Art Of The Cocktail 2014: After the Event

The Art of the Cocktail returned to Victoria for its 6th year. Once again, cocktail enthusiasts were wowed by the industry’s finest spirits and latest cocktail creations. Artisanal distilleries showcased their newest batches, while purveyors of established brands highlighted some of the world’s oldest and finest spirits. 

The three-day event strives to celebrate, educate, and invigorate imbibers on the craft of cocktail culture, with all proceeds going to the Victoria Film Festival. Over the course of the weekend, ticket holders attended special events, tastings, seminars, bartender competitions, and the weekend’s most elaborate event: The Grand Tasting at the historic Crystal Garden.

The Last Word (Cocktail Hour)
The Grand Tasting
French Connection (clives)

Tickets for the VIP Grand Tasting — a private one-hour sampling prior to the main event — sold like hot cakes. Guests arrived, dressed in their finest — suits, ties, cocktail dresses, vintage fashion, you name it — and enjoyed complimentary appetizers while sipping on cocktails that ranged from the classic to the experimental. With over 70 participants, there was no shortage of insider-info and tips on how to craft and perfect a range of exceptional cocktails.

Donut Peach Tarte (Clives)

Bartenders and chefs joined forces to put forth unique cocktails and appetizer pairings. The Cinnamon Apple Smash from the Bard & Banker was a definite highlight. A Wisers small batch whiskey cocktail with hints of lemon and mint infused with cinnamon-apple simple syrup, the Cinnamon Apple Smash was served with a single cream Brie and apple compote on a rosemary baguette. Clives staged a sweet Donut Peach Tarte with star anise syrup and lemon vanilla bean pastry cream, pairing it with their version of the classic French Connection made with vodka, Giffard peach, lychee liqueur, lemon juice, and absinthe. It was a simply gorgeous pairing and a nicely executed cocktail and, with so many autumn inspired spiced cocktails, was a perfect pallet cleanser that was tart and refreshing. Meanwhile, newcomers Ampersand Distilling emerged with their small batch gin made from organic B.C. grain — a smooth, clean, and easy drinking spirit.

Earls Chocolate Hazelnut Bar

For the serious imbiber, 90-minute seminars were held throughout the weekend, featuring talks on everything from gin, to whiskey, to bitters, to rum. Guests enjoyed classic and innovative cocktail creations while their hosts shed light on the ways in which the past continues to shape the present in the world of cocktail culture. Tracing individual spirits back to their origins, seminars covered cocktail lore from the pre-prohibition days, to the James Bond-era whiskey craze, to a look at the Italian Futurist movement hosted by Sunmeet Lamba (distributor of Cocchi Asti). During the Lamba seminar, two cocktails were featured by Lamba and local representative Samantha Chamberlain of Indigo Hospitality Solutions: the Cocchi Soda — a lovely concoction of Cocchi Americano on ice with soda and orange peel, and the Cocchi Negroni — a bolder drink with lasting, trailing flavours in a mix of gin, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and Campari served on ice with orange peel.

Ampersand Small Batch Gin

The Fairmont Empress hosted a Cocktail Hour for guests to come and sample hors d’oeuvres and sip on classic cocktails made with a few modern twists. Vintage fashion from the 1940s and 50s was showcased while hostess Monika Owczarek of Global Wine Merchants discussed the key differences between Happy Hour and Cocktail Hour.

Featured cocktails included The Last Word, a vintage concoct stemming back to 1921 made with grape distilled gin, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, and chartreuse. This was paired with mini dungeness crab cakes and prawn salad in waffle cones. Lastly, guests sipped on the old school Hanky Panky, a powerhouse of a cocktail composed of gin Fernet-Branca and sweet vermouth, very nicely paired with small bites of beef Wellington, and roasted goat cheese and pear tarts.

It was a jam packed, informative, and fun weekend had by all. Lots of connections were made, new and old brands brought forward and, quite likely, a few favorite recipes collected.

 Other stand-out attendees:

Toque Catering did a stand-up job with their sous vide pumpkin canapé topped with pickled chanterelle mushrooms and lemon thyme marshmallow, paired with a Johnny Walker Black Label whiskey cocktail of pumpkin puree, and chanterelle Italian soda garnished with apple cotton candy. Il Covo brought out the Bicicletta made with campari, white wine, and soda to be enjoyed with their Arancini classic Italian risotto bites. The Fairmont Empress prepared a spiced squash tart with foie gras and maple bacon, paired with their big-hitter cocktail the Pig in the Orchard — Woodford reserve bourbon infused with Rooiboos tea, roasted apple syrup, black pepper, Seacidery Pippins cider, and garnished with maple bacon.

Vintage fashion- The Cocktail Hour

Further info on the Italian Furturist Movement:

Cocchi Asti made its entry into the world in 1891 by creator Guilo Cocchi of Italy with vermouth, wine and apertivos. Made with 100% natural ingredients, the Cocchi brand stays true to its roots with original recipes dating back over 120 years. By 1913 Cocchi was successfully running 12 bars in the Piemonte region, just at the time when the Futurist movement was breaking out. More info can be found here and here.

The Futurists were concerned with pushing boundaries and eliminating certain rigidities regarding art, design, architecture, and literature. Even more, Futurism spilled over into food and cocktails (or polibibita [italics] as the latter was referred to by Futurists).

You can find more info on Futurist meals here.

The Empress squash tart


One of the weekend’s most exciting events is the Bar Games Competition hosted at Earls Restaurant and Bar.  Professional bartenders went head to head, mixing, shaking and stirring in a battle for the championship title. This year’s competitors were: Elizabeth Yu, Brendand Brewster, and Sam Hollington. The judges were: Jim Romdall of Rumba & Corretto, Rodney Goodchild of Okanagan Spirits and Jeff Meyers of Flor de Cana. This year’s trophy went to Brendan Brewster of North 53 in Edmonton


Written By:

Holly Brooke is a true B.C. gal. Having lived on the west coast most of her life, except for several years in the Kootenay's where she canoed and fished and lived in a tipi, she's very much at home outdoors and in the kitchen. ...

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