Raise a Glass to B.C. Craft Distilled Gin
Spirited Cocktails That Capture the Province's Unique Essence
By Nikki Bayley / Images By Joern Rohde
In 2013, the British Columbia government created a new category of distillery for the province, kickstarting a revolution in the Canadian spirit market. To achieve B.C. Craft Distillery status, the distillery must use 100 per cent B.C.-grown ingredients to make its products, and it also must create its spirits from grain to bottle on-site. Harnessing the unique flavours of B.C. botanicals in spirited form offers bartenders unlimited licence to conjure up exciting new creations for your cocktailing pleasure. Today we shine the spotlight on B.C. craft gins. Join these talented Whistler bartenders on a tasting tour of different distilleries with unique expressions of gin. Cheers!
CURE LOUNGE & PATIO AT NITA LAKE LODGE
604-966-5700 | nitalakelodge.com
“What excites me is the fact that we’re seeing so many unique ingredients in these small-batch spirits — gins distilled with yuzu or lychee, even gin distilled from honey from the Wayward Distillery,” enthuses Cure Lounge’s Beverage Specialist Rhiannon Csordas. “And what about the amazing colour-changing Empress gin made with butterfly pea blossom? That stormed the market! When you make a purple cocktail with their gin, everyone wants it; it’s so aromatic and fresh as well as pretty. B.C. gins are going off the beaten path.”
Her creation showcases the Odd Society Spirits’ Wallflower Oaken Gin, which is aged for several months in oak barrels to give a smooth, smoky flavour. “I’m a big fan of Odd Society,” says Csordas. “I’ve been working with their products since I came on the scene.” A riff on the classic Martinez cocktail, “Preserved” is a “stiff and stirred” cocktail with Wallflower Oaken Gin, maraschino, red vermouth and Bittered Sling’s Lem-Marrakech bitters. Garnished with orange zest, it’s the perfect introduction to boozy cocktails for those who are a little intimidated by that spirit-forward category.
“Cocktails don’t have to be fresh or fruity. Some people are scared off by the idea of drinks like this, but the sweetness of the vermouth and maraschino, plus the Moroccan spice notes of the bitters, make this an approachable option for newbies as well as seasoned drinkers looking for something different from, say, a Manhattan.”
Balanced and beautiful, “Preserved” has a smooth, rounded mouthfeel and helps tell a local story through the gin’s unique botanicals. “We have such a beautiful landscape here in B.C., and a wonderful story to tell, which comes through when we use these great local spirits.”
BRAIDWOOD TAVERN AT THE FOUR SEASONS RESORT
& RESIDENCES WHISTLER
604-966-5280 | braidwoodtavern.com
It’s all change at the Four Seasons with the long-awaited new gastropub concept, the Braidwood Tavern, that’s now open where Sidecut Bar used to be. An approachable contemporary take on the mountain tavern, Braidwood guests can look forward to a warm, welcoming space for locals and visitors alike that captures the best of Whistler and beyond on the menu.
At the bar, you can also expect to find some unique B.C. craft spirits, including a custom-distilled gin. “We have a Four Seasons Whistler gin that’s specifically made for us by Okanagan Spirits,” says Bartender Robert Kharazmi. “It’s distilled with B.C. blueberries and basil, and our bar is the only place you can taste it!” Kharazmi is excited by the variety on offer in the craft gin scene in B.C. “There are so many great ones out there. For instance, it’s amazing that Sheringham Distillery on Vancouver Island won gold at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits competition for their Seaside gin,” he says.
The holiday season comes together in a glass with the Braidwood Tavern’s take on mulled wine. “We came up with this drink a few years ago,” Kharazmi explains. “We tweaked it to use our custom gin, and it’s the best version, I think. It’s so festive!” This cocktail begins with a slow simmering of a festive-flavoured syrup. “We want to capture all those special holiday flavours in a concentrated, aromatic sugar syrup with cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, allspice, thyme, juniper berries, bay leaves, and rosemary.” Once those flavours are melded together, they add wine — a custom Meritage blend from Lillooet’s Fort Berens Estate Winery — and simmer some more. The aromatics of the gin complement the mulled wine blend and add an extra kick. “It’s probably our top-selling winter warmer,” says Kharazmi.
604-932-3433 | bearfootbistro.com
The Grinch that Stole 2020
After a year behind the bar at the Bearfoot Bistro, it’s starting to feel like home for Kim Jones. “I love it here!” she says with a laugh. Originally from Scotland, Jones is having fun tasting her way through B.C.’s craft spirits. “It’s so interesting that they use local products and ingredients; for instance, the Wayward Distillery make their gin and vodka from honey, and I quite like Rebel Vodka from Kelowna, which is made from apple; they have such a cool story. They make their spirits from their orchard!” Despite her nation’s famous love of whisky, Jones admits that she’s much more of a gin girl, “but I’ve had little samples of the ones we have here, and they’re [all] pretty good!”
As a self-confessed gin lover, Montis Distilling’s Alpine Gin was a natural choice for Jones’s spirited riff on a Bijou cocktail, “The Grinch that Stole 2020.” Made with coniferous tree tips foraged from Whistler, Montis is the only craft distillery in Whistler and is located in Function Junction, just 8 kilometres south of Whistler Village. “The Negroni is one of my favourite cocktails. I love those equal-parts drinks, and the Bijou is made from gin, sweet vermouth and Green Chartreuse. Our Grinch [cocktail] is gin, Green Chartreuse, dry white vermouth and Fernet Branca. I round that out with lavender bitters, shake it and serve it in a rocks glass with a beautiful big cube of ice stamped with the Bearfoot Bistro logo and garnish with fresh-picked spruce tips.” And how does this gloriously Grinchy creation taste? “It’s quite booze-forward but beautifully herbaceous too. The spruce tips garnish, and lavender bitters give it a beautiful foresty-floral note.”
MALLARD LOUNGE AND TERRACE AT FAIRMONT CHATEAU WHISTLER
604-938-8000 | fairmont.com/whistler/dining
Duck in The Fog
“I love working with as many local distillers as possible,” says the Mallard Lounge’s Assistant Manager Ross Watson. “I’m a big believer that we need to support local whenever we can.” When it comes to B.C. craft distilleries, Watson says his preference changes according to his mood. “The great thing about B.C.’s craft distillery scene is that it offers us such a wide spectrum of products with unique botanicals that you just can’t get anywhere else.”
The Mallard Lounge began a collaboration with the Tofino Distillery last year, showcasing a different cocktail using small-batch, craft-made spirits from the small town of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. However, their Cedar Gin used in the “Duck in the Fog” cocktail proved such a smash hit with guests that the cocktail found a permanent place on the menu. “It’s so popular, we’ve made it one of our ‘Mallard Classics,’ which is a great way to keep on supporting the distillery,” Watson says.
The drink, smoked with applewood chips for an earthy, woody flavour, is a sophisticated sour with a dramatic wow factor. The “Duck in the Fog” is delivered table-side under a smoked cloche; the cover is removed, aromatic smoke ripples out… and other guests immediately rethink their drinking choices with this enviably Instagrammable moment! A house-made juniper syrup with rosemary and a little salt boosts the Tofino Distillery Cedar Gin’s flavour and aromatics, along with herbaceous Green Chartreuse and lime juice. Shaken over ice with egg white, this silky treat’s final garnish is a cute duck sprayed on top with Angostura bitters into the foam and a sprig of fresh rosemary.”