I’m starting to figure out the art of sipping a cocktail for its taste, rather than drinking it for a buzz. It’s serving me well, as my day started before 11am with Born to Mix: Spirits “Made” for Cocktails.
Dushan Zaric from NYC was in town to give a science-meets-philosophy chat on mixing the perfect cocktail. We started by learning how to appreciate a cocktail for its dryness, its body or mouth feel (that usually means the alcohol in it!), its dominant flavour, contrasting flavour, complexity, and finally for its finish. It’s a lot to think about, but luckily Campari and Aperol gave us a couple of drinks to practice on.
Zaric, who has a masters in mechanical engineering, asked a critical question of the bartenders in the crowd.“Do you want another sip?” If the answer is yes, you’re on your way to making a good drink.
This talk gave me good insight into the real work that bartenders do, and also addressed some of their struggles. How to get the vodka/soda crowd to branch out a bit? How to make a drink that your bartender friends love, but will also sell to less adventurous customers? Who do you create for? It was an hour where beginners got a good lesson on cocktail appreciation, and Vancouver’s bartenders got to get close to a real celebrity in the bartending world.
Later in the day, I got a one-on-one whisky tasting with Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon. He’s in Vancouver to showcase Wild Turkey 81, which is a blend of bourbons aged 6, 7 and 8 years. Most folks are familiar with Wild Turkey 80, which is a little younger tasting and a more typical bourbon (aged just 4 years in White Oak barels). 81, however, is made specifically with mixing in mind. It has a smoother finish and deeper notes of vanilla and caramel, simply because of the extra time it gets in the oak barrels. When I asked Eddie how he drinks his bourbon, he answered “Over ice” — A bit of a rebel, this guy.
The Bitter Bash was the Valentines night event….and whether you had a sweetie or not, bitter was on the menu. Masik Studio Gallery was a sea of red-clad guests, drinking away their less-than sweet sentiments. As guests entered the space, they got Barrel Aged Negronis and Boulevardiers with Campari, Vermouth, and Hendrick’s Gin or Wild Turkey Bourbon, and amazing local bitters by Kale and Nori. The drinks followed the themes of lust, envy, passion, and love. “Love” was my favourite theme (awe shucks!) put together by Nishan Nepulangoda from Toronto, whose “Little Italy” featured SKYY vodka, Aperol, Campari, Cirus juices and syrups. A fun addition was boozy snowcones with Grapefruit, Crabapple and Peach Pepper flavours. If bitter wasn’t in your heart when you arrived at Bitter Bash, it was by the time you left.