The Best (Mostly Vegan-friendly) Foamy Sour Cocktails
Story by Nikki Bayley | Images By Joern Rohde
E verything old is new again. The sour cocktail — one of the oldest styles of mixed drinks, dating to the 1600s — is having its fashionable moment in the sun. A sour is simply a base spirit, plus citrus and a sweetener. An egg white is often shaken in, too, to give the drink a creamy, foamy head. However, modern bar ingredients now make these sours accessible to vegans, thanks to egg-free foamers, so now everyone can sip a sour!
Building from a base of those classic gin or whisky sours to something a little more modern with a twist, we asked some of Whistler's best bartenders to showcase their new favourite sours and to share their Whistler “sweet spots” too because, like the essence of a sour, life should reflect perfect balance.
CURE LOUNGE & PATIO
Bartender Shane Flannery
604-966-5711 | nitalakelodge.com
RASPBERRY, RHUBARB, AND BEETROOT SOUR
“I love a whisky sour, or even an Amaretto sour with a little whisky in the base to balance out that sweetness,” says Bartender Shane Flannery. “Sours are perfect because they balance out sweet with citrus, so you get all the flavours and that sweet hit, but it’s well-balanced.” You certainly get all the flavours in this marvellous, ruby-coloured concoction, created using beet-infused London Dry Juniper Gin (“we wanted something without a lot of botanicals to let the beet flavour shine”), a house-made rhubarb syrup, lemon juice, vegan Miraculous foamer, with sweet, freeze-dried raspberries rimmed on the glass. It smells terrific, looks spectacular, and tastes phenomenal!
As I sit nibbling the raspberries from the glass and rhapsodizing about the subtle rhubarb notes in this deliciously earthy sour, Flannery tells me the inspiration for the drink was wanting to create a pure spring-summer cocktail. I love this. The beets alone would make it fall-flavoured, but the joyful freshness of the rhubarb and raspberry pull it straight back to summer. “And you can’t beat a Nick and Nora [classic cocktail] glass,” says Flannery. “It just screams class!”
Flannery’s sweet spot in the summer is hiking. “It’ll take a full day to do Panorama Ridge, but it’s so much fun. Over at Garibaldi Lake, the viewpoint is phenomenal and we once had a couple of cute whisky jacks following us, and we spotted deer and marmots too.” But the sweetest spot is closer to home. “Nita Lake is so stunning in all seasons. I’ve done the polar plunge off the dock through a hole in the ice, but I’m looking forward to jumping in after work this summer.”
Bar Manager Milan Katrenic
604-932-4442 | ilcaminetto.ca
Bar Manager Milan Katrenic deftly sets fire to a scooped-out lime garnished with star anise and sprinkles cinnamon over the top, which sparks the flame, instantly creating a toasty, spicy aroma with a dash of drama. This delicious-smelling creation has its roots in tiki culture but cheekily borrows its name from the British sailors of the 1600s. “When I was researching the history of sours, they started back with British sailors,” explains Katrenic. “They drank rum and mixed it with lime juice to avoid getting scurvy at sea. That’s where they got the nickname of ‘Limeys,’ so I thought Limey and then ‘blimey,’ and that made me laugh.”
The Oh Blimey is a blend of Bumbu Rum Co.’s Original Bajan spiced rum (a delectable tasting rum with notes of chocolate, toffee, and banana), a dash of Dr. McGillicuddy's Root Beer, and yuzu cordial shaken with egg white or aquafaba, and is then given a fully theatrical aromatic garnish. It’s an easy-sipping delight with a creamy sweet toffee-and-vanilla finish, with tropical coconut and banana notes. It tastes even better than it smells — and it smells amazing!
When he’s not researching sailors’ cocktail habits from the 1600s, you’ll find Katrenic enjoying Whistler summer fun. “I can’t wait for the longer warm days, perfect for exploring the B.C. wilderness. On my days off I enjoy spending time outdoors, finding new fishing and camping spots and hiking trails around this amazing province. My local sweet spot is Green Lake, where I spend a lot of time before work, mostly paddleboarding and fishing with my dog.”
