Friday, May 8, 2015

9 Cocktails You Should Know in Vancouver

Cocktail culture is booming in Vancouver. Much like many metropolitan areas in the United States, it's pulling from a number of already established cultures of yore. New Orleans, the classic prohibition era, and tiki. For this reason I've decided to put together a list of the cocktails that you have to know in order to survive bartending in Vancouver. There won't be any paralyzers, Pina coladas or strawberry daiquiris on this list (however, it doesn't hurt to know these things anyway).

9. The Shirley Temple

Since I don't approve of Shirley Temples,
here's a Tequila Martini!
Let's get something straight at the onset here. I hate making Shirley Temples. They're essentially a child's drink that's made out to be a cocktail. And, parents being the responsible jerks that they are want to expose their children to cocktail culture in virgin form. Traditionally, it's orange juice, 7 up, and grenadine. But it also normally gets the disgusting maraschino cherry topper, skewered through an orange wheel or something. I hope you're wearing gloves because those cherries will stain your fingers.

Try twisting it up by giving an adult take on the famous virgin drink. A dash of orange flavored bitters, and swapping the 7 up with club soda will do you a world of good. Also do something like 4 times as much soda than orange juice, instead of the regular half and half. As for the grenadine.... well it sort of makes the drink, but pom will also give it an interesting look and flavor. When topping with garnish throw away your crap cherries and opt for real cherries from the produce department, and some orange zest.

8. Frozen Margaritas

So I gotta say... Mexican Bulldogs...
So awesome.
As a hot tourist destination, due in part to the lovely Vancouver beaches, margaritas are a tourist favorite. I have to say though, it is a bit weird because it never really gets all that hot in Vancouver, and people tend to prefer them in the frozen variety. I for one prefer them shaken, but since this list is not about my prefeerence, I recommend you get used to making them.

A normal margarita gets an ounce and a half of tequila and half an ounce of triple sec. I should add here that Grand Marnier works better, though it is pricy. Again, the standard is two ounces of lime juice and an ounce of simple syrup, and then you can blend using some ice cubes. If you opt to blend, make sure to add more ice as you go until you get a desired consistency. You can also try substituting the sweet and sour mix by pureeing various fruits, like banana, pinapple, or even kiwi, and throwing In different types of syrup, such as coconut or passionfruit.

7. The Cosmopolitan

That Cosmo! This one actually has Litchi in it, so
it's not totally my kind of thing.
What's a little sex in the city without a Cosmopolitan? And as ashamed as I am to be ashamed make to ask that question there's no shame in being able to make ashamed make a good cosmo. A lot of restaurants and bars of their own take on the cosmo, where they add their own little twist. Usually this something along the lines of using blue curacao to make the drink purple, or adding some random infused vodka. I don't recommend straying from the original though, unless you come up with something truly ground breaking.

A cosmo is quite simple. An ounce and a half of vodka and half of triple sec, an ounce of each lime juice, simple syrup and cranberry juice, shake, strain, garnish and voila! And if you were expecting a way to twist it up, like the previous cocktails you can forget about it.... well okay, the blue curacao thing isn't bad, and there are ways to make this cocktail work using grapefruit juice. But that's all you'll get from me!

6.The Martini

This is a Martini. Note: no bullshit.
Just like every other half classy city in the world, the Martini makes the list. There's nothing complicated here, and if I was hesitant to offer a twist on the Cosmopolitan, it goes doubly so with the Martini. Hell, I don't even like to use vodka in my Martinis, opting for the original gin version. And of course, weaker tongue individuals will have their dirty versions, but I'll stick to the standard.

The original martini calls for an ounce and a half of gin, and a half an ounce of dry vermouth.  I prefer to stir mine, but they're okay shaken as long as one double strains to compensate for ice chunks. And then there's the ever famed muddled ice martini, in the style of Bruno, bartender of Zam Zam and San Francisco bartending fame. It tastes no different than any other martini, but I have to say there's something more rewarding about making a martini this way. Perhaps it's all in the fact that by doing so, I'm doing something that so few others do?

