Cheers to creative drinks that are as interesting as the people who quaff them.
Photography by Peter Markiw
Fresh ingredients. Herbs that bring new dimensions to the base ingredients. Modern takes on old classics.
No, this isn’t an article about food – it’s about the rise of the artisanal cocktail. Just as our food culture has been elevated during the last five years, we are seeing more and more Edmontonians who demand more from their bars than highballs and domestic brown-bottle beer.
The drinks aren’t just sitting on the tables while we have our discussions at the bar; now, the drinks themselves are the talking points.
“The garnish isn’t just a garnish anymore,” says Jason Yen, bar manager at the Mercer Tavern. “It’s as important a part of the drink as the spirit itself.”
Here’s a look at the new wave of unique mixed drinks in Edmonton.
(11011 Jasper Ave., 780-761-1011)
Red Wine Cobbler
Ingredients: Red wine, passion fruit syrup, orange juice, sparkling wine, strawberry pieces, mint garnish
Four ounces of a jammy red wine combined with the tang of passion fruit syrup and orange juice makes for a cocktail that tastes like you’re biting into a piece of fresh fruit. One of the favourites of Niche owner Jolene Edden, the drink’s layering of flavours is consistent with the restaurant’s complex dishes.
(10363 104 St., 587-521-1911)
Ingredients: Pickled asparagus, Clamato, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, bacon, Ardbeg
The Scotch Caesar wins when it comes to savoury drinks. OK, Scotch purists, don’t put the magazine down. Give this a chance. The Mercer’s Caesar features a pickled asparagus and bacon as flavour enhancers – but uses a not-sweet 10-year-old Ardbeg as the base. The almost-clear, smoky Scotch enhances the drink’s spice.
The Manor Casual Bistro
(10109 125 St., 780-482-7577)
Sloe Gin Fizz
Ingredients: Sloeberry gin, G’vine gin, lemon, sugar, egg white, seltzer
Attributed to bartender Jerry Thomas circa 1887 and reinvented by the Manor’s new bartender, Brendan Brewster, the Gin Fizz takes on a sweet note with the taste of berry gin. The egg white provides foam and texture, and the sprig of thyme lends an herbal twist, making this cocktail a sure bet to quench your thirst.
(10224 97 St., 780-497-0011)
Ingredients: Gianduia chocolate grappa, Frangelico, Galliano, splash of milk
The marriage of chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla makes this creamy cocktail a dessert in itself. Created from a smell test between several of the lounge’s liqueurs to determine the most amazing combinations, it’s best enjoyed on a full stomach, when one can appreciate the drink’s richness.
(10363 104 St., 587-521-1911)
Rosemary Citrus Gimlet
Ingredients: Belvedere citrus vodka, lime juice, rosemary-cinnamon syrup, rosemary
This year, the Mercer moved away from retro drinks and towards creations that are totally modern. This drink features lime juice that’s squeezed fresh on a daily basis, and a rosemary-cinnamon simple syrup that’s concocted on-site. A sprig of rosemary is mulled into the drink to add freshness to the sour.
(11806 Jasper Ave., 780-760-1616)
Ingredients: Shiso leaf, Japanese plum wine, rum, lime, soda
Shiso leaves, a recurring ingredient in Japanese cooking, combine the freshness of mint with a licorice bite of fennel. Paired with sweet Japanese plum wine, it’s incomparably refreshing, both in its crispness and flavour. Like Japonais’s adventurous sushi, it’s a blend you’ll be happy you tasted.
Central Social Hall
(10909 Jasper Ave., 780-795-1900)
Ingredients: Blueberry vodka, lemonade, soda water
The Berry Smash mixes blueberry vodka, lemonade and soda water for a nice, light, clean summer drink. It’s garnished with blueberries to add a little fruity pulp to the gulps. But you need to be careful with this refreshing, too-good-to-stop drink; one can lead to five really quickly.
(10135 100 St., 780-426-3636)
Weekend Old Fashioned
Ingredients: Alberta Premium Dark Horse rye whiskey, egg white, sugar, maraschino cherries
The Weekend Old Fashioned, the hotel’s take on a Don Draper classic, uses Alberta Premium Dark Horse rye whiskey – a new blend from our province’s famed distiller, whose work is rated higher that Crown Royal or Canadian Club in the world’s go-to guide of grain liquors, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
(8101 Gateway Blvd., 780-439-2337)
Ingredients: Grape vodka, Triple Sec, club soda, lime juice
MKT is known for its extensive beer list, but it also has a small-yet-refined cocktail list. When it comes to summer patio drinks, the Grape Escape has a hint of sweet, a hint of sour and a lot of fizz. Don’t let this drink’s girly pale green exterior fool you; sipping it won’t cause anyone to take away your man card.
Dahlia’s Mediterranean Bistro
(10235 124 St., 780-488-7656)
Ingredients: A double shot of espresso, vodka, fresh cardamom, simple syrup
Dahlia’s owner, Fadi Smaidi, has captured his bistro’s essence in a cup. A double shot of espresso is mixed with Mediterranean herbs and the same simple syrup he uses to coat his baklava. Modelled after a Turkish coffee, the Delight is served cold and is a perfect complement to tiramisu on a hot day.
Fairmont Hotel Macdonald
(10065 100 St., 780-424-5181)
Ingredients: Patrn Tequila Reposado, Tuaca, Aperol, simple syrup, grapefruit juice
Here’s a creation from Jordan Watson, the resident mixologist at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. The Katie Mae is a hybrid of Mexican and Italian flavours. Vanilla flavours from Tuaca help ease the tequila bite. Add simple syrup and grapefruit juice and you have a patio favourite for 2013.
(9910 109 St., 780-452-7333)
Ingredients: Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, Chambord, lemon wedge and lime juice
In time for summer, The Common focuses on drinks that will be a hit on its new patio. The only beer-based drink on our list, this playful mix takes its sourness and body from the beer, while the lemon and lime cut some of the bitterness. Even those who detest beer will warm up to this drink.
(99 Street and 102 Avenue, 780-392-2501)
Ingredients: Crme Yvette, acai-blueberry vodka, iced tea, ginger ale, Saskatoon berries
Zinc boasts a list of liqueurs you won’t find in other bars around the city. The restaurant’s bartender, Aleksandar Milic, invented the Marianne, named after a Zinc regular. It’s made up of unique ingredients, including lavender-infused Crme Yvette and a sweet orange iced tea that’s made fresh in-house.
(10538 Jasper Ave., 780-423-4256)
Ingredients: Jalapeno pepper, Sauza platinum tequila, Cointreau, lime, agave syrup
Only a few of The Bower’s mature crowd try this drink, but those who do always request another, according to bartender Shad Tebay. The heat of the jalapeo blends with the sweetness of the Cointreau, leaving a light burn running down the throat. Chase it with a glass of water before going back for more.