Bar Manager James Lloyd
604-938-1879 | carambarestaurant.com
LAVENDER EMPRESS SOUR
I’ll be honest: when I think about Caramba, I think about their superb pastas and pizzas, but cocktails? Not so much. Turns out I’d been missing a treat as Bar Manager James Lloyd explains, “We have a great team here who are passionate about cocktails. We do lots of research into the latest trends, flavours, and spirits to incorporate those into our bar program.” Surrounded by lavender-scented smoke and sipping a colour-changing sour, with a zingy, lemony zip, it looks like the team might be onto something!
“We’ve noticed an uptick in demand for sours,” Lloyd says. “We like to have at least three on the menu. I like the versatility of a sour: You can make it sweet or dial it down and let the aromatics come through.” It’s that judicious balance of sweet and citrus that comes through perfectly here, with a beautifully balanced blend of Empress gin, lemon, a house-made lavender syrup and egg white. The flourish of the smoke gun adds a sense of drama and enhances those floral notes. “Guests love it,” says Lloyd. “We make one drink and then everyone wants to know what it is, and they just have to try it!”
A keen disc golfer (“I go about five times a week”), Lloyd’s summer sweet spot is all about an active walk through the woods. But if he’s not disc golfing, he’s hiking and steeling himself for a jump into the lake. “I’ve got a secret little spot which overlooks the Valley and Nita Lake — admittedly it’s one of the coldest lakes in Whistler but later in the season, you can’t beat it.”
Bartender Brandon Wanless
604-932-3433 | bearfootbistro.com
DEW FOR A GOOD TIME
While the Whistler Traveller team is photographing Bartender Brandon Wanless’s decadent sour, the Bearfoot kitchen team and I are gathered around the restaurant’s piano, snacking on extra slices of his delicious, compressed watermelon garnish. Macerated in a vacuum pack with mirin, lemon juice, white vinegar, vanilla syrup, and watermelon juice, it’s probably the best garnish I’ve ever tasted. Looking over, Brandon rolls his eyes and calls out, “Wait till you taste the drink!” He’s right. “Dew for a Good Time” is a gloriously creamy creation with a teasing spritz of bubbles and a delicate scent and taste of honeydew melon.
Riffing off a melon sour, Wanless explains, “When I think of summer, I think melons: watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe. We just got Romeo’s Gin from Quebec behind the bar, and when I smelled and tasted it, it seemed to be the perfect summer fit.” Add in puréed, filtered honeydew melon and a touch of blue agave syrup for sweetness, and lemon juice for balance. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Bearfoot if it weren’t a little over the top, so with a little cream, it’s shaken and strained, and he tops it with prosecco. “I’ve made a very simple sour, but I’ve incorporated a bunch of melon flavours too, and I love that creamy texture and fizz at the end.”
A winter warrior, Wanless’s sweet spot is skiing, but summer brings its own fun. “Alta Lake is just down the street from me, so I love to paddleboard and enjoy a cold cider [near] the lake. Hiking up a mountain is a tough sell for me, but sitting [by] that lake? I will suffer through it!”
Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Restaurant General Manager and
Resort Sommelier Nick Humphreys
604-938-8000 | fairmont.com/whistler/dining
I noted this as an absolute Goldilocks of a drink: it’s not too sweet, not too sour, not too boozy, just right! Mallard’s General Manager Nick Humphreys says with a grin, “We reverse-engineered this cocktail; we wanted something really colourful, so we started from there and worked backward.” A new spirit for the Mallard Lounge, the pisco for the Andean Sour comes from El Gobernador, a Chilean Pisco from the famed winemaker Miguel Torres. “We’re so excited to work with them. I really like the product; the grapes are grown specifically for the reserve pisco.”
Composed of El Gobernador, Campari, a house-made raspberry syrup, lemon juice, and egg white, it has a spirited, pisco-forward taste that gives way to creaminess, tart raspberries, and then more pisco! “We can easily switch up the egg white for a vegan foamer, too,” assures Humphreys. “So, everyone can enjoy this drink. Sours are really trending right now, and I’m a huge fan. They’re crisp, refreshing, [and have] lots of balance and acidity, and you can use any spirit.”
Looking forward to the summer, Humphreys’s Whistler sweet spot means hitting the links and the trails. “I’m a big golfer and mountain biker. I just love the summer, and I can’t get on my bike fast enough.” Then, laughing, he says, “Honestly, just being outside without having to put on jackets and ski boots is always pretty great!