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The “un-edited” version: Toronto & BarChef

One of the coolest experiences in a bartender’s career is the ability to reach beyond the bar. You may be lightning fast with your head down during a Friday night well service, or you might be the best at pumping out classic cocktails, executed perfectly by the dozen during a cocktail party, but you’ll have to agree that receiving an invitation to participate in a national competition makes you feel pretty good. While remaining humble, we get very excited of the possibility of having paid travel and accommodation in order to prove that we’ve studied hard enough, that we’re good enough, and we’ve been recognized for doing something that helps promote cocktail culture in Canada. On this day, I had the utmost honour of joining Bar Manager David Wolowidnyk of West Restaurant to Toronto for the 1st National Barchef Competition – a play on words in a way – Barchef being the charismatic Toronto molecular mixology bar, and as well a “Barchef” is someone who successfully incorporates food science into bar service. Amongst us two Vancouverites delighted to participate, we joined 3 of Ontario’s top bartenders, Rob Montgomery of the Miller Tavern (Toronto); Nishan Nepulongoda of Blowfish Restaurant (Toronto); Wes Galloway of Black Beans Steakhouse & Lounge (Port Hope); and Fabien Maillard of Montreal’s Mixoart Bartending Inc.

Only 6 participants.
No limit on ingredients.
No limit on time.
No limit on presentation.
The catch? Ketel One as the featured ingredient.
It’s neutral, well distilled, smooth, but amazingly has a wonderful finish and tastes pretty good!

The night before the competition, there was a gorgeous dinner held at Origin Restaurant, a newbie added to Chef Claudio Aprile’s belt at the corner of King and Church streets, where fresh seafood and market fare met some classic flavour combinations and some interesting dishes. I will say the quality of seafood was pretty amazing, even though it’s obviously hard to compare Vancouver and Toronto’s coastal product availability. Big juicy malpec oysters, scallops, tuna – I was impressed. The food was more memorable for other diners though, as early on in the meal I pulled a long hair out of my mouth while indulging in some homemade chorizo “frites” – anyone who knows me, knows I have a life-altaring hair phobia, especially in my food or on my bathroom floor and walls.

When a cocktail reached our place settings with “red bull snow” I though I was going to have a stroke. It was well executed, but alas, IT WAS RED BULL. When will people learn that the consumption of Red Bull, like the frequent use of “NOT jokes” is both gross and distasteful? I knew it was going to get ugly… two brand managers from Diageo (Ketel One), Barchef owners Frankie Solarik and Brent Vanderveen, Barchef “Governor” Bill Hawrysh and Sous-Barchef Aaron Gaulke, and all of the competitors had glass after glass of wine, shot after shot of bulleit bourbon… each libation didn’t necessarily pair the other, just completely mindless consumption, as per the usual. Impressive yet that 12 of us only seemed to rack up a $2500 bill – that’s a personal best for some us, but we could’ve done a lot better. We headed down to the Drake Hotel on Queen West for a little “chochy” entertainment before hitting the sack. It was packed – artsy fartsy Queen West folk, meets uptown proper – and everything in between. My good deed of the day was preventing David Wolowidnyk from ordering a bulleit bourbon old fashioned at the patio “tiki” bar. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to Fabien in time, who order a Zombie, and later dumped in a bucket of grenadine – cocktail fail. If I closed my eyes for a few seconds (before swaying into a table) the music made me feel like I was back at C Lounge or the Brant House in Toronto partying during my early 20’s. Ahhh the questionable “blackout” nostalgia. Then out of nowhere, Christina Kuypers, the hottest female barkeep to ever grace the wood (no pun intended) at Voya in Vancouver appears. Ya, she runs the join. Thanks for the round rockstar.

After a bout with the best late night takeout aka Toronto falafel, bedtime. See, I should’ve slept – instead my boyfriend, Chef Jonathan Chovancek (Culinary Capers Catering) and I decided it a great idea to order a giant pizza from BIG SLICE, drink beer and watch Inglorious Bastards, again. It should be noted that if all pizza joints are closed at 4 in the morning, you should go to sleep, not eat the pizza that supports “homeless” salami a.k.a those guys stole meat from some grocery store in their pants, and sold-it-for-cheap through the backdoor of “red flag” establishments – another fail.

The next morning, we all prepped for our competition which would happen later that evening. Following our individual on-camera interviews with Ketel One, I did a little bit of prep in the kitchen, then we took off for lunch. Afterwards, we hit Chinatown, which still remains the best place to grab ingredients and equipment, in any city, hands down, and Toronto has one of the best. A giant restaurant supply store called Tap Phong carries everything from giant high quality stainless steel stock pots, to bitters bottles, vintage glassware and rice cookers for super duper cheap. It’s just at Spadina and St. Andrew streets, next to Pho Huong Restaurant. Toronto’s also known for Kensington Market, where Chinatown meets “local” – everything from hippie vegan juice bars, to south american empanada spots to “jobers” – discount surplus, clothing, shoes, sunglasses, etc.. (sorta like Army & Navy without the crackhead population), vintage clothing and antiques, fruit stands, cheese, fish, meat, spice shops, and coffee shops. Plus it’s a little more “sanitarily” put together than the markets in Beijing where poultry and full animals are broken down directly on the concrete floor in 42C heat everyday.

