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Learn how to create the perfect cocktail and appetizer pairings from three experts at Victoria's Art of the Cocktail festival
Learn to serve a signature cocktail and appetizer pairing at your next party
It’s fun to add a new twist to your repertoire, and I’ve been so immersed in pairing wine with food that I never gave cocktails much thought.
A new world of entertaining ideas was opened to me when I attended Art of the Cocktail in Victoria. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or, like me, curious to learn more about (and taste more) gin, whiskey and their cousins, it’s an event not to be missed.
The annual festival – running from October 13 to 15 in 2012 – sees hundreds of bartenders, educators, producers, and cocktail enthusiasts from across the globe congregate for three days of spirited events, including workshops, Sip Around (over a dozen participating eateries serve specially crafted cocktail and appetizer pairings), and the main event, the Grand Tasting at the Crystal Garden convention centre.
The Grand Tasting has dozens of cocktail and food stations featuring cocktails poured by celebrated mixologists and complimentary appetizers prepared by some of Victoria’s best chefs.
Three of my favourite stops during the festival were at the Bengal Lounge at the Fairmont Empress, Veneto Tapa Lounge at the Hotel Rialto, and The Whole Beast in Victoria’s Oak Bay neighbourhood.
I am so excited about the delicious pairings these clever folks have suggested and can’t wait to try them out when I’m entertaining friends and family next. Just as I’ve been learning about what styles of wines complement which foods, it’s been interesting to discover how spirits pair with food too.
From artisan cured meats and local cheeses paired with inventive aperitif wine cocktails to an Asian-inspired match of gin and Lychee liqueur aside a tapas-style combo of slaw and rare beef, I think you’ll agree that these cocktails and appetizers will you give an exciting and unexpected entertaining edge.
(Image: The Fairmont Empress)
The Fairmont Empress’ Bengal Lounge is well known for its tantalizing Indian lunch and dinner buffet and signature cocktails, and food and beverage director Nathan Pearce, who’s been with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts for over a decade, shares two Bengal favourites: the 1908 cocktail and the braised short rib poutine.
*For a meat-free option, try pairing this cocktail with my vegetarian samosas*
“The 1908 cocktail was created in 2008 for the hotel’s centennial celebration,” says Pearce, and features the exclusive Empress-blend tea (a blend of black and green teas).
“The 1908 cocktail goes great with curry but we also love pairing it with our braised short rib poutine,” says Pearce.
Braised Short Rib Ingredients
Braised Short Rib Instructions
(Image: Veneto Tapa Lounge)
If you love trying new things you will love Veneto Tapa Lounge, named one of Where Canada‘s Best New Restaurants in 2009, located in the newly renovated Hotel Rialto.
Its tapa-style entrees, which come with three small dishes made from the same or similar proteins like the vegetarian tapa trio, the seafood tapa trio, and the beef tapa trio, are paired here with Bar Manager Simon Ogden’s recipe for a gin cocktail called the Rialto.
*Prefer seafood to beef? Try swapping the steak for prawns or scallops in the tataki recipe*
“The Rialto comprises locally made artisanal gin set against smoky notes of Chinese pine-smoked black tea and the delicate florals of Lychee liqueur, and is balanced with Mexican-spiced chocolate bitters,” says Ogden. “It’s a challenging, multi-layered concoction that proudly represents our hotel and the Victorian who built it in 1911, Chinese-Canadian local legend Lim Bang.”
“A perfect example of the tapa-style sharing portions that is the popular draw at Veneto,” says Ogden. “This small plate dish was created by the Veneto culinary team lead by Chef Tod Bosence, and chosen to compliment the Asian-influenced flavours of our house cocktail. This dish is currently featured on our menu as a component of the beef tapa trio.”
Sirloin Steak Tataki Ingredients
Sirloin Steak Tataki Instructions
Asian Style Slaw Ingredients
Asian Style Slaw Instructions
(Image: The Whole Beast)
With all sorts of accolades, like Vancouver magazine’s 2008 Bartender of the Year and Art of the Cocktail’s 2009 Best Bartender Pacific Northwest, David Wolowidnyk, bar manager at Vancouver’s West restaurant, is no stranger to inventive, off-the-cuff cocktail-slinging.
Wolowidnyk teamed up with The Whole Beast Artisan Salumeria and Charelli’s Cheese Shop and Delicatessen for the Whole Beast workshop, which was held onsite at The Whole Beast.
Whole Beast co-owner Cory Pelan selected the cured meats from his incredible selection of “hand-crafted artisan cured and smoked meats [made from] farm-raised Island ingredients,” and the gourmet cheeses from Charelli’s, and Wolowidnyk created complementary aperitif wine cocktails especially for the event.
Wolowidnyk shares the three aperitif wine cocktail recipes he created to pair with three different combinations of artisan cured meats and gourmet cheeses.
(Images: West, left; The Whole Beast, right)
“The intent is to have a slightly sweet profile to compliment the richness of the cheese, and the pronounced lemon note of the salami,” says Wolowidnyk.
“The intent is to have a fairly dry and slightly bitter cocktail, with a subtle note of orange from the Amaro Montenegro,” says Wolowidnyk.
“The intent is a full, rich mouth feel, cutting the subtle sweetness with the Cynar,” says Wolowidnyk.
I think I’ll tackle these recipes in order starting with the Bengal’s “marTEAni” and braised beef-topped poutine. The 1908 cocktail was my favourite drink of the whole festival and is a nice, refreshing complement to the slow-cooked meat and rich cheese curds and gravy in the poutine.
I can’t wait to see the look on my guests’ faces when I whip out a signature cocktail and individual gourmet appetizers instead of the same old wine and cheese.