Category Archives: Cocktail Hour

Cocktail Hour: Romeo’s Gin (Review)

Romeo's gin 1st edition
Romeo’s gin 1st edition

Wow, exciting things have been happening on the Quebec gin front since I’ve been abroad. Yet another new gin from la belle province has made its way onto store shelves…and this one is even being marketed as ‘Montreal Dry Gin’. What a great time it is to be a Montrealer…well, if you overlook the struggling economy, bad weather, and ever-present language tensions. Still, I’m glad to be back in the city after a year of pining for cheese, bread, beautiful churches, and artichokes. As an added homecoming bonus, this gin is good enough to help you forget your worries…Romeo’s martini, anyone?

Romeo’s Gin: Background Info

Romeo’s gin comes from the maker of Pur Vodka, entrepreneur Nicolas Duvernois. After realizing that the restaurant business wasn’t for him, but that vodka was very popular, he decided to look into producing his own. Pur vodka, at the time it came out (in 2009), was the only vodka made in Quebec, and is to date the most-awarded Canadian vodka. Another Quebec vodka has since come out (in 2014), Quartz vodka.

Romeo’s gin was released to the public sometime between December 2015 and January 2016. I’m not sure what inspired Nicolas to choose gin as his next project, but I’m glad he did, since it is one of my favourite types of spirit. I’m also not sure what the story behind its name is…when I asked the question on their Facebook page, I received the following reply: “We called it romeo’s gin because of several reasons… But mostly because it’s a love story between Montreal, gin and art !”

MoZ
Mo’Z

This brings up the next point which makes Romeo’s Gin cool and unique, its link with art. The original design of the bottle features a logo and a work of art, Mo’Z done by a local (Montreal) artist, Stikki Peaches. The logo is to change every year, and next year and for every year thereafter, the distillers plan on creating two different logos, one featuring  a local artist and one featuring an international artist. It’s certainly a great idea, one which will no doubt help to achieve Nicolas’ goals of democratizing art and promoting local artists. He has additionally created a foundation called Romeo’s which aims “to preserve, democratize and modern[ize?] art.” 50 cents from the sale of each bottle of gin will go to said foundation.

Romeo’s Gin Flavour

Romeo's gin gibson
Romeo’s gin gibson

The main aromatics which were chosen to flavour Romeo’s Gin are juniper, cucumber, dill, lavender, almond and lemon. When I smelled it, I was only able to detect the juniper scent, which told me it was, indeed, gin. When I tasted it on its own, it tasted strongly of cucumber. After mixing it with vermouth in order to make a martini, I was able to taste, in addition to the cucumber, a floral flavour from the lavender and a nuttiness from the almonds. The almond seems to give it a slight bitter finish, which I’m not sure I like, but it does seem to be growing on me. On the whole however, it is an excellent gin with a unique flavour, and tastes very fresh and smooth. Though the cucumber taste is predominant, as in Hendrick’s gin, its flavour is different and distinctive. It’s no wonder they have just walked away with their first award, a double gold metal, which they received from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (2016).

‘Til next time, cheers to Montreal, art, and Romeo’s Gin!

 

Cocktail Hour: Yellow Chartreuse

Yellow Chartreuse

If you’ve never tried Chartreuse before, you should…it’s good quality stuff.  Still made by Carthusian monks using the method outlined in a secret manuscript given to them in 1605, it is essentially an herbal liqueur.   The more readily available green version is sweet, pungent, and strong (55% alcohol).  Served on ice, and sipped slowly, it goes down deceptively smoothly.  It’s gentler cousin,  yellow chartreuse,  is both less strong (40%), and less assertive in terms of flavour.   It tastes sweeter, and reminds one of honey on the tongue.

Til next time…cheers!