The night of the event, I was running late – had to pick up my “prop” – a dress covered in “rock royalty” emblems with a significant area devoted to Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen is from Holland, as is Ketel One… tee hee) made by the talented ladies over at Peach Berserk (Queen & Augusta streets). Now it was time to get the game face on. David was cool and collected, having prepped everything ahead of time, which we can all expect from him. However in the Barchef basement, science was stirring. At one end, I had set up shop – pouring all of my tinctures into speed-pours and prepping my presentation piece – a tower of silver spoons with raw product intended to deconstruct the flavour composition of the 3 tinctures I chose to feature by themselves for the judges to taste. Next to me was Nishan – his chemistry kit was open and unpacked – he was making pearls, spheres, etc… he was “molecular-izing” himself right good.

Guests started to arrive, so after I pulled my brother downstairs to help me, also known as sit in the corner and tell me how awesome he thinks my dress is, we headed upstairs. I found my mum Linda, my best friend Martin, and Jonathan all waiting for us to get started. There were lots of familiar faces for me from my Toronto days… bartenders I used to work with, old customers of mine – small world this bartending thing. There were definitely some cool people in attendance: Joe Fee (Fee Brother’s Bitters), Stephen Beaumont (That’s the Spirit & World of Beer), and James Chatto (a prolific Canadian food and beverage writer, Toronto Life Magazine).

Alas, let’s pick out competition order. Murphy’s Law states that “ladies first” will happen across the board – not only will I pick first, but I’ll pick my own name. Groovy. Here was the order, and it’s important to note – I’ll explain why when we get down to David and Nishan’s performances: Lauren (1), David (2), Wes (3), Nishan (4), Fabien (5), Rob (6). As I prepped for my performance, Jonathan and I pulled all the spoon stands and tincture trays from the basement and place one set in front of each of the three judges: Frankie Solarik(Barchef), Kevin Brauch (Thirsty Traveler), Catherine Santos (Diageo/Ketel One). After a lengthy and flattering introduction, I was mic’ed up and on stage. Yes, yes, let Lauren be the guinea pig who irons out the glitches, and I sure did.

My presentation went very smoothly, except when I learned last minute that there was no vodka on the stage, and my strainer was leaking like a sieve. Right. It’s ok though, the problems were quickly averted. I poured the drink out, and let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, I have a 10L jug of liquid nitrogen at my feet. Pouring carefully, the liquid and smoke spill out of the doer. With its temperature sitting around (-700F), the liquid nitro acts as a “frozen deep fryer”. To my left, a big bowl of recently “set” lemon curd with sake, cherry blossoms and Ketel One await their chilly bath. Using hot spoons, I quickly form quenelles, and plop into the liquid nitro. Using a slotted spoon (while still telling bad tasteless jokes to the audience) I move the curd around, same as you would deep frying churros in hot oil. Just as they’re done (literally 20 seconds) I submerge the last spoon for each spoon tower, and the curd quenelle sits atop. This palate cleanser was inspired by the “dragon’s breath” pre-dinner fix at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant in London. Called “dragon’s breath” for the icy “smoke” that leaves the nose in front of you once you exhale while biting through the ball of curd. Each judge received one as a palate cleanser, the idea being that citrus and vodka cleanse the palate of tinctures, beer, cigarettes, etc.. as well as make you thirst and salivate. Now, flamed lemon peel and cocktail is served. I through Jonathan in the back kitchen to make as many “dragon’s breath” as possible before the liquid nitro completely evaporated (which didn’t take long). I may have also cracked the table top on stage with the super freeze of the liquid nitro. Either way, my cocktail, the “Nolet Pratt” (inspired by the Nolet family of Ketel One and 3 homemade vermouths) and performance led me to a second place finish in the national competition.

Here’s the recipe:

Nolet Pratt
1.50 oz Ketel One Vodka
0.75 oz Smaak van Noyaux “dry vermouth” (Taste of Noyaux)
0.75 oz Vermouth von Kersen “sweet vermouth” (Cherry Vermouth)
0.50 oz Orgeat
0.25 oz Quince Vinegar
Stir over ice, strain into chilled coupe. Top with flamed lemon peel.
Cherry Blossom “Dragon’s Breath” Palate Cleanser
4 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
1.50 cup white sugar
0.75 cup fresh lemon juice
0.75 cup cherry blossom “sake” dry vermouth
Over an inch and a half of “full tilt” boiling water, whisk all ingredients together at top human speed in a metal bowl – keep whisking until firm ribbons form. Transfer to an ice-bath immediately, and gently whisk to cool down. Let set covered in fridge until ready to use.

