Distilled Discovery

longtable_thegin

 

It was a crisp spring morning in downtown Vancouver BC, perfect for another day of exploring. The overcast sky was getting brighter as the day was slowly warming up. Even better – it wasn’t raining!

Google maps showed a marina just a 10-minute walk away. On the map’s aerial view, I saw a ferry that took people across from the pier to Granville Island – VBC’s version of Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

 

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The Discovery

I spent every day this week walking down an unfamiliar street and seeing/tasting/touching/trying something new. Today’s adventure was a ferry ride to Granville Island, and whatever was waiting to be discovered along the way!

 

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Several hours later, I had a bag full of gourmet, artisan yummies, and headed back through the upscale waterfront neighborhood and flowering cherry trees. Suddenly, across the street, there it was – Long Table Distillery!

The Distillery

Vancouver BC’s first microdistillery was tucked away from the downtown core, looking politely inconspicuous on the outside. Inside, customers were already celebrating handcrafted gins and other fine spirits in “a place where kindred spirits meet.” I sat at a corner table, which gave me a view of the whole room.

 

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Bottom photo of distillery, courtesy of their website

 

The microdistillery equipment was in a large room, just to the other side of a glass wall, behind the bartender. I’m guessing the place was named after the long, beautifully-stained raw wood community table at the center of the room.

 

longtable_customers

I waited for customers to leave so I could get this shot of the table

 

I noticed customers would occasionally walk back in from the fish and chips truck out front, bringing deep-fried delicious badness to enjoy with their craft cocktails. A Rubix Cube was placed in front of the order pick-up window, to distract you from the windchill while you wait.

 

 

The wall next to me was covered with framed articles and accolades about the new distillery. One article mentioned that it was a trip to Portland, Oregon, with its multiple distilleries within and just outside city limits, that inspired co-founder and master distiller, Charles Tremewen, to open Vancouver BC’s first microdistillery. He came over to say hello, and to chat with my server. That’s him in the picture, on the right.

 

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longtable_owner

 

The Gins

I had gotten there in time to order from their happy hour menu, and went straight to the Gimlet. One had the option to have the cocktail made with their Texada Vodka, instead of gin; I asked Colin, my gin experience guide and server, if “Texada” was a wordplay on Texas and Florida. Um, no.
#facepalm. Insert <shaking my head> emoji here.

According to one of the articles, their Texada Stoned Vodka was filtered and mineralized with Canada’s own Texada Island limestone, resulting in a “soft, almost oily, mouthfeel.” Lemongrass was added afterwards for a light touch of citrus. Interesting, but…nah! I’m sure they make a fine vodka, but I’m a GIN lover at a GIN distillery, here to try their premium-quality GINS.

 

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The bourbon barrel aged gin, listed under the Anathema Devise and Wallach IX cocktails, caught my eye. I knew that with a whiskey, about 60% of its flavor comes from the barrel it was aged in.

But gin aged in bourbon barrels? Bourbon on top of botanicals? Huh!

I ordered a shot. It was sublime, smooth, aromatic and deep. Completely wonderful! I could bliss out with this, listening to some downtempo and ambient house, while looking out at the VBC skyline.

 

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Excited, I put down my shot glass and looked for my next cocktail – Musashi’s Blade, with cucumber-infused gin, sake, vermouth, etc. Colin said the sake smoothed out the gin’s “edges”. My inside voice said, but isn’t that what the vermouth does already? Confused, I decided to trust, and ordered it anyway.

 

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I took a sip and frowned. Hm. Here’s the thing.

The Do-Over

Their Musashi’s Blade cocktail recipe called for Nigori Sake, milky white due to its rice sediment. While appropriate when enjoyed on its own, this sake’s creamy richness and sweetness more than smoothed out the cucumber gin’s edges – it overpowered the gin altogether.

I apologized to Colin for the change of heart, and asked if I could have the cucumber gin as a martini instead of in a cocktail, which I should have done in the first place. I wanted to really taste the gin itself, and the sake was interfering with that. He smiled and said I shouldn’t apologize; when a customer says they want to taste and enjoy more of the product itself, that’s a very good thing. The cucumber gin was quite enjoyable – light, fresh and elegant!

 

longtable_cucumbergin

 

Where to Get Them

Now that I’ve whet your appetite for some new, amazing Canada gins, here’s the catch: Along with their other award-winning spirits, Long Table Distillery’s gins can only be purchased onsite, at select stores in Canada, or online in the UK.

When I’m back in town, this place will definitely be on my list of must-visits.

Cheers!