Cocktail Hour: Cranberry Margarita

Cranberry MargaritaI visited the Nutcracker Market recently, and decided to purchase some cranberry syrup.  This syrup is manufactured by a company called Nutra Fruit, which specializes in products made with cranberries grown here in Quebec.  According to their website, Quebec is the world leader in the production of organic cranberries.  I’m not quite sure why none of their products (that I’ve seen) carry an organic certification, but I can tell you that all of their products that I’ve sampled so far are of exceptional quality, and that the cranberries are grown locally.

I decided to try adding this syrup to the ingredients of a basic margarita, and the result was quite delicious, so I’ve decided to share the recipe with you.

Cranberry Margarita Recipe

(For 1  drink)

2 oz tequila (I used Jose Cuervo Gold, but any decent tequila will do)

1/2 lime (juice)

1 tsp triple sec (I added a little to my cocktail, but since the cranberry syrup will add sweetness and flavour, it can be omitted)

2 tsp cranberry syrup

Rim margarita glass with salt.  Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake.  Stain into glass.  Garnish with rosemary sprig, to increase the festivity, if desired garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Drink.

Cheers!

 

Cocktail Hour: Piger Henricus Gin

Piger Henricus gin martiniOkay, so, a micro-distilled gin, made in Longueuil, Quebec…how cool is that?  Exciting things are happening on the Quebec gin scene…first, Ungava…now this.

Why Piger Henricus?

First, a little background information.  According their website, the distillery Piger Henricus is named after the latin word for a type of furnace used by alchemists during the middle ages.  The English translation of Piger Henricus is ‘Slow Harry’, and it was named as such due to its use in long and slow operations.  This type of furnace is also known as an athanor.

Piger Henricus- Flavour

Next…taste!  This gin is made using traditional flavouring agents such as juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, lemon peel and cardamom…however, the surprise ingredient, parsnip, is what makes it really special.  According, once again,  to their website, parsnip gives the gin a “delicate bitterness and a subtle floral aroma”…however, I would disagree and say that it gives it a subtle sweetness and earthiness.  Certainly, this is a quality product, and its flavour is smooth, unique, and quite delicious, providing justification for its price, which is comparable to that of Hendrick’s Gin (when one takes into account the smaller size of Piger’s bottles).

The Subversive Distillers

This is the first offering from the  ‘The Subversives Distillers’, a company made up of four guys whose desire to produce more micro-distilled booze in Quebec led them first to the states (in order to learn their craft), and subsequently back here, to set up shop.  Cheers to that!  I’ll be awaiting their next offering in eager anticipation.

Foraging Fun: Yarrow, Self-Heal, and Wild Strawberries

Self-healI’ve recently set my mind towards trying to identify which edible (or otherwise useful) plants I could discover growing close to home…whether in my boyfriend’s yard up north, or near my apartment in Verdun.  Getting started with plant identification may not be the easiest thing, but once you learn the name of a certain species you will likely have no problem identifying it when you come across it again, and indeed, if it is a weed, will start to see it everywhere!

Self-Heal

I had been wondering about one wildflower with very peculiar purple flowers which I had noticed grows all over my boyfriend’s lawn.  I was finally able to identify it by browsing through some wildflower photos on my wildflowers.com.  I originally checked my Peterson field guide, Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America, but I didn’t have any luck there.  It is called Self-Heal, or Prunella vulgaris, and is also known as All-heal.  After determining the plant’s name, I was easily able to do a all-healbit more research into its possible uses.  It is in the mint family,  and the entire plant is edible.  It contains the vitamins A, C, and K.  Medicinally, it can be used as a poultice to treat wounds, or as a tea for sore throat.  I collected some, and decided to use the flowers and stems to make tea, and to add the leaves to a salad.  The tea, which I drank cold, was quite flavourful and meaty- a bit like stinging nettle tea.  I found it tasted a bit mustardy, as well.  Overall, it was quite pleasant.  The leaves, when added to a salad, were a little unremarkable, but good.

Yarrow

Yarrow (or Achillea millefolium) is another plant which I have seen growing in abundance in the yard.  It has also traditionally been used to help heal wounds (hence another of its common names, ‘soldier’s woundwort’).

