Summer means sippin’. Sure, everybody
has to re-hydrate regularly with that delicious Whistler water, but when that’s
taken care of, it’s time to turn to something even more refreshing.
Beyond the traditional cool brewski
(what else could be the summer cooler of choice with Brew Creek in the
neighbourhood?), options are about as limitless as your imagination. We had to
concoct a quick celebratory toast recently and came up with that delicious
Langueuil peach beverage from France (nice and peachy and not too sweet) with a
good splash of Rosemount Traminer Riesling and a slice of ripe strawberry for a
special touch. Yummy, and a festive step beyond a white wine spritzer.
Not that there’s anything wrong with
a wine spritzer. In fact, I think they’ve been wrongfully overlooked in the
booze-bubble where the martini still reigns in any permutation but “dry.” Don’t
be cheap — use a nice wine. Acidic and crisp, and splashy looking with a wheel
or two of lemon or lime dancing amongst the bubbles, a white wine spritzer can
turn around a hot summer afternoon.
Likewise a shandy, or “shandygaff” as
it was first called in England (possibly from London vernacular of the day for
a pint of beer, a “shant of gatter” — from “shanty” for “public house” and
“gatter” an idiom for “water”). Originally it meant an equal mixture of beer
and ginger beer. One of the first references to it was in the June 4, 1888
where it was dubbed one of the
Shandies aren’t so new-fangled
anymore but they’re still popular in Europe, especially in England and Germany.
Create your own by mixing beer with the best ginger beer money can buy, or a
good tart lemonade. Usually it’s half-and-half, but adjust the ratio to suit
your taste. If you really want to chill out, pop in a few ice cubes, maybe with
fresh mint frozen in them, and horrify your best brew buddies.
If you want to have more fun with the
classics, check out Mark Kingwell’s new book,
Classic Cocktails, A Modern
. Not only will you learn how to mix
up the real thing, Kingwell places each drink in cultural context, be it in
film, art or literature. Here’s a sampling:
: I remember going out with an “older man” in San Francisco
who knew how to live right. He insisted I try a “kir royale.” I wasn’t big on
drinking alcohol at the time, but one sip made me rethink that.
Not to be confused with a champagne
cocktail, another favourite, a kir royale is made with brut champagne with a
splash of crème de cassis — literally a splash, as in one part crème de cassis
to nine or 10 parts champagne. Don’t let a flashy friend or bartender use more
than that — it turns out sickeningly sweet. It’s traditionally served as an
aperitif, but I say what the heck, enjoy it anytime. Use a flute or any tall
skinny glass if you can, and while the jury is still out on this, I say pour in
the crème de cassis first so the champagne bubbles it up. In summer, the colder
We have Félix Kir, the mayor of
Dijon, France from 1945 to ’68, to thank for the basic kir. It was his
favourite aperitif — a crisp white burgundy with the locally made crème de
cassis, a blackcurrant cordial made by French monks to “combat the affliction
of wretchedness.” Like I said, enjoy it anytime.
A splash of crème de cassis is good
in so many ways, even in a glass of cold mineral water or over vanilla ice
cream with a bit of shaved dark chocolate on top. Just having the bottle on
your shelf will make you feel classy — the label is a baroque work of art.
The only drink I can ever remember my mother having for
about the first 17 years of my life was a Tom Collins. Women wore slinky or
frothy dresses to parties back then, and we have a classic photo in the family
album of my very glamorous looking mom in a fancy number with a cobalt blue
velvet bodice and huge meringue of a skirt, Tom Collins held jauntily in hand.
Ultimate Book of Cocktails
tells us that the Tom Collins was originally called the
John Collins, after the head waiter at a London hotel in the early 19th
century. The name morphed to “Tom” when it started being made with Old Tom gin.
In fact, I’ve heard it ordered as an “Old Tom” in my earlier days as a cocktail
The classic mix is three tablespoons
of gin, juice of half a large lemon, a teaspoon of sugar, and top it up with
soda water. Serve it with a slice of lemon and enjoy.
Mark Kingwell insists that you not
fiddle with a Tom Collins mix — too sweet. But I don’t know. Every time I try
it, it reminds me of sipping out of my mom’s cocktail glass when we gals were
all decked out in pouffy party dresses back in Edmonton.
We went to Cuba a few years ago and, yes, we made the
obligatory stop at El Floridita, the Havana bar Ernest Hemingway graced so
regularly. But it was so depressingly velvety inside that we fled gratefully
back into the glare of the mid-day sun as quickly as we could. Oh well.
The drink that “Papa” made so famous
in Cuba was not the mojito (the classic: four parts light rum, two parts fresh
lime juice, a teaspoon of sugar, five or six bruised fresh mint leaves, and a
dash of Angostura bitters). Regardless, we had one at a state-run hotel, and
the mint was so dirty it made the drink murky.
But not to disparage Cuban drinks,
the finest of which I think is a good, golden 25-year-old rum simply served
neat. And the second finest? An authentic daiquiri. Hemingway would agree.
Sorry, but modern daiquiris, and 99
per cent of margaritas for that matter, just don’t cut it, made as they are from
the slushy concoctions that are close cousins to 7-Eleven Slurpees. The real
daiquiri is white rum and fresh citrus juice. That’s it. The “Papa Doble” —
Hemingway’s famous double daiquiri, in Spanish — was eight parts Bacardi white
rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, and two dashes of maraschino
liqueur. Legend has it that he downed 16 of them in one sitting at El
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning
freelance writer with a half-finished bottle of crème de cassis straight from
Dijon in her cupboard right now.