My interest in mixology and bartending started three years ago in Geneva with watching a bartender who had previously worked in Canada. A few months later I had the opportunity to visit his former workplace in Montreal and another bar he’d recommended. I was impressed with what I saw and tasted and started following the Quebec cocktail scene on the Internet. I returned to Montreal last summer, where I visited Le 4e Mur, an amazing speakeasy bar with a superb cocktail menu, and l’Ecole du Bar de Montréal, the bartending school opened by Le 4e Mur’s founders. Again I was impressed. I was thus glad to find A field guide to Canadian cocktails by Scott McCallum & Victoria Walsh upon my return to Geneva and immediately ordered it online to learn more about cocktail culture in Canada in general.
A field guide to Canadian cocktails is a handy travel companion for mixology geeks traveling through Canada and curious to sample typical local products, such as beers, wines, spirits or fruits and their by-products (apple cider for example). It is indeed part a cocktail book, part a travel guide for spirit themed roadtrips through the Great White North. The two authors, Scott McCallum & Victoria Walsh, have traveled throughout their native country, exploring the best it has to offer in terms of produces, wines and spirits and compiled their finds in this unique book.
A field guide to Canadian cocktails starts with an introduction word by Scott and Victoria and a “Tricks & Tools” chapter giving readers basic cocktail techniques and a step-by-step guide to garnishing drinks. It also introduces the basic bar tools, glassware, spirits and bitters.
The book next jumps into Canadian cocktail culture with a chapter about drinks representative of the whole country, such as The Canadian and some variations of the Caesar (The Great White Caesar and the East-Meets-West Coast Caesar). In a sub-section dedicated to ingredients and terroir, the authors also introduce Canadian Gins, Canadian Crème de Cassis, other fruit liqueurs and give a recipe for Sour Slushes to enjoy the flavour of fresh Canadian fruits in drinks.
The cocktail roadtrip through Canada then starts with the next five chapters dedicated to a different region of the country each. They start with the accounts of Scott and Victoria’s visits to local producers, farmers, brewers, distillers and, of course, bartenders. They then list a dozen or so cocktails representing the region, using local products, created either by the authors or by the bartenders they’ve met. For instance, the Sea Island Iced Tea, a recipe from “The West” by Vancouver bartender Justin Taylor, uses Aquavit and Sea Buckthorn liqueur by Canadian brand Okanagan Spirits and cranberry juice in a nod to the Fraser Valley cultures. Other recipes will use ice cider, maple syrup, Saskatoon berry liqueurs, Canadian mustard, etc.
After touring Canada cocktail scenes in dozens of recipes, Scott and Victoria go back to “The Basics” sharing their recipes to prepare basic cocktail ingredients, such as syrups and cordials.
As food and drinks work in pair, Scott and Victoria offer their oysters & cocktails and cheese & cocktails pairing recommendations (with, of course, Canadian oysters and cheeses) in a chapter about “Food & Cocktails”. They also list a few imported and native herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers they use in their cocktail recipes.
Finally, for those interested in learning more about cocktails and spirits in general and about cocktail culture and ingredients in Canada in particular, Scott and Victoria give a list of 20 books for further reading.
Beautifully illustrated and rich in anecdotes, A field guide to Canadian cocktails is an enjoying read that will make you eager to book a holiday in Canada or go explore what your own country has to offer in terms of local products.