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Photos of ferry and Granville Island Market by JE Alexandria Julaton

Long Table Distillery room, courtesy of their website http://longtabledistillery.com/

Various quotes from the distillery’s website and articles

Life as a Cocktail: Trying Something New

 

drymartini_lemontwist

I had a rough week – the kind of rough week that made me want to re-think several of my life and career choices.  After surviving yet another one, I was trying to put it out of my mind and get to a happy place, as I sipped my vodka lemon drop. My thoughts started drifting off randomly to paths taken, and experiences that shaped decisions made along the way as I felt, figured and clawed my way through this existence. All while trying not to feel completely overwhelmed. Or fall flat on my face.

dayslikethis

I meditated and thought back to choices others I knew have made, and the happiness and fulfillment those decisions brought (or didn’t). It was easy to conclude that making those same choices, walking that same path, would result in the same for anyone else. Treading well-worn paths. But if our lives become all about playing it safe, how can we know there is another path, or level of happiness, that could be more rewarding? One more unexpected, surprising, even exhilarating, and perhaps more fulfilling? We really can’t know until we…pivot.

A great idea or quest for some form of happiness had to start somewhere, and it might have been an amazing journey along the way.

A cocktail analogy.

Pivot. Twist. Zag. Change IS scary, with no guarantees of success. Then again, it doesn’t guarantee failure, either. Think about THAT for a moment!

A well-made cocktail is a thing of beauty and wonder. The balance of ingredients, one in step with another, and that with another, and so on, creating the mesmerizing dance of flavors. But is it a perfect cocktail? That depends.

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On YOU, and if you want to stick with one recipe and be perfectly happy to never deviate from it, or decide that tweaking it a wee bit would make it different, and possibly better. Perhaps the art of the cocktail can be more interpretive dance, than classical ballet – creating your own new combination of moves, instead of following someone else’s footsteps.

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The well-worn paths, the classic cocktails, have withstood the tests of time, but they haven’t always existed. Someone started with a gin, aged and smoothed to perfection, added – just for giggles – a liqueur of 130+ herbs and botanicals whose recipe has been guarded by monks in Europe for centuries, then sweetened it with the fermented juice of a thousand cherries. A few more ingredients and experiments later, one of the most famous cocktails (and one of my personal favorites) was created.

But anyway, back to the story.

One evening at home, I decided upon a vodka lemon drop. Nothing like a sweet, citrusy kiss to smooth out my ragged soul after a long week. A few minutes relaxing in my lounge chair with a cocktail, and the world was slowly obscured by a veil of bliss. I wandered over to the refrigerator to choose ingredients for tonight’s dinner. Deciding on stir-fried veggies, I reached for the fresh ginger and noticed the stalks of lemongrass beside it.

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PIvot.

Hey…what if…?

I pulled out another martini glass and poured in a couple of ounces of vodka.

I sliced off a thick piece of ginger, pounded it with a mallet, and let it sit in the vodka while I finished my cocktail. Later, I put some ice in a mixing glass, and added the piece of ginger I had used to infuse the vodka.

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Zag (Ladies and gentlemen, now for my NEXT trick…).

I chopped some of the lemongrass and dropped it into the mixing glass. After muddling and pounding the lemongrass and ginger on the ice, I added a quarter ounce of triple sec, and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, then the infused vodka.

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I poured in a wee bit more vodka (wink), shook the whole thing for a few seconds, then strained the exciting concoction into my martini glass.

MMMMM!! Ginger lemongrass martini – a delicious vodka martini with a couple of exotic twists. If the ginger is too strong, add less next time. If you like it sweeter, add more triple sec and simple syrup. The idea is to adjust it to your taste. As with life, the cocktail is all about you and your happiness, after all.

Also with cocktails, as with life, you can start over and try again – fix something, make it even better, or try something new. Who knows what brilliant schemes and cocktails you’ll dream up next!

 

Manscaping: Shaved Gorillas and the Optical Inch

Brazilian cocktail caipirinha

While shopping at the mall one afternoon, I came across an eyebrow tweezing shop in the center aisle. Each brow follicle was wrapped by a piece of thread and quickly extracted. The specialist worked at lightning-speed efficiency. And just as notable to me was the fact that the customer was a man.

I love it when a man takes really good care of himself. Spas and salons that cater exclusively to gentlemen clientele have been thriving, and I’ve seen several online magazines that specialize in advising men on grooming products and style. I wondered, how do the other ladies feel about manscaping?