5. The Manhattan

How can you have a list with the martini on it, and not the Manhattan? Well save for a gin cocktails you have to know list, anyway. The Manhattan is often referred to as the Martini of rye whiskey. I don't like to think of it that way, but I will grant that it's a pretty good comparison.

This is how I like my Manhattans. Pretty awesome, right?
The traditional methods of drinking this cocktail called for it on the rocks, and some people still like to do it that way, though, the popular method is to put it in a Martini, which fully realizes the false equivalency that this is a Martini with rye. Being that this is a whiskey cocktail, I readily scoff at the prospect of putting this in a flared rim glass. Whiskey has a delicate and pleasant nose, which needs to be funneled by the likes of an wine glass, glencairn or brandy glass. For the Manhattan though I prefer to use a snifter. I find that it has the perfect volume for the way I like them.

An ounce and a half of rye, half an ounce of sweet vermouth and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Like the Martini, I prefer it stirred and then strained. But no maraschino cherries for this one. Stick to lemon or orange peel, to complement the rye. Or if you're particularly daring, you can brandy marinate your own cherries. Don't be afraid to try different bitters and vermouth. While Martini rosso is a quality product, Cinzano or Punt E Mes can be even better.

4. The French 75

This French 75 was made using Earl Grey infused Gin.
I was debating even including this one, instead, opting to out the Mimosa on the list. I mean who are we kiddinf? Mimosas are better known and more popular than the French 75. But since this list is going on a stylish streak, I'm just gonna assume everyone knows what goes into a Mimosa, but not necessarily a French 75. In reality, the reason I included this is because I see it as being similar but superior to the mimosa. Not necessarily because to absolutely HAVE to know what it is. That said, brunch is very popular in Vancouver,  and I most definitely encourage you to move your guests away from their Sunday Spumante and orange juice.

It's a similar kind of cocktail as the mimosa, calling for sparkling wine. The popular,  and affordable way is to choose a California Prossecco, but traditionally they are a French creation, and Champagne is the preferred method, if you can stomach using Champagne in a cocktail. Add an ounce of gin and half an ounce of triple sec with some lemon juice and a bit of simple syrup. Shake to your heart's content, and then strain into a flute before topping with your bubbly. I recommend garnishing with a long twirled lemon spiral zest.

3. Mojito

I have to tell you guys... a spiced rum Mojito is pretty
off the balls awesome.
This is another cocktail where I'm going to urge you to stick with the traditional recipe. But in all honesty, different versions of the Mojito can work real well, as long as there's no extra sugar added. Read: no packaged purees! There are also ways to make a Mojito into a delicious beer cocktail, which I'll have room elaborate sometime in another post.

For a true Mojito start off by muddling a healthy handful of mint with a bit of granulated sugar. The mint is the most important flavor of this cocktail, so make sure it's good quality! No black spots, or soggy leaves here!

Next add two ounces of white rum, an ounce of lime juice and an ounce of simple syrup and shake. Pour into a Collins glass and top with soda water to finish your concoction. If you're going to opt for the popular raspberry Mojito, I'd recommend muddling real raspberries with the mint, and using Bacardi Black Razz.

2. The Old Fashioned

I like my Old Fashioned to be indistinguishable
from my Manhattans. Big whoop?! Wanna fight
about it?!
The cocktail that started it all I guess. This is your go to for enjoying a good bourbon, and possibly the most popular classic cocktail in Vancouver. There's a lot of debate about what a true Old Fashioned was like in its time, but the most reliable sources say the four constituent ingredients are sugar, water, bitters and whiskey.