Second up was David with his super cool cocktail, a traditional punch with a very unusual ingredient – sichuan buttons. Now, earlier I mentioned the importance of order with competitors, here’s why: sichuan buttons destroy your palate in a pleasant way for a while… they numb and create an interesting sensation tough to describe in the mouth. David, being a professor of cocktail, explains to the audience and judges the five components of a traditional punch – tea, citrus, sugar, spirit, spices. There would also be an addition of homemade gingerbeer to top of the cocktail.

As per the usual, for those of you who are familiar with David’s performance style, he’s informative, funny, confident and super engaging to watch. This would take David to his first place victory in Toronto later that evening. Vancouver completely conquered the competition!

Here’s the recipe:

Sichuan Punch
2.00 oz sichuan button infused Ketel One Vodka (20 buttons)
0.75 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz Paris – Singapore Tea Syrup (TWG produces this tea exclusively for its executive business class on Singapore Airlines – green tea & cherry blossom tea)
1.00 dash of Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters (Seattle based)
Shake and strain over cubes, and top with gingerbeer and a wee sichuan button.

Wes’ cocktail was alcohol forward with the essence of lillet, and a smokey glass spritz. It was simple, but his cocktail-geek like presentation warmed my heart – us geeks must stick together.

Nishan was fourth to perform, and had the most complex of all the presentations. As he built his cocktails, his two assistants from Blowfish carefully put together the molecular components of Nishan’s cocktails on the judge’s plates. It was while Nishan was doing a Ketel One pour-out of the final ounce in the first bottle of vodka, that he perked up with a horrified look on his face, “THIS ISN’T VODKA. IT’S WATER!” Each of us (except David as he brought his own bottle from Vancouver) looked on in dismay as we realized the instant misinterpretation of our cocktails. The sad part, is that we never had a chance to remake them – we should have. Wes, Nishan and I just stared at each other without expression. Another 45 minutes goes by, as Nishan remakes his cocktails… the crowd is rowdy and losing interest at this point… the animated comments are emerging from the judges table… Nishan’s cocktail was a vibrant green colour, with a salt rim, cucumber, yuzu juice and homemade yuzu bitters.

As Fabien heads to the stage, we couldn’t help try and decipher this water bottle vodka mishap. How’d this happen? A couple of scenarios: it was the dummy bottle from the photoshoot and interviews earlier; it was Fabien’s practice bottle for his “flare” component. Either way, that sucked. Fabien was launching the Ketel One bottle from side to side, behind him, in front, got some vodka on the screen – it was pretty awesome… the crowd was dying for the cheeky entertainment. His cocktail was a savoury approach to Ketel One, with tomato water, Pernod, and fresh herbs.

Lastly, Rob hits the podium. Rob is lovable for a couple of reasons: he made me a brown butter bourbon old fashioned which was insanely delicious, and he tells it like it is – honesty all the way. Get a bit of juice in him, and he’ll tell you anything… His cocktail, boldly called the Voltron was spirit forward with some Green Chartreuse lovin’; additions of citrus and bitters to balance.

The deliberation afterwards took an awfully long time. One can only assume someone got hit by a truck in the back alley, or they all went for Dim Sum… but neither were true.

After a lengthy speech by Kevin Brauch, it was announced that David came first, Lauren in second, Nishan and Fabien tied for third. Vancouver takes top positions, and David’s heading to Amsterdam! No one was more deserving of the win than he. Congratulations to everyone, but most importantly congratulations to Vancouver, our community of skilled bartenders and our teaching, promotion, and general steering of contemporary cocktail culture in Canada. Bravo!

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Nolet Pratt – Competition Cocktail

Although the posting to reflect on the entire experience of the competition itself, here is the recipe for my cocktail, the Nolet Pratt, which won second place on Tuesday night in the National Barchef Competition.

The Nolet Pratt cocktail was inspired by the deconstructed tasting note for the entire Dutch region. As the cocktail itself is a spin on a perfect martini, with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, the Nolet Pratt celebrates the use of homemade tinctures, while paying homage to the common flavours in Dutch culture and cuisine. Hell, I even had a dress made in bright yellow/orange with rock-royalty emblems and Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen’s Dutch don’t you know) logos all over in black and magenta. Here’s the recipe and pictures:

Cocktail Name: Nolet Pratt
1.50 oz Ketel One Vodka
0.75 oz Vermouth van Kersen*
0.75 oz Smaak van Noyaux*
0.50 oz Orgeat*
0.25 oz Quince Vinegar
Lemon Peel
* all recipes are below for tinctures.

Stir all ingredients with ice, double strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a burnt lemon peel.


1. Vermouth “van Kersen” (Vermouth of Cherries)

Base spirit:
1.5L Ketel One Vodka
3 LBS Osoyoos Cherries – pitted (do not discard the pits, do not smash – leave whole)
200g apricot pits, smashed (shells only)
macerate for 3-6 weeks – room temp.

