-round.”
Dillon’s also offers cherry and rose gins that can hold up on their own as liqueurs or in fruit-based cocktails. Rose Gin is made with rose hips and petals. For those with a tarter taste preference, Dillon’s Limoncello is popular and also perfect with vodka for a Lemon Drop Martini. Don’t forget to rim the glass with sugar. All Dillon’s spirits are made with no artificial colourings or flavours. The tasting room is a nice stop en route to Niagara’s wine country.
In Niagara, icewine infused cocktails are all the rage. Warning — these carry a wallop. The icewine martini is equal parts icewine and vodka, shaken on ice and served with frozen grapes. Variations include the icewine cosmopolitan, which uses the same ingredients plus Grand Marnier. Sip, don’t gulp!
Two of the most patriotic drinkers in Canada are Scott McCallum and Victoria Walsh. Their Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails (Appetite by Random House, 2015) is a wonderful read on how they drank their way across the country. It includes recipes and listings of craft distilleries along with stories on the history of spirits in Canada.
Cheers, Canada. Here’s to a great year of celebrations! We plan to tell more stories of Canadian spirits in future issues.
This northern twist on a classic Martinez uses an Arctic Rose Vermouth Reduction — which produces a beautiful pale-pinkish hue reminiscent of a sunset over Arctic snow. The delicate Arctic Rose (AKA Wild Rose) is a variety that grows wild in almost every Canadian province and into the northern territories.
Makes 1 drink
2 oz (60 ml) Arctic Rose Vermouth
1 oz (30 ml) gin
1 tsp (5 ml) Aperol
handful of ice cubes
1 edible dried rose petal, preferably Arctic rose, for garnish
Pour all ingredients, except ice and garnish, into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled.
Strain through a julep strainer into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with rose petal.
Arctic Rose Vermouth Reduction
Place 4 cups (960 ml) white sweet vermouth and 12 edible dried rose buds, preferably Arctic rose, in a large saucepan.
Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Gently boil until reduced to exactly 2 cups (480 ml) including roses, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Fine strain through a funnel lined with several layers of cheesecloth.
Reduction will keep, sealed and refrigerated, for 1 month. Makes 14 oz (420 ml).
Hot Buttered Rum
This riff on the classic Hot Buttered Rum is brightened by the use of a compound butter that blends salted butter and bakeapple. If you can’t get your hands on bakeapple, plain butter (instead of the compound butter) will do the trick.
Makes 6 drinks
4 cups apple cider, preferably unsweetened
12 oz. Newfoundland Screech Rum or dark rum
4 tsp chilled Bakeapple Compound Butter (recipe, below) or 4 tsp chilled salted butter + 1 Tbsp honey
6 cinnamon sticks, for garnish (optional)
Set out 6 warmed heatproof mugs or Irish coffee glasses.
Pour 2 oz (60 ml) screech into each mug.
If using compound butter, omit honey. If using regular butter, spoon ½ tsp (2.5 ml) honey into each mug.
Pour 2⁄3 cup (160 ml) warm cider into each mug.
Thinly slice compound or regular butter.
Top each drink with a little butter. Garnish with cinnamon sticks, if you like.
Bakeapple Compound Butter
In a small bowl, stir 1 tbsp (15 ml) room-temperature butter, preferably lightly salted, with 1 tsp (5 ml) bakeapple or apple jelly.
Mound on top of plastic wrap and roll into a small log.
Wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
Compound butter will keep, sealed and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks. Makes 4 tsp.
Recipes and photos excerpted from A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails by Victoria Walsh and Scott McCallum. Appetite by Random House, 2015.