Popsugar.com threw the question out there. Turns out, their readers had some pretty strong opinions (except for the one commenter who thought manscaping was a video game). Shaving, trimming and general cleanliness, including the man bush, was much appreciated and encouraged by the ladies. Waxing anywhere, however, was considered a bit extreme. Someone commented that hairless everywhere was kinda creepy. I can see that, actually. I personally like my man to have some hair in strategic areas that reassure me I’m not feeling up a teenage boy <shudder>.

manly chest

Articles have been written about manscaping, assuring men that being de-gorilla’d does not leave them emasculated. In the New York Times piece “A He-Wax for Him”, salons catering to men have a growing number of clients requesting bikini waxes and Brazilians. Other than The Male Brazilian, popular areas men want serviced include toes, butt, back and chest.

hairy and bare

For pain management during these waxing procedures (let ‘er RRRRIIIP!), male clients could clench a rubber ball or take a painkiller beforehand. The obvious question becomes, why would guys endure these excruciating treatments? Reasons ranged from “maintaining yourself and keeping things clean” to the illusion known as the “optical inch”, where the “main attraction” appears larger due to the less obstructed view.

Less hair down there makes your penis look bigger?? If that ain’t a powerful enough motivator, I don’t know what is!

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According to one article in MensFitness.com, “More men are becoming open to getting waxed because their girlfriends and wives are encouraging them to clean up…usually men come back after the first time because waxing makes you feel more confident by eliminating a 5 o’clock shadow on your back or groin area, and helps relieve ingrown hairs caused by shaving. Plus, it saves time since you don’t have to shave daily, and eventually hair starts to grow back thinner so you don’t need to come in as often.”

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If guys feel a bit skittish about dropping trou in a salon treatment room, there are at-home trimmers on the market designed specially for the hair down there – Philips Norelco Bodygroom Pro, the Gillette Mangroomer Essential Private Body Shaver, etc. Also, techniques on getting that close (and relatively painless) shave in the nether regions can be found in the Interwebs, such as MadeMan.com’s “How to Manscape Below the Belt”, with helpful, detailed instructions like establishing the outline, preparation, and stretching the shaft as you shave.

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Jordan Schlansky explains his Philips Norelco BodyGroom to Conan O’Brien (see video)

As for you cavemen who crave pain and danger, but not when it comes to your genitals and body hair, there’s always the natural option. On an episode of Conan, Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) offered up this brawny argument against manscaping:

“The lower pudenda region is mother nature’s billboard. It should say “Ready to F—.” Not only should you not be trimming and shaving, you should be maintaining a swampy atmosphere that’s just shy of growing fungus. This is where life is born. You should be giving off a hot musk that you can almost taste.”

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Caipirinha

In honor of the Brazilian, the inspired cocktail of the moment is a popular Brazilian concoction – the Caipirinha!

1/2 a lime cut into 4 sections (you’ll just need 2 sections)
2 TP baker’s sugar
2 1/2 ounces cachaca

Fill the shaker halfway with ice cubes. Squeeze juice from the lime sections into the shaker. Add the sugar, then muddle the lime sections on the ice. Pour in the cachaca, shake, then serve the whole thing in a rocks glass, or neat in a martini glass with a slice of lime.

Cheers!

Sources:
Esquire, 2014. “Watch Nick Offerman Explain Why Manscaping is an Abomination”. http://www.esquire.com/style/grooming/videos/a30210/nick-offerman-conan-manscaping/

MadeMan, 2011. “How to Manscape Below the Belt”. http://www.mademan.com/how-to-manscape-below-the-belt/

Mens Fitness, 2015. “Manscaping: A Guy’s Guide to Getting Rid of Body Hair”. http://www.mensfitness.com/styleandgrooming/fashion/manscaping-guys-guide-getting-rid-body-hair

New York Times, 2012. “A He-Wax for Him”. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/fashion/men-turn-to-bikini-waxing.html?_r=4&ref=style

Video of Jordan Schlansky and Conan O’Brien courtesy of youtube.com

Photos:
Caipirinha – JE Alexandria Julaton
Open shirt – igibertoldi/morguefile
Hairy man, barechested man – kconnors/morguefile and igibertoldi/morguefile
Statue – clarita/morguefile
Squint and Shaver – mantasmagorical/morguefile and marykbaird/morguefile
Gorilla – lemai13/morguefile

Absinthe: Green Fairy Cocktail Party

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“None of which equals the poison welling up in your eyes that show me my poor soul reversed, my dreams throng to drink at those green distorting pools.” Baudelaire comparing and preferring absinthe to wine and opium in his poem “Poison”.