Base wine:
1.5L Napa Valley Cabernet (Good Quality)
In a controlled setting, like a refrigerator, allow the wine to breathe in an wide open container – this will promote oxidation – let stand for 7-10 days
*important – you must keep fruit flies away, or your wine will spoil – they will introduce acetobacter to the wine (turns wine to vinegar)
50g organic raw cocoa nibs, crushed
20g star anise
20g licorice root
20g cloves
20g cardamom
20g lemon peel
20g true cinnamon bark
20g long pepper
3 pc bay leaf
macerate for 3-6 weeks – fridge.

Combine both parts together, stir gently. Remove licorice root.
1 cup organic cane juice – or to taste

Shelf life: if refrigerated, this vermouth will last months.

2. “Smaak” van Noyaux (Taste of Noyaux)

Base spirit:
1.0L Ketel One Vodka
200g apricot kernels, sweet (inner white membrane, also known as Noyaux)
macerate for 3-6 weeks – room temp.

Base wine:
1.0L Neutral Pinot Grigio, Dry (Good Quality)
In a controlled setting, like a refrigerator, allow the wine to breathe in an wide open container – this will promote oxidation – let stand for 7-10 days
*important – you must keep fruit flies away, or your wine will spoil – they will introduce acetobacter to the wine (turns wine to vinegar)
25g fresh thyme flowers
macerate for 3-6 weeks – fridge.

Combine both parts together, stir gently. Remove flowers.
This is dry, do not add sugar.

3. Orgeat
Almonds, blanched, skinless and ground
Whole almonds, blanched, skinless and lightly crushed
Distilled cold water
Cane juice crystals
Orange Blossoms Water
Orange blossoms
Rose Water
Rose petals
Ketel One Vodka

4. Lemon Curd Palate Cleanser
4 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
1.50 cup white sugar
0.75 cup fresh lemon juice
0.75 cup cherry blossom “sake” dry vermouth
Over an inch and a half of “full tilt” boiling water, whisk all ingredients together at top human speed in a metal bowl – keep whisking until firm ribbons form. Transfer to an ice-bath immediately, and gently whisk to cool down. Let set covered in fridge until ready to use.
Carefully pour liquid nitrogen into the doer. Using hot spoons, make quenelles with the lemon curd. Drop carefully into liquid nitro and flip upside down with slotted spoon. Remove from liquid after about 15 seconds. Using fingers only (do not eat directly from a spoon that has been inside nitro – you’ll rip off your taste-buds), chew on the curd ball, and breathe out of your nose and mouth – this is called the “dragon’s breath” when the liquid nitro smoke comes out of your face!

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My previous post on Almonds & Orgeat suggested that boozy cocktails and protein replacements were the ideal ways to consume almonds in this world. Not the case. I just made the most delicious Horchata, that we will be consuming tomorrow at The Cocktail Kitchen Series (if you haven’t already bought your ticket, do so by calling 604.687.8001).

Brown Rice & Almond Horchata
(makes 6L)
for the rice milk:
2 cups washed brown rice
16 cups water
bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours
add 1 tsp salt
using a hand-blitzer, blend until smooth
run twice through a fine mesh strainer
it’ll come out really really really thick – so add about 1 cup of water to thin out a bit

for the almond milk:
using the orgeat recipe here, take 750g of the reserve liquid before the sugar is added at the end, and whisk into the rice milk
whisk in 350mL of orgeat and 2 tbsp almond oil
add cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, then let cool completely.

Serve over ice to order.

Let cool completely, and keep refrigerated in air tight jars, or containers.

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Almonds & Orgeat

Did you ever have a Mai-Tai and think, “holy shit, this is the best drink I’ve ever had….” well, you’d only think that if you’re into well-made “tiki” cocktails most likely, but there’s that distinguishable flavour in the glass that will always make the cocktail impossible to duplicate on the same thirst-quenching level if you have no clue what it is. That guy is named Orgeat, and he’s a real “dude” if you know what I mean – a sweetened almond syrup with the essence of flower water – he’s really in touch with his “feminine side”.

Originating in the Middle East and Europe, the almond has found its place in cuisine all across the world. Personally, my vegan or raw meals are an epic fail without the use of their oil, crunch or butter in some way. It’s interesting once I discover its past, how the almond comes to be in my pot, in my kitchen, covered in water and sugar in order to produce some of the cocktails I crave the most in the summertime. I love making this syrup as well, plus different cocktails applications for “almonds” because they are often described as a tasting note from vodkas to rums to tawny ports, so if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love to push the boundaries of what I can make with a common tasting note, just in time to mimic another.