Yarrow Identification

yarrow-drawing
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Its fern-like, aromatic leaves, and distinctive flower centers (which are actually made up of small disc flowers) make it fairly easy to identify.  However, one must make sure to positively identify it, as one who is not paying much attention to its distinguishing characteristics may mistake it for poison hemlock.

poison hemlock
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Conium maculatum

Conium maculatum

In light of this, I would like to present you with two drawings which outline the distinguishing features of each plant. As you can see, they are quite different.  The leaves of the poison hemlock resemble those of carrot or parsley, while those of yarrow are fern-like.  The odor of the poison hemlock is rank, while that of yarrow leaves is pleasant and herbal.

Finally, hemlock flower stalks radiate from single points in umbels (like an umbrella) while yarrow flower stalks are more half-hazard, and, additionally, the yarrowappearance of the individual flowers is quite different.  If you are paying attention ( as you should always be when harvesting food from the wild), it is easy to spot the differences between the two.

Yarrow Uses

Besides its use in wound-healing, it has been used medicinally for pain-relief (for menstrual cramps, headaches, and toothaches), as an anti-inflammatory (to reduce fever), and as a treatment for colds and sore throats.  In the culinary arena, it has traditionally been used in beer-making, to make liquors and bitters, and also as a cooked vegetable and seasoning herb.

After tasting both the flowers and the leaves, I learned that the flowers were quite bitter, while the leaves were rather bitter-sweet and reminded yarrow tinctureme a bit of lavender or rosemary.  I decided to use the flowers to make a tincture, and use the leaves as an herb.  I figured I could use the tincture both as a bitter in cocktails, and medicinally.  The tincture worked out quite well, turning a pretty pale green and becoming quite bitter during the two weeks I let it steep.  I chopped up the yarrow leaves and mixed them with some chopped up onions and mushrooms to make a stuffing for fish, and that was quite good, also.  I’m not quite sure why it is no longer used as an herb, but I plan to collect more this summer, dry it, and use it both as a tea, and a seasoning.

wild strawberries growingWild Strawberries

On to wild strawberries.  These are also easy to identify, as they look just like the strawberries you buy at the store…only they’re much smaller, and more flavourful.  If you’ve ever grown strawberries (or seen them grow) you will immediately recognize their leaves.  In order to find more berries, one must simply follow the runners (shoots the plant produces in order to propagate itself).  The strawberries up north (in the Laurentians) usually appear in July.  They are not as sweet as commercially grown varieties, and their flavour is more concentrated.  Eat them as they are, orwild strawberries (runners) use them in any preparations you wish.  Also, I recently came across a blog, Wellpreserved.ca, which suggests drying strawberry hulls and using them to make tea.  I think that this is an excellent idea!  No waste!

Anyway, until next time, happy foraging!

Cocktail Hour: ‘Bowmore Sails Around the World’

Bowmore Sails Around the WorldThe inspiration for this cocktail stems from a lack of gin.  However, the cocktail that resulted from the limited repertoire of ingredients I had on hand turned out to be quite delicious, so I decided to share it with all of you (whoever you might be):

 

 

Recipe (for 2 cocktails):

3 oz Bowmore Scotch (this is a very peaty, smokey single malt, from the Islay region)

1.5 oz Jack Honey

1 oz Rooibos-Pomegranite syrup ( I used President’s Choice Rooibos-Pomegranite jelly, mixed with a little bit of water, and heated- however, another type of sweeter would do…maybe maple syrup or a citrus syrup)

a few wild strawberries (I had them lying around and used them to add some acidity to the drink, but other flavourful berries, or a bit of citrus juice, should work well)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker.  Muddle the strawberries a bit, to release their juice.  Add ice to the shaker.  Shake it up!  Strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with a strawberry, or a twist of whichever citrus fruit you’re using.