Absinthe has enjoyed a tantalizing reputation steeped in decadence, myth and controversy for over a century – the kind of popularity and staying power big-screen actors and rock stars would envy today. Invented in 18th century Val-de-Travers Switzerland, this supposed hallucination-inducing liquor has been rumored to cause convulsions, blackouts, visions of little green fairies, and rampant psychosis. The Fed’s ban on selling absinthe in the U.S. was in effect for almost a century.

In the 1990’s, its popularity grew worldwide, and eventually – around 2007 – the Fed allowed two European distillers to sell the liquor Stateside. Since then, many have attempted to tap the green fairy portal for visions of demons, angels, creative genius, and so forth. Some say a toxic chemical in wormwood, one of the main ingredients in absinthe along with anise, may have been the cause of these extreme symptoms, and not the liquor itself. According to a recent BBC article, “Contemporary analysis indicates that the chemical thujone in wormwood was present in such minute quantities in properly distilled absinthe as to cause little psychoactive effect. It’s more likely that the damage was done by severe alcohol poisoning from drinking twelve to twenty shots a day.”

How to Serve Absinthe

These days, many bar menus feature absinthe as part of a cocktail mixture. The two most popular methods to serve absinthe have been the Absinthe Drip and with a flaming sugar cube. The Absinthe Drip, a classic method, involves the slow-drip of cold water onto a sugar cube sitting on a perforated spoon, held over a glass of absinthe.

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The water drips through the cube and into the absinthe, sweetening it.

 

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With the very stylish flaming cube method, you put the sugar cube on the perforated spoon, on top of an empty glass. You then pour the absinthe over the cube, soaking it as the liquid flows into the glass. Then, purely for the sake of showmanship, the cube is lit on fire, and the melted sugar slowly drips into the absinthe. Follow this up by adding ice cold water to the absinthe to get the cloudy effect.

Absinthe’s alcohol content of between 45% and 74% could provide a “transcendent” experience, although mainly without fairies.

I was at a bar one evening, nervously watching a very tall, red-wigged, platform-heeled drag queen in a green dress staring silently and very intensely at me through the gauzey curtains surrounding my candlelit alcove, before suddenly sprinting off into the darkness. The lesson here is, if you’re in the right place at the right time, green fairies can be seen even without absinthe.

 

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Death in the Afternoon
A cocktail invented by Ernest Hemingway. Recipe in his own words:

“Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

Sources:

Photos by JE Alexandria Julaton at Raven & Rose

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1689232,00.html?imw http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140109-absinthe-a-literary-muse http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2031497_2031504_2031460,00.html http://www.wikihow.com/Prepare-Absinthe http://liquor.com/articles/biggest-absinthe-myths/

A Quiet Cocktail Moment: The Journey

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There was a time when we threw fear and self-doubt to the wind, and imagined our bright, shiny futures with wild, joyous abandon. Pah! We didn’t temper our dreams because…why should we? We knew they could happen; and believed even more so that they would. The journey was beginning. Armed with reckless hope and far too much confidence, we were on our way to glorious conquests. That big, gorgeous world was waiting just for us.

Eventually, we found the world isn’t such a nice place, and the cold slaps of reality really began to sting. For some of us, a dream is not an easy thing to abandon, even as the road becomes less solid and more difficult to see. The world, once a paradise, becomes a hard place, with lots of sharp edges. Still you chase the shards of your dreams on an uncertain path, in what has increasingly become a desert of hope.

Over and over again, we run eagerly towards each oasis.  When we get there, we fall to our knees and grab a handful of that sand, disbelieving that this was yet another mirage. Every time it looks like paradise is on the horizon, it’s more desert. Just like with the last oasis. And the one before that.

Eyes, once again, fill with liquid rage; bitter disappointment carves another notch on your soul. The journey is hard, and the journey is long.  There are days when you believe your life’s story will just be tales of disappointed journeys, eventually ending in a disappointing death.

As the sand slowly falls from your cupped hands, you shove the pain back in and get up again, just like you’ve done many times before.

But this time, you look around. You see that the desert that was before you is actually many roads. And on either side of each road, there are people you’ve never met, places you’ve never seen. Martinis waiting to be tasted, and laughter yet to be shared.

You realize that while devoting most of every waking moment of your life to reaching that dream and destination, you forgot to live. The quality of the journey matters as much as the destination. Your life could be tales of interesting, adventurous journeys, eventually ending in a more meaningful death.

The sad reality is, many of us will not reach our destinations, although many will. You may, or you may not. In the meantime, there is a choice to be made: That is, to enjoy the journey, to embrace the experiences of people and places along the path, or to stare and trudge straight ahead – to see nothing but desert on either side of you and always an oasis on the horizon.


