Christmas Cocktail Crawl IV: Smoke and Mirrors – Part II


Photos by Nicole Havers and Jorden Hutchison

Missed Part I? Catch up here, then read on.

Stop 1: UVA Wine Bar

uvaNot even UVA’s pulsing music, purple lights and funky décor can compete with the story behind your first smoked cocktail of the night. Ask bartender Lauren Mote why it holds special significance – you’re guaranteed a crash course in history, a geographical orientation to the Scottish highlands and one hell of a science experiment.

Cocktail The Rhapsody

Bartender Lauren Mote

Tastes like… History soaked in a sharp, smart drink. Orange and juniper bitters, courtesy of Bittered Sling, round out the smoldering scotch, though it’ll take a few moments after that first silky sip for the underlying smoke to hit you. Don’t be fooled by The Rhapsody’s innocuous golden hue – there is rich, deep history here. The base, Ardbeg Ten Years Old, is the peatiest whisky of them all and distilled on the island of Islay, Scotland – but that’s not as far as Ardbeg travelled. Back in 2011, vials of the spirit were launched into space for the world’s coolest science experiment: testing the micro-gravity of whisky production. Just like its star ingredient, this cocktail doesn’t mess around.

What makes this cocktail magical? “There’s something so mysterious about this beautifully smoky Ardbeg whisky made in Islay. It’s pretty powerful to drink a spirit that you know has been there, a spirit that was first distilled in such an ancient place. It moves me to tears, thinking that what we do every day – people have been doing it for thousands of years before us. Whiskies instantly transport you back to a time and place.” – Lauren

Stop 2: Boulevard

boulevardBoulevard’s menu is centred on West Coast ingredients and the cocktail list is as local as they come – where else can you swill a Van Dusen Sour or a Professor Suzuki? Snag seats close to the bar, order this stop’s smoky cocktail and watch bartender Justin Taylor engage in his nightly wizardry. You’ll soon see why we think this drink may be his most magical yet.

Cocktail “The Lumberman’s Arch”

Bartender Justin Taylor

Tastes like… Remember crowding around a fireplace on Christmas morning waiting impatiently to open your gifts? As soon as you taste this cocktail, you will. A smoke gun infuses the base of Black Strap and bitters with the subtle flavour of maple wood chips while notes of nutmeg and cinnamon balance the heaviness of the rum. A dusting of crushed ice evokes memories of frosted mountaintops, and the savoury-sweet garnish – a mini toasted maple croissant – is pure genius. Introducing The Lumberman’s Arch: your new holiday brunch.

What makes this cocktail magical? “The Lumberman’s Arch is a real eye-capture. Your senses are overtaken with smoke, and everyone around you looks around wondering what’s going on and getting excited. This cocktail evokes happy memories of campfires and holiday fireplaces, and it’s very local with a nod to the landmark in Stanley Park. It’s the perfect winter companion.” – Justin

Stop 3: Forage

forageThe smoke-grey wraparound bar commands full attention of Forage’s dining room, though the cushy booths ringing the perimeter are prime opportunity to cozy up during long winter nights. This far into the crawl you’ll need sustenance, and the restaurant’s locally sourced and nutrient-packed menu offers a liver-friendly complement to all these rich libations – and that goes for this cocktail, too.

Cocktail Smokey Canadian Collins

Bartender Nick Read

Tastes like… The type of light and refreshing drink you’d throw back while lounging on a beach – and then ask the bartender to keep ‘em coming. There are just three ingredients in this riff on the classic Tom Collins: Victoria Oaken Gin lends a mild smoky profile while maple syrup and lemon round it out. The drink is topped with candied bacon, a salty-sweet delight that pairs nicely with the gin. What’s the magic here? Turning three ingredients into a just-sweet-enough concoction that goes down way too fast.

What makes this cocktail magical? “Everything is fresh and real – there are no artificial mixes here, just pure maple syrup and gin sourced from our island neighbours. We incorporate into our menu whatever’s coming in from local farms, and the same goes for our cocktails.” – Nick

Stop 4: Left Bank

left-bankTrès francais Left Bank oozes across-the-pond charm with a spacious and simple layout reminiscent of a Parisien bistro. The carefully edited bar belies the inventive ingredients used in the bistro’s spunky cocktails – crushed cigars, for starters.

Cocktail “The Smoky Boulevardier”

Bartender Guillaume Cagna

Tastes like… A crisp and refreshing treat for any time of day. Sweet vermouth cuts through rye and housemade tobacco syrup, resulting in an even flavour profile that makes it hard to believe you’re tasting crushed cigars. Said cigars are purchased from a cigar shop a few doors down, then combined with simple syrup to make one killer sweetener. Talk about locally sourced.

What makes this cocktail magical? “Really good smoke. The key is not to follow guidelines – you can control how much smoke you want by playing around with the ratio.” – Guillaume

Stop 5: Maenam

maenamMaenam’s sleek yet simple décor enhances the zen-like tradition of enjoying an authentic Thai meal – and every sip of this stop’s cocktail will slide you even further into meditative bliss.

Cocktail “The Thai Mulled Wine”

Bartender James Welk

Tastes like… An enhanced version of holiday mulled wine. This slightly warmed, Orient-inspired drink uses Riesling instead of red, and is infused with an apothecary’s breakfast of herbs: cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, coriander, szechuan peppercorns, cardamom, dried salted plums… Nikka, a Japanese whisky, adds underlying smoke to the brew’s comforting warmth while Bénédictine liqueur’s rich sweetness bulks up the body. Our prediction: once this drink hits Maenam’s cocktail list in late November, you’ll see mulled whites everywhere. That’s a good thing.

What makes this cocktail magical? “I haven’t heard of anyone else who’s doing white mulled wine, so this cocktail is definitely special. Also, I light the wine on fire, which warms the glass and generates spark and light – that’s pretty magical, too.” – James

Try any or all of the cocktails on this year’s Christmas Cocktail Crawl, then snap photos and share your own experience of this holiday magic with the hashtag #christmascocktailcrawl. Merry Christmas!


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