Enjoy!

Cocktail Hour: Ungava Gin

Ungava Martini
Ungava Martini

The first time I saw this gin at the SAQ, I was immediately attracted to it.  ‘A gin made with indigenous Quebec herbs?  How cool is that?’, I thought.  The only thing that would make it cooler would be an organic designation (locally grown corn is used to make the spirit the gin is made with , so GMOs are a concern).  Obviously, being a martini addict, I decided to buy and try it.

Aside from the striking yellow colour of this gin, there isn’t too much to distinguish it from other gins, as it pretty much toes the line, taste-wise.  I am by no means a professional gin-taster, but I would be hard pressed to pick out the differences in flavour the indigenous herbs produce in the final product.  It is very drinkable, and is definitely smoother (and better) than say, Beefeater, while remaining more coarsé than something like Tanqueray (my usual, everyday gin).

The professionals like it, perhaps, a little more than I do, as it won a ‘Best of Show’ award at the World Spirits Competition in March of this year.

It makes a nice martini, and it’s certainly local, but I think that it may represent a bit of a lost opportunity in that the producers had the chance to create something that was even more distinctive, such as Hendrick’s Gin, but instead chose to mimic a traditional gin flavour with non-traditional ingredients.  Nevertheless, I applaud their initiative, and will continue to support it by buying their product.

Ungava Gin Herbs

The herbs used to flavour Ungava Gin are wild rose hips, arctic blend, cloudberry, labrador tea, crowberry, and nordic juniper (without which, of course, it could not be classified gin).  All of these ingredients are gathered in Ungava, Nunavik (Quebec’s arctic region, and the home of the Inuit).

So, more about the botanicals.  Rose hips don’t need much of a description, I’d imagine; they are the fruit of the rose, contain a significant amount of vitamin C, and have a rather tart flavour (as you’ll know if you’ve ever had rosehip tea).  Arctic blend, labrador tea, and crowberry are all members of the Ericaceae  or heather family.  All three are also evergreen plants.  Arctic blend and labrador tea are close cousins, while crowberry is so named for its blue berries.  Cloudberries (which are amber in colour, but otherwise look a bit like raspberries) are what give the gin its colour.  Finally, ‘nordic juniper’ is used to give the gin (from the dutch word for juniper, ‘genever’) its distinctive flavour.  I was unable to find any information on this specific variety of juniper, and it wasn’t among the varieties listed on Wikipedia, but according to the Ungava gin website, it is ‘found growing in sandy areas along the coast of Ungava and in dry rocky soil’.

Ungava Gin (English)

Ungava Gin (French)

 

 

The Producers

Ungava gin is made by the same people who produce Pinnacle ice cider.  Interestingly, they have decided to market the product differently in french, putting an emphasis on ‘indigenous Quebec herbs'(French labelling), as opposed to ‘botanicals from the Canadian North’ (English labelling).  While I understand the reason they would choose to emphasize Quebec as opposed to Canada when marketing their product here, I do not necessarily understand the need to completely eradicate any mention of Quebec from both the English label as well as all  promotional background information available on the English version of their website.  Does the rest of Canada (and the world) really hate us that much?  Yet another reason to drink, I suppose…

Anyway, ’til next time…

Cocktail Hour- Beet Juice Martinis

Want some vitamins along with your booze?  Well, then, this is the cocktail for you.  Simply take your basic martini and add beet juice, a bit of lime, and voilà- you have a tasty and (sort of) nutritious drink.

 

 

 

Beet Juice Martini Recipe

(makes 1):

2 oz gin
1/2 oz (or less) dry vermouth
1 oz beet juice (available at Loblaws, and bigger grocery stores, usually in the health food section, and at some health food stores)
1/4 lime – juice

Garnishes:  herb sprig (such as marjoram, oregano, chervil, etc.) or celery leaves, twist of lime, olives or cocktail onions or caper berries or pickled beets or anything you like.

Cheers!