Common Orgeat Cocktails that’ll make you beg for more:

Japanese Cocktail
Stir with ice and strain
0.75 oz brandy
0.25 oz orgeat syrup
0.25 oz lauren’s house bitters
1 or 2 pieces lemon Peel

1.75 oz jamaican rum
0.25 oz cointreau
0.75 oz lime juice
0.75 oz orange juice
0.75 oz orgeat syrup
0.25 oz lauren’s grapefruit bitters
shake, strain, collins glass, ice, mint

Trinidad Sour
1.00 oz pisco
1.00 oz angostura bitters (rip the old cap for this one, don’t be scared)
0.75 oz lime juice
0.75-1.00 oz orgeat syrup
shake, strain, old fashioned glass

So here’s a question, how do you extract the most amount of almond flavour in the shortest amount of time?

WITHOUT NUTS: although the flavour of almonds is IN almonds, it’s not easy to extract from almonds. There are other ways you can make nut-free products that taste like nuts of course, but there’s one major factor – alcohol is a must. Trace amounts of harmful radicals found in the pits of stone fruits make this a “catch 22” situation – to me, although I am really really healthy and quite conscious of what I consume, I can justify trace amounts of cyanide – ya, that’s mental, but most things I crave in life are. Apricot pits, smashed to reveal the white membrane called “noyaux”. High extraction in alcohol of these super ripe white membranes will give you an “amaretto” tasting note without nuts – go figure. This noyaux extraction will happen in a super short period of time so leave it just for a week and strain. It’s not that bad, although like eating oysters, you’re still reminded you can get sick from them – as long as someone warned you about the affects of creating a noyaux flavouring, the rest is up to you. It’s better than killing someone that’s allergic to nuts.

WITH NUTS: here’s that gosh-darn delicious recipe I’ve been eluding to. Orgeat.
This makes an enormous batch as I am running a bar, but you should be able to divide all the ingredients by 4 and you’ll get a recipe that’s a bit easier to conquer in a home kitchen. I have to give a shout-out to David Wolowidnyk at West Restaurant in Vancouver for shooting over this recipe with some of my own personal additions to make it more “me”.
DAY 1 – 200g ground almonds, 600g blanched slivered almonds, 800g turbinado sugar, 4L water = bring all to a gentle simmer, and let cool.
DAY 2 – warm gently and strain. The weight liquid ratio is: 500g liquid to an additional 700g turbinado simple syrup = sounds like a lot, but it’s meant to be sweet, plus this aids in the shelf life and preservation. You can always add a drop of pure almond extract if the quality of the almonds you’re using are sub-par, meaning you didn’t spend $10/100g at Whole Foods (tee-hee). Add a couple of drops of both orange flower water and rose water to round’er out.

So freakin’ delicious.
If you’ve made any of the gingerbeers from one of the previous postings here on Poivre Media, take it, add some orgeat, white rum, cointreau and pineapple juice, plus a dash of angostura and you’re blissed out. If you’ve got a Muskoka chair and a view of the ocean and mountains like we do out here, you’re likely suffering a seizure from complete and utter happiness. Just sayin’.

Remember: Almonds are used quite frequently in cuisine due to its availability and flavour, plus it’s a protein replacement in those societies that consume bundles of beans and legumes, and seldom see meats on their plates, either by choice or involuntarily. Additionally, orgeat itself is found in a wide range of styles, and compliments the bring sweetness of the spirited region – rum, pisco, cachaca, tequila, mmmm the list continues.

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The Pesto.

This crazy pesto I made, that is completely raw, and completely vegan was used as a spread, a sauce, a dressing, hair gel and face mask (the last two are optional..). Ha.

As usual, no measurements, just giv’er ’til it feels good:

fresh basil
fresh kale (remove spines)
hemp seeds
pumpkins seeds
sunflower seeds
olive oil
almond butter

Check out these pics for some applications:

Posted in food, Raw Eating, recipes, vegan diaries | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Cocktail Kitchen Series

The Refinery, known for having one of the most innovative cocktail programs in Canada, is now proud to launch a six month interactive and educational competition called “The Cocktail Kitchen Series”. Due to launch on July 8th 2010, “The Cocktail Kitchen Series” aims to promote niche craft cocktail development, through the expertise of Vancouver’s best veteran and up and coming bartenders who have demonstrated creativity and leadership in their craft. Only the true ambassadors to cocktail culture need to read further.

Here is the premise of the program:

Each month, a bartender is paired with a different spirit, and a different country – this will be repeated 4 times a month with a different bartender each Thursday. Guests are invited to come down and experience the interactive teachings of the featured bartender, who will attempt to effectively pair the featured country’s menu, with a set of three cocktails using the featured base spirit. Plus, there’s another spin: the bartenders will shop at The Refinery – it is mandatory that each cocktail include a Refinery house bitters. One week prior their Cocktail Kitchen, the bartender will be able to score 1 oz x 3 types of bitters/vermouths/tinctures available at the Refinery for cocktail testing. The Refinery’s Bitters Program inventory currently sits at 19 types.

