Sharpen those pencils, get out that Pink Pearl eraser, it’s back-to-school time, and we’ve got a history lesson for you. If you skipped the Classic Canadian Cocktails seminar at Tales of the Cocktail this summer, not to worry, we got a copy of the teaching notes. Canadian history has never been more delicious and packed with such practical lessons.
The Tales seminar presented Canada’s rich and varied cocktail past, starting with “Whoop up Bug Juice”, created in 1869 in Lethbridge. Though oddities abound, the seminar emphasised cocktail innovation with a lasting impact on our drinking lives.
First up, Danielle Tatarin, from Designer Cocktail Company and The Keefer Bar, presented Canada’s contributions to the Bloody Caesar.
Though iterations appeared in (Harry’s) New York Bar in 1921 and (sans booze) in Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite in 1936 and The Standard Bartender’s Guide in 1965, the Canadian standard was developed in Calgary in 1969. Walter Chell was purportedly inspired by the spaghetti alle vongole he tasted in Venice, and mashed his own clams to get the job done.
Danielle presents her modern, culinary version of the classic:
2 oz Chorizo washed Vodka
4 oz Tomato Juice
1 oz Clam Juice
1 whole Garlic Roasted Tomato
2 dashes Tobasco
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
½ barspoon grated horseradish
Celery Salt & Chili Mix (for rim)
Muddle tomato with horseradish in a mixing glass. Strain liquid into another mixing glass and discard fruit. Add all remaining ingredients to the juice. Roll mixture between two glasses to blend. Pour the ingredients over ice into the rimmed Collins glass. Garnish with pickled vegetable & chorizo on a skewer.
David Wolowidnyk, from West Restaurant in Vancouver presented another Canadian classic: the Hotel Georgia Cocktail.
The cocktail was first published in Bottoms Up in 1951. It was the brainchild of socialite, and Waldorf-Astoria’s long-time publicist, Ted Saucier. The cocktail was resurrected by Brad Stanton in 2011 for the opening of the Hawksworth Restaurant at Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia. There’s a reason it was named Canada’s “cocktail of the year” in EnRoute magazine last February. Taste it for yourself with this modern recipe.
Hotel Georgia Cocktail
1 ¾ Victoria Gin
¾ Lemon Juice
7 drops Orange flower water
1 egg white
Dry shake then wet shake and double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
Jay Jones brought his great experience with Barjonesing to the seminar (not to mention his time at Voya, Pourhouse, Shangri-la Hotel, and beyond). He shared secrets of The Vancouver Cocktail and the city’s mid-century cocktail culture.
At that time, new laws had a major effect on Vancouver’s drinking scene. In 1952, alcohol sales were finally permitted in restaurants, and in 1954, the first dining-lounge liquor license was granted. In the same year, The Sylvia Hotel opened Vancouver’s first legally licensed cocktail bar and became the site of much decadence. In 1959, Errol Flynn enjoyed the Vancouver Cocktail at the Sylvia Hotel… the last before his death.
The Vancouver Cocktail was reborn only recently through recollections of one Josiah Bates who frequented the Sylvia Hotel since 1955. In 2006, Bates divulged the recipe to Steve da Cruz, who featured the cocktail at his Corner Suite Bistro Deluxe in 2009 and will likely highlight some reincarnation in his new venture The Parker Restaurant (coming soon!) Here is a modern recipe.
The Vancouver Cocktail
1 ½ oz Victoria Gin
¾ Punt e Mes
¼ oz Benedictine
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
Stir until chilled, strain, served up, and zest.
Lest we be accused of left coast centrism, The Toronto Cocktail was presented by Shawn Soole (of Clive’s Classic Lounge in Victoria and a Tales nominee for international bartender of the year).
The Toronto Cocktail was first published as the Fernet Cocktail in 1922. Robert Vermeire’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them noted “this cocktail is much appreciated by the Canadians of Toronto”. With its current name, it was first published in David Embury’s 1948 The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Though there’s no way to be sure that the original cocktail was created in Canada, Soole is certain of the Italian Toronto/NYC/Europe connections, and asserts that, with such a name, it’s fair to call it ours.
The Toronto Cocktail
2 oz Caribou Crossing Canadian Whisky
¼ Fernet Brana
¼ oz Gomme Syrup
Dash Angostura Bitters
Stir, strain up with a flamed orange zest
History is a continuum and, if anything, cocktail innovation is only intensifying in Canada. Take the novel use of vinegars and “shrubs” highlighted in last week’s Globe & Mail, for example, with Victoria’s Katie McDonald leading the pack. (See her Sunomono Cocktail above.)
Just like your times table, practice makes cocktails perfect, so do your homework! And also, get out and be inspired by the pros at great bars across the country! We all need to learn from the best. Finally, for an intensive crash course or to sharpen those skills, please join us at Victoria’s Art of the Cocktail in October. Cheers!