Orange Oasis

1/2 oz cherry brandy
1 1/2 oz gin
4 oz orange juice
Ginger ale

Shake brandy, gin and orange juice with ice, strain into highball glass. Fill with ginger ale, stir and serve.

(Recipe from barnonedrinks.com)

Green Chartreuse: What Sexy Tastes Like

“Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a color after it.”   (From bartender Warren in the movie “Death Proof”)

Out of all the cocktail liqueurs I’ve ever tasted – and I have tasted many – Green Chartreuse has been the sexiest and most tantalizing. First created centuries ago by monks, it eventually found its way into classic cocktails and literature. The mysterious Jay Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”), whose parties were the stuff of legends, shared a bottle when lady love Daisy visited his mansion-size man cave. More importantly, it’s the main ingredient in my favorite cocktail – The Last Word. I like to hold a few drops in my mouth, slowly exhale, and feel the rush of 130+ herbs and plants distilled into a heady liquid made from a recipe known only to the Carthusian order of monks.  I wonder if they knew how much joy their “Elixir of Life” has given the world, helping to enrich it with bacchanalian delights that they denied themselves.

I held the martini glass up to the candlelight. So lovely. Its otherworldly color, indescribable. Its flavor, complex. With each sip, the world became slowly veiled by a comforting haze. Every bliss elevated, every trouble diminished. Green Chartreuse’s 110 proof guarantees no less than a robust experience.

I thought about the monks that have made this intriguing liqueur for over 400 years, initially as a medicine, to fund their call to prayer and meditation. Monks with structured, disciplined lives devoted to holiness and sacrifice, creating a potion flavored with mystery and wanton decadence. I sometimes imagined centuries of deeply buried desires somehow flowed into this arcane mixture.

Sexy tastes like forbidden pleasures.

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“Chartreuse is made only by Carthusian Monks of La Grande Chartreuse near Grenuble, France. Chartreuse today is still made from 130 alpine herbs according to an ancient 1605 formula. The secret method of preparation is shared by three Carthusian brothers and is protected by vows of silence.”

 


The Last Word

1 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 oz good gin (Aviation, Tann’s, etc.)
½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice (more if you prefer it less sweet)

Shake up in a cocktail shaker with some ice, serve neat in a Martini glass.

 

Happy Versus Happy Enough

Remembering Our Dreams

Nothing smoothes you out like slipping off your work day, and sliding into a sexy martini. First sip to test, the second to enjoy its perfection. With the third sip, you realize that all the worries of the day that seemed so important at the time, really don’t matter. Especially now. And certainly not in the grand scheme or big picture that is your life.

After that fourth sip, ah yes. The world starts to fall away, and all that is left is sheer bliss…and you. It is in this moment, when nothing and no one else exists, that you may ask yourself,
“Am I who I want to be?”
“Am I where I want to be?”

As children fearless of the future and of failure, we allowed ourselves the luxury of dreams. The fewer fears we had, the bigger our dreams were. Reach back, far far back, and remember those dreams, all of them. Even the outlandish and improbable ones you’ve had since then, plus the ones that gave you hope. And especially the ones that made you happy.

Hold on to those happy thoughts for just a little while, as you make yourself a fresh martini.

Happiness is a funny thing, isn’t it? Interesting how it’s so closely tied to our hopes and dreams. And yet, how often have we had to adjust those hopes and dreams down, as reality and adulthood set in? Did we find and embrace a different kind of happiness, or lower our expectations and told ourselves “Good enough”? What happened to us?

As the harshness and disappointments of life hit us repeatedly throughout the years, we had no choice but to shield and protect ourselves from those emotional blows. That meant closing off parts of our souls, guarding our vulnerabilities, slicing off pieces of our dreams to accommodate our new realities. We do this because we’d rather feel some happiness (maybe not a lot) and relief, than think about our disappointments and fears. It’s human.

But what we have forgotten is that in doing so, we have lost so much of ourselves. Take a sip and think: If I had nothing to fear, how would I live my life differently? Let your imagination run wild, let it overcome you and fill you as you remember what it was like to feel like a child unafraid of the future and of failure. Remember how powerful you felt, how happy and full of hope. Everything was possible; the world was waiting for you. And you will have your moment.

To you ladies and gents out there who have touched the stars, I salute you. To those who still reach for them, I raise my glass to you. Your minds and your lives are infinite with possibilities. To find your way again, you must reach beyond the cocoon of comfort and safety you have created to protect yourselves from your fears.

Stretch, reach and remember your greatness. Remