This fall, cocktail connoisseurs Victoria Walsh and Scott McCallum are releasing a comprehensive tome titled A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails (Appetite by Random House) that highlights key Canadian ingredients in cocktails and divides them up by region. The hardcover glossy is a great addition to anyone’s recipe book shelf, and will make for a helpful companion for hostesses during the upcoming holiday party season.
Below is one recipe from the book we can’t wait to try: The Canadian, an updated Old-Fashioned made with maple sugar candy in place of a sugar cube.
– 1 small maple leaf sugar candy, no larger than 1 inch in diameter
– 2 dashes Bittered Sling Kensington Dry Aromatic bitters or Angostura bitters
– 1 large ice cube
– 2 oz Canadian rye whisky, such as Alberta Premium Dark Horse
– Handful of ice cubes
– 1 lemon peel strip
Cut maple leaf in half. Place one half into an old-fashioned glass. Add bitters. Muddle into a paste. Add large ice cube to old-fashioned glass along with paste. Pour in whisky. Pull a long strip of lemon peel over the glass, releasing oils into cocktail. Gently pinch, peel side out, misting oils over surface of the drink. Rub peel around the outside rim of the glass, then add.
Here, McCallum shares his inspiration behind the book, what it means for a cocktail to be “Canadian” and what common cocktail faux-pas they keep on seeing.
S/: What inspired you both to write this book?
Scott McCallum: We worked on the idea for a while, brainstorming what we thought our Canadian Cocktail project could be, like an article, blog or book. Initially just the website canadiancocktail.com was going to be our focus, but due to serendipitous timing the possibility of a book presented itself. As for the idea for the book itself, we have been collecting and making drinks from cocktail books from the U.S. and U.K. for years and had yet to find one that celebrated the amazing cocktail culture in Canada. We longed for something that included spirits that we could get our hands on and we wanted to see Northern talent be celebrated. It seemed like an obvious idea and in some ways we were just lucky to be the first ones to tackle a completely Canadian cocktail book.
It’s interesting that you start by acknowledging the complexity of nailing what it is that makes something “Canadian” in your introduction. After completing the book, in hindsight, is there a common thread you found in your research of Canadian flavours and cocktails?
It’s safe to say that within our research specifically, one common factor was that Canadians like to drink! Haha. But seriously, when it comes to trying to pin down a definition for being “Canadian” we still love the fact that there are infinite qualities that can fall within that descriptor. In our book, we followed the criteria of featuring bartenders that practice their craft on Canada soil, we showcase beer, wine, liqueurs and spirits that are made here, and in some cases we draw inspiration from Canadian history and lore. Another thing we do is Canadian-ify classic recipes by including ingredients that are distinctly Canadian.
I like that you organized your cocktails into chapters based on region in Canada. Briefly, what is your take on what makes east, west, north and south unique in terms of cocktail culture?
Our book functions not only as a recipe book but also a travel guide, with advice on where to go for a good drink, so we do focus mainly on heavily populated areas. In order to strike a balance, we chose to divide the book up by West, Prairies, Middle, East and North. Basically, cocktail trends are moving in a similar direction throughout the country. Where people are making more beer, wines, liqueurs and spirits, there are more bartenders and mixologists finding exciting ways to feature those products. This is evident throughout A Field Guide to Canadian Cocktails. Take for instance, Lauren Mote uses local sake and her own Canadian Bittered Sling bitters in ‘The Emperor’ recipe.
Is there one rule or piece of advice you would like to share? One common faux-pas you’ve seen people make when concocting cocktails?
We really like to emphasize that drink making is fun. Since cocktails can be forgiving, we say, don’t fret too much. Just keep practicing! Now all that said, we do feel pretty strongly about the importance of using freshly squeezed citrus juice and in-season ingredients. The bottled stuff pales in comparison and yield drastically different flavour.