I've written about this one before,  and you can get the full story there. As for how to prepare it? Take a teaspoon of sugar, or a sugar cube, pour a few dashes of Angostura bitters onto it, add a teaspoon of water and stir to your heart's content. Or, rather, stir till the sugar is fully devolved. And two ounces of whiskey and your done. The familiar ice and orange zest are optional.  Personally I prefer mine neat, with a lemon zest. It should also be noted that you can enjoy an Old Fashioned with pretty much any spirit that isn't neutral flavored.

1. The Caesar

Note: A good caesar can be an entire meal!
I'm going to be honest with you. I wasn't sure whether to even put this in the list. It sort of goes without saying that every bartender needs to know how to make a Caesar. But I suppose that this cocktail essentially wraps up the cocktail culture of Canada, it has to be done. Whether you do it or not at your bar, that's totally up to the owners I suppose (there are places that refuse to make them).

Rim a glass with celery salt, and an ounce of vodka, a few dashes of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, fill with clamato juce and garnish with whatever ridiculous machinations you can come up with.

And there you have it.

Honorable mention: the Negroni.

In truth I prefer the Negroni to both of the gin cocktails on this list. That being said, this is a list for the masses! The Negroni is still a drink of the niche sophisticated croud.

This is not just any Negroni... it's a Negroni Spagliato! Basically that means I topped a Negroni with Spumante.

Friday, May 1, 2015

How to drink Espresso like a douche

Before I get started, I want to caveat the premise of my post with the usual ego deflating explanation. People like what they like. I can't tell them that what they like is wrong, but nevertheless, there are certain things I can't stand, and I believe that if the person knew what I knew, they would do things differently. So, with my own self admitted judginess laid bare for what it is, I just want to reiterate that it even though I react this way, I don't think there's anything wrong with people liking what they like, and if anything I'm the one who should be shamed, for being so particular and narcissistic.

With all that said, the skinny latte crowd really grind my gears.
I can appreciate a good espresso coffee. I like Americanos, and Cappuccino, and although Lattes aren't my thing, I can appreciate and respect them for what they are. That said, if you're watching your weight - like a lot of us, including myself - a skinny latte isn't going to help you much. And it also tastes like shit. If you're really that desperate to cut back on your liquid calories, how about you just go for the superior tasting and lower calorie Cappuccino, or, better yet, you can be a normal grown up and get a regular coffee.

Then there's decaf, which for as much as I dislike the idea or taking the drug out of our favorite caffeine delivery method, I can still understand it. Coffee tastes good. You want to give up the stimulant and still have your coffee. So what on Earth is there for me to complain about it if I can understand why it's a thing?
Decaf Americanos. What's the point? just get a regular decaf drip coffee for half the price. One of the key differences between espresso and regular drip coffee is that it's supposed to be more concentrated in flavor, but turning it into a regular coffee, ala the Americano essentially gives you a lower caffeine option to drip coffee, without giving up the caffeine entitely. The moment you opt for a decaf Americano, you're destroying everything that makes espresso preferable to regular coffee in the first place. There's something our there for you decaf Americano fans. It's half the price, for the same volume, gives you the same results and it goes by the name decaf coffee. Anything else and you're just paying for the image of being someone who orders espresso drinks. Espresso is supposed to be associated with a certain quality of flavor. Not pretentiousness.

And while we're on the topic of decaf, so you know what else grinds my gears?! People who order decaf and then load it up with sugar. Normally people give up caffeine because they're trying to get rid of the dependence on a stimulant. So it's perplexing when they replace the stimulating effect of caffeine with the stimulating effect of sugar, which, on top of giving you a sugar high, can also have other notable effects on your health, the least of which being, it contributes to weight gain. So it's the same as caffeine, but it also contributes to ruining your teeth, messed up blood sugar levels, and making you fat.

Okay okay. Maybe they still want their coffee to taste palatable without having caffeine, right? Well I'm going to start by saying grow the fuck up and drink your coffee black, or, if that's not an option, use splenda, vanilla, or cocoa to flavor your coffee. Seriously, those are all good no calorie options that most coffee shops have available.


With all that out of the way, if you still want to drink coffee in the way that I claim is asinine, then have at it Hoss. One irritable bartender who disagrees with the Burger King slogan "Have it your way", trying to alter everything on every menu shouldn't dictate what and how you drink. Ultimately you know what you like better than anyone else.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

How to make the Benton Park Swizzle

There once was a cocktail called the Queen's Park Swizzle. It carried all of the familiar ingredients of the Mojito, but with the addition of Angostura Bitters, floated on the top. And well, I suppose it calls for crushed ice, specifically, and typically has the mint leaves sunken on the bottom. But these are just minor details!

The Benton Park Swizzle looks pretty damn classy. Doesn't it?
One day, someone decided to create the same cocktail, but by floating Fernet, rather than Angostura. The variation was named the Benton Park Swizzle. And it's featured today on the Bottle Opener. Where did it come from? Nobody knows... Or, I don't at least. After roughly 5 minutes of intense research, I could find no original source for this cocktail. But learn how to make it below!

The Benton Park Swizzle
  • 2 oz Amber Rum
  • 1/2 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
  • 3/4 oz Lime Juice
  • 8-12 Mint Leaves
  • Garnish with Lime Wedge and Mint Sprig
Start off by muddling the mint leaves in simple syrup to a mixing glass, and then add lime juice and rum. Stir the ingredients around a bit, and pour it into your cocktail glass, with the addition of crushed ice. Stir the cocktail a bit again, and prop the leaves up on the side of the glass for added theater. Top the rest of the glass with ice, and garnish with lime wedges (you can put one in the drink if you wish) and a mint sprig, before floating the lovable Fernet Branca on top.

And as always, enjoy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Career Bartending Part 2; Make a Manga Resume Using the Instamag App

In my last article about resumes, I talked about how to develop skills, and show a level of professionalism that'll help you stand out in a sea of flashy smiles and rocket scientists (okay... maybe not that last one...) This time, I'm going to guide you to the realm of putting your resume out on Social Media, or how to use Social Media to make an attention grabbing resume. Specifically, I'll be looking at how to make a resume using the Instamag app for Android and iOS.

This is one of the icons for Instamag.
Am I the only one who sees a creepy
robot eye?
Instamag is a pretty cool app, designed for taking a series of photos and turning them into a magazine. You can use any number of the built in templates to create different styles of gimmicky magazine resumes, but I decided to start with the Manga template. Why did I go with this template? Because it conveys a number of things about me that I want to be communicated in my resume. First of all, I am a geek, and I love geek culture, which extends to both comic books, and Japanese pop culture. You may think that this sort of mind set clashes with all the hoopla I raised about professionalism in my last post, but that's a grave mistake. I'm communicating my creativity, and my ability to think outside of the box, and also setting a standard for what kind of person I am, and will continue to be in my career. It also continues on the train of thought of trying to get into your ideal working situation, hopefully, by surrounding yourself with like minded individuals.

If I could make this image my resume, I would.
This image contains I want you to know about me!
it also communicates nothing about me.
Once you select this particular template, you can continue by adding 3 to 7 photos, per page. For text portions, I took screen shots of stylized text in various documents, and took a screenshot of my personal website (, and set them up on two pages. I also added some photos of cocktails I've made, which shows some proof of my ability to bartender. It can sometimes be weird attaching a photo of you behind the wood, but in a picture heavy resume like this, it's perfectly normal. Well, as normal as normal gets in a manga resume, anyway.

I also included one screen cap from Archer, which may be a little bit risque; I decided to roll with it in this version of the resume, anyway, but beware of using humor like this. It can cause a lot of damage to your efforts. This particular image contains a scene in Archer, with a screen cap "Sour mix? In a Margarita? What is this, Auschwitz!" Hilarious to me. Perhaps hilarious to you. Not necessarily hilarious to Mr. Finkelstein. Heck, it would be downright offensive to a lot of people who either don't agree with, or care about the context. Use images like this with caution!

If the person reading your resume is a fan of Sterling Archer, this could go over very well.
Or not.
Another thing that makes Instamag's Manga templates great is that you can add stickers and speech bubbles. In this way, I can narrate certain images in my resume to portray my voice, and add yet another level of humor. You may be scratching your head and asking why to use so much humor when you're trying to look professional. Well, it's simple, really. If you can make someone laugh - not at your misery, but at your sense of humor and ability to make light of yourself - then you are speaking to their heart and soul in some ways. Taking yourself seriously is pretty important, but if you take yourself too seriously all the time, you'll just seem like a stuck-up douchebag. Who wants to hire that guy or gal?

This is one of the few still photos of
me bartending. It's not the greatest photo,
so I'm not shy to make a point of making
fun of myself.
When you come up with a template that you like, save it to your Google Drive (or whatever the hell cloud service you're using to back up your stuff) and circulate it to your personal computer. Make a long version of your manga by using an application like GIMP, and then upload it to Pinterest, with appropriate keywords. Take various screen caps from your resume and post them to your Instagram, completing the resume over time. Make sure that when you do this, you leave information for how to get in contact with you, such as your e-mail address, your personal website address, or your LinkedIn page. You can also add your resume to that blog I told you to make last time. Sort of like how I'm adding my resume here.

Lastly, don't forget to network with people on these various social networking services, or contact people from your existing network and ask them to take a look at your resume. Don't be afraid to get an opinion about the resume from your former bosses or references. Ask them if they'd hire you if they got a resume like that, and if not, ask them where you went wrong.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Yukon Shine Auragin Review

A few things about Yukon Shine Distillery

Yukon Shine Distillery was brought into existence as the brain child of Karlo Krauzig. In 2009 he started the distillery, and today it is represented by two spirits (a vodka and gin) containing a three grain spirit blend, with the premier ingredient being Yukon gold potatoes fom the Yukon. During the filtration process, the spirits are also filtered through Yukon gold nuggets, producing a product that truly is of the Yukon in as many areas as possible.

My experience with Yukon Shine

I exhibited three cocktails for Yukon Shine
at the Art of the Cocktail in Victoria.
In 2014 I decided that I wanted to take a more active role in the craft spirits scene in Vancouver. This started when I tried out for a cocktail competition in July 2014. The competition was put on by the Gin Society and the Canadian Professional Bartending Association at Grain Bar in the Hyatt Regency of downtown Vancouver. I submitted a cocktail recipe using Yukon Shine's Auragin and I was chosen to represent them at the event. I went on to win the third place prize at that event.

I went on to represent Yukon Shine twice more. In the first instance, I went to Victoria to exhibit three craft cocktails using the Yukon Shine products at the Art of the Cocktail event in August. My last opportunity to represent Yukon Shine was in November, at the BC Connect trade show, in Vancouver.

Over this time period, I've gotten to know the products quite well.

Yukon Shine Auragin

Auragin is Canada's own award winning microdistilled gin. Quite frankly, I believe that it is the best Canadian gin, and ranks fairly high against other top rated gins out there.

The first thing you'll notice about the nose is that the recognizable juniper odor is much less prominent than your standard London Dry Gins. With this one, there is the familiar essence of coriander, but the most relevant aroma is that of citrus peels. While most of the botanicals are sourced directly from the Yukon, obviously the addition of grapefruit peel is one of the few ingredients that come from another place. Nevertheless, the grapefruit, and lemon zest are a welcomed scent among the more earthier spice tones.

The citrus comes off even stronger in the body, and lingers throughout the finish. Watering the spirit down tones the juniper even more, and notes of anise, licorice, vanilla, and pepper appear in the mid body. The finish is somewhat short, though, pleasant. One would wish the finish to be somewhat longer, as it is such a smooth experience throughout the tasting.

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