Concept & Rules:

3 cocktails, submitted at least 48 hours in advance – including methods, names, recipes
the cocktails will be paired to the featured 3 course tapas-style dinner, the menu of which bartenders will know about 1 week earlier
each cocktail must include a Refinery bitters/vermouth/tincture
each Thursday, guests will be given a score card, rating the bartender in the following criteria:
* Originality
* Delivery: Knowledge, Speed, Presence, Showmanship, Inspiration, Passion
* Grand Prize each month
bartenders will change monthly, giving most an opportunity to participate in the program
bartenders will be given a bar tab just for participating, and gift from the monthly liquor sponsor
the winning bartender will be invited back to participate the following month during week 4
the end of the sixth month, and seemingly covering 6 different regions/countries and spirits, the bartender with the most wins will receive a grand prize trip, location and premise still to be determined by owners RAY, PETER and RYAN of The Refinery)
this is a 6 month long promotion and contest – BUT we do not take time off – we keep going every 6 months


$30 per guest (Includes tax and gratuity)
28 seats available each week. Tickets are available through the Refinery by calling 604-687-8001
The intention is to sell out every week, and judging that 85% of our liquor sales are craft cocktails!


– July 2010 – Region: CENTRAL AMERICA
– August 2010 – FRANCE
– September 2010 – Region: SOUTH EAST ASIA
– October 2010 – ITALY
– November 2010 – THE WEST INDIES
– December 2010 – INDIA
– January 2011 – Region: EASTERN EUROPE
– January – June 2011 – Countries and Spirits to be determined


July 08, Week 1: LAUREN MOTE (The Refinery)
July 15, Week 2: COLIN MACDOUGALL (Blue Water Cafe, The Pourhouse)
July 22, Week 3: DAVID BAIN (West Restaurant)
July 29, Week 4: BEN DE CHAMPLAIN (The Refinery, West Restaurant)

In the last year, we have had over 40 articles written about The Refinery and our specialties, above and beyond plain old business listings. We urge you to check out website under “Press” to see for yourself how representing your bar/restaurant with the Cocktail Kitchen Series at The Refinery is best for business. Each week we will have 2 different media personalities in attendance, as well as a film crew and photographer. The press releases we write are reaching more than the low-hanging fruit of Scout Magazine and Urban Diner for local restaurant industry news. We also do radio segments, TV spots, and reach a broad range of national and international publications, not to mention the persuasive and domineering food and beverage blog industry here and across the globe. As a bartender, this is an excellent avenue to raise your profile in the municipal and national community.

Additionally, if you are a bartender reading this, and wondering how you can get involved, please email Lauren Mote at . Subject should read: “Cocktail Kitchen Series Bartender” – copy and paste the following into the body of the message, and fill out the questionnaire – we are booking in advance up until January 2011.

Full Name:

Which Bar(s)/Restaurant(s) are you representing?

How long have you been in the Industry?

Please include a short 250-400 word bio about yourself:

What’s your bartending style?

Do you have a preference of which country and spirit you’d like to be paired up with in a perfect world?

Please include a pic of yourself!

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A Ginger Beer Bonanza

I had to fight to get on CityTV’s Breakfast Television, not because I suck, but they aren’t really interested in “cocktails” and booze – one of those things I suppose they’d like to avoid promoting at 7:00am, which makes tons of sense. So, when I pitched the idea of non-alcoholic “awesomeness” to celebrate summer, like the 3 ways of making super spicy and refreshing gingerbeer, producers jumped outta their chairs. Wicked. Co-Host Dawn Chubai and I had a 4 minute “teaser” on ginger this morning:

Gingerbeer 3 ways: (all of these recipes are tried, tested and true – good luck!)

1) Syrup to Soda

3 LBS ginger, peeled
2-3L cold water
125mL lemon juice
200mL black-strap molasses OR turbinado sugar simple syrup

In a food processor:
Puree in a food processor with water as needed. Add a total of 2L cold water, and bring to a simmer. Let stand overnight in the fridge. Following day, drain with cheesecloth to remove excess ginger fibers. This is now the time where you can control the strength of the ginger flavour and experience. Typically, I would add around 500mL – 1L extra cold water depending on who my “audience” is. I really enjoy the super duper bite of ginger, so I’ll leave this entirely up to you. Add the lemon and simple syrup to taste. To make ginger beer to order, 2 oz syrup to 3 oz soda + 3 oz gingerale. You may find, based on your taste, that you’d like to add either more lemon/lime juice and/or sugar.

2) Syrup to Siphon – makes one siphon canister.

2.50 oz freshly extracted ginger juice
7.00 oz organic cane juice or turbinado sugar simple syrup
4.00 oz lemon juice
20.00 oz cold water
1.00 oz lauren’s homemade grapefruit, szechuan peppercorn, fennel seed bitters (optional)

In a heavy duty juicer:
Juice the ginger root in small pieces, carefully. Ginger is super fibrous so you must exercise patience, and caution or you’ll get mad and break your juicer. Be gentle but firm.

