Island Nation

“I can’t believe what you guys are doing up here!”

It was pretty obvious that Jim Romdall was impressed.  Romdall, mixologist of Seattle’s cocktail hotspot, Vessel, was recounting his past few days in Victoria.  Visits with bartenders, seminars at Sea Cider and Canoe – plus an afternoon grazing and gulping at ICC’s Defending our Backyard – had left an indelible impression on the friendly and talented young man.

“Sure, there are people doing local in Seattle, but it’s nowhere near the extent of what you guys are doing up here.” Jim enthused.   And coming from this man that is all about the details – that means a lot.  He has gained a local and loyal following by “caring about cocktails every step of the way”, from the freshest ingredients to artisan spirits to the crafting of the ice.  Vessel is known for both their respect to the classics, and their new wave creations.   Jim likens a well made cocktail to well made wine – it keeps evolving and changing in the glass over time.  Just consider that the next time you’re trying to keep up at the bar.  Slow down.  Sip.  Savor.

Jim and his crew at Vessel were key players in Seattle’s cocktail renaissance, and are at the top of their game today.  Vessel opened 3.5 years ago – about 18 months before the drink scene exploded in the Emerald City.  Now there are more than 2 dozen dedicated professional mix-masters in the city, coming together to form the Washington Bartenders Guild 1.5 years ago.  When asked about the difference between cocktail culture between Seattle and Victoria, he doesn’t hesitate – “size.”  Seattle is much bigger, and more brains and butts at the bar has given them a good jumpstart on us.  And then, just as quickly he says “price.”  BC’s liquor pricing is unbelievable to him, and the cost we have to pay for base product is “a huge detriment to our cocktail culture.  How can you create a quality beverage in a bar for under $20?  It just doesn’t make sense, business-wise.”    I asked him about his favourite local products so far – and after an afternoon at the “very inspiring” Island Chef’s Collaborative event, he had too many to recount.  Some top picks – Sea Cider, Phillip’s Beer and Victoria Gin – plus some up-and-comers to the Victoria spirits scene too new to mention here (hint hint).  He used some local faves in his creation of a cocktail to commemorate his Victoria visit – the first, I predict, of many.

Island Nation

Original cocktail by Jim Romdall, inspired by his trip to Victoria and our self-sufficient and sustaining food culture

Victoria Oaken Gin – 1.5 oz

Sea Cider Pomona  – ¾ oz

Victoria Spirits Twisted & Bitter – bar spoon

Simply Syrup – bar spoon

Orange slice (Jim’s came from N. Saanich’s Fruit Trees & More)

Stir together over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.   Flame the orange zest and rub rim.  Serve.

*Treve’s note.  The show – flash flame of alcohol influenced orange peel – was as impressive as the aroma of this drink.  Burnished, heady and robust citrus nose, with velvet smooth flavours of sweet apple, herbs, floral and citrus.

Rating:  (click here to see what our wine ratings mean)

— Treve Ring, DRINK Editor

June 6, 2010

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade. In addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for WineAlign, ...

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