A siphon typically holds about 32-34 oz of liquid, so that’s your marker. Close the lid tightly, charge with 1x CO2 cartridge. Shake the canister vigorously, and leave in the fridge overnight. The next day, re-shake canister hard, pull the trigger “gently” into the glass. Now you’re off to the races. This recipe doesn’t even need to go into a siphon – it’s so good on it’s own.

3) Bottle Fermentation

I’ve got to give credit and a high-five to Jeffrey Morganthaler for this recipe, it’s perfect. See his recipe below, as well as a link to his site for more delicious treats.

Makes one x 16-ounce bottle of ginger beer
champagne yeast – found at homebrewing supply stores
16-ounce “EZ” flip-top bottles – found at homebrewing supply stores
1 ounce ginger juice
2 ounces fresh lemon juice, finely strained
3 ounces simple syrup
10 ounces warm water (cold if using the soda siphon)

Fill each bottle with 16 ounces of your mixture and add roughly 25 granules of champagne yeast. Seal the cap securely, shake well, and store for 48 hours – no more, no less – in a warm, dark place. After 48 hours have passed, refrigerate immediately to halt the process.

**note – care must be taken so that glass bottles don’t explode. Don’t be crazy, if you’re unfamiliar with the correct way to use live yeast and ferment product your own product, please use a plastic bottle!

Cocktail Recipes: (omitting the alcohol in these recipes will make excellent mock-tails as well!)

Dark and Stormy

1.50 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Rum
0.75 oz lime juice
4.0 oz homemade gingerbeer (either syrup, siphon or bottle fermented)
Build in collins or sling glass.

Gin Gin Mule

Muddle 4 mint leaves (slap hard, and tear)
2.00 oz Tanqueray or Plymouth Gin
0.75 oz lime juice
1.00 oz simple syrup
Top with homemade gingerbeer (either syrup, siphon or bottle fermented)
Build in collins or sling glass.

Sunny and Clear

2.00 oz Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum
1.00 oz orgeat almond & flower syrup
0.75 oz lime juice
1.50 oz pineapple juice
Top with gingerbeer (either syrup, siphon or bottle fermented).

Be creative – ginger is so easily paired with the following flavours:
Fruit, Vegetables, Booze, Hot Weather, Cold Weather.

Additional notes about ginger:
– same family as cardamom, galingal and tumeric – these are other amazing flavours that everyone should be exposed to
– ginger is not only an antinflammatory, but it also reduces the pain associated with arthritis, lowers cholestrol and thins the blood therefore reducing the risk of heart disease
– destroys the ovarian cancer cells & skin cancer cells
– used as horse suppositories during WWII (random, but what the hell)
– high levels of calcium and potassium – prevents your skeleton from spontaneously shattering, and midnight quad muscle spasms
– subtropical climates have the ginger root budding into beautiful yellow and pink flowers which are also edible


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The Vegan Diaries: #5

And who says you can’t really fall in love with food “sans viande”?
Well a little world travel in your kitchen is a cool place to start…
Though how do we get “kitchen inspiration”?
Personally, I get a little bizarre in supermarkets, and that’s how my inspiration starts. I personify products like meat and vegetables, and have harmless conversations with them. I am the Veg Whisperer.
So, I’m in Choices. I turn the corner, and a giant bag of chick pea flour stares at me, as if to mock me, “you know nothing of cooking with my flour…”
I’ll show you, you-you-you silly powder bag you. I snatch 2 LBS by the scruff of its plastic bag neck, and drag it to the cash register.

Let’s giv’er here: India.
Many parts: chick pea “pizza”; tomato mushroom compote; yogurt marjoram sauce; mustard green cilantro salad.

1.75 cups chick pea flour, sifted
0.25 tsp tumeric
0.25 tsp cumin
0.25 tsp garam masala
0.25 tsp kosher salt
2 cups water
mix into a paste, set aside for 30 minutes
turn broiler to 500F
in 2 non-stick pans, heat to med-high
olive oil

tomato mushroom compote:
1 can diced tomatoes, drained in chinois
500g cremini mushrooms
smash: coriander seeds, cardamom, all spice, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cayenne, fennel seeds, rosemary
cook altogether.
drain again.
pile on chick pea pizza when almost golden in oven.

yogurt marjoram sauce:
plain 2% MF yogurt
1/2 cucumber, diced
chopped fresh marjoram, basil, mint
smash: salt, pepper, nutmeg, cumin
mix. dude. delicious.

Cleaned mustard greens.
Cleaned cilantro.
3 tablespoons of yogurt sauce as dressing.

If you want a cheesy texture, add thin slices of silken tofu to the chick pea pizza before the tomato compote, and continue to broil.
Remove from pans to cutting board, slice.
Top with chopped parsley and yogurt sauce as you see necessary!

Holy protein.
Holy filling.
Holy healthy.
Holy no meat.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

by Lauren Mote
(all photos by the gifted Melissa Gidney of Melissa Gidney Photography)

Although completely inspired by Lewis Carrol’s book, the adventures shared on June 06 were hardly of a predictable fashion. In fact, take the concept of Alice in Wonderland, put an adult spin (well a brunch appropriate adult spin) and you’ve got likely one the most interesting parties I have ever been involved in. Congratulations to a gorgeous couple, Lena Millard and Tyson Villeneuve.

The pictures and recipes follow…

Welcome to the tea party! Inspired by regionally popular teas, these infusions were among some of the finest I have produced. After having a 3 hour tea sampler at Tea Leaves on Broadway, I quickly produced some “short” infusions to make sure the proportions worked, and the flavours were working in symmetry. Each tea had a different base spirit, and cocktail inspiration.

All the cocktails were presented with words from the Alice in Wonderland “tripped-out” lexicon, and presented as phonetic dictionary definitions – a cool idea!

n. gudd-lers cut (India)
1.75 oz masala black chai tea infused cazadores tequila
0.25 oz yellow chartreuse
0.75 oz lime juice
0.75 oz cane sugar
pinch salt

n. queen of hearts (China)
2.00 oz pu-erh tea infused alberta rye
1.00 oz red vermouth
angostura bitters

n. chesh-ire cat (England)
2.00 oz vanilla earl grey tea infused bombay gin
0.75 oz lemon juice
1.00 oz cane sugar
1 egg white

n. sag-an-is-tute (North America)
2.00 oz root beer tea infused bacardi white rum
0.75 oz lemon
1.00 oz cane sugar
1.00 oz ginger concentrate

n. fair-far-ren (France)
1.75 oz osmanthus oolong tea infused noilly pratt
0.75 oz lemon juice
1.00 oz rose & lavender
1 egg white
candied violets

Additionally, I was asked if I could produce a cocktail to put in “Drink Me” bottles – something of a PISHSALVER (the word used to describe the potion Alice drinks to make her shrink and fit through that little wee doorway….). I used the Fairfarren cocktail, removed the egg white, and added some pear cognac – it was delicious – and 120 people engaged in a toast simultaneously pouring the vials down their throats, staff included.

Finally, the “Eat Me”s.
This was one of the coolest things I’ve created. With the help of a brilliant coconut marshmallow recipe from Jonathan, I manipulated the ingredients to satisfy the flavour profile I wanted. These marshmallows are super fragrant, soft in texture, an essence of tea and violets, and a long absinthe finish. Here’s the recipe:

Absinthe Marshmallows (makes 200 1″x1″x1/4” squares)

1) Prepare 2 standard sized baking sheets with un-scented and un-flavoured oil sprayed on the bottom, followed by a layer of tin foil on top – also hosed down with oil
2) Bloom 26g gelatin in 250mL water – let stand uninterrupted for at least 5 minutes in a stand-up mixer bowl.

3) In a pot with a candy thermometer combine the following over medium heat:
270mL liquid
For liquid, I used 230mL Absinthe and 40mL Violet water*
1360g white sugar
For sugar, I used 400g Tea sugar* and 960g white sugar
620mL organic corn syrup
Cook gradually to an internal temperature of 240ºC (soft ball stage)
DO NOT COOK PAST 240ºC or the marshmallows will be ruined! Be mindful of the temperature.
DO NOT MIX OR MESS WITH – the only way sugar reaches the stage that it needs to is WITHOUT stirring.

4) Make sure to have a pastry brush and bowl of water on hand to brush the sides of the pot while the sugar is cooking, without creeping up the sides, and crystallizing. Candy making is tedious and takes a lot of patience – cooking out sugar is also extremely dangerous, so make sure it’s the only thing you’re doing for the next 45 minutes without distraction.
5) Using extreme caution (please make sure you’re wearing shoes….) slowly add the hot sugar mixture to low speed gelatin water. After all sugar is in, mix on low for 5 minutes. Afterward, increase speed to medium-high and be careful it does blow over the side. The more aeration the mixture gets, the more it adheres to itself… does that make sense? After about 10-15 minutes, the mixture turns from dark caramelized sugar colour to white white white! In this case, the mixture has gorgeous flecks of tea powder…. :)
6)Pour the mixture into prepared pans, and place in the refrigerator over night.
7) The following day: combine together and sift over cutting surface and over the marshmallow slabs as you remove the foil.
100g sugar icing
45ml cornstarch
MOISTURE IS THE ENEMY of marshmallows – keep everything dry, keep everything covered in starch/sugar – including the knife you’re using to cut them.
When storing, make sure they’re not touching one another, on trays wrapped in plastic wrap. A cool dark place doesn’t hurt either!


*other recipes:

Violet Water
1/2 cup candied violets
250mL water
let stand for 60 minutes
strain away flowers
low and behold, violet water (slightly sweetened)

Tea Sugar
120g pre-infused tea strained away from alochol
dehydrate on a baking sheet for 12 hours on 100ºF
blitz in food processor until tea reduces in volume
add in 325g sugar until quite well combined and granular
push mixture through a fine chinois or tea-strainer
reserve the same way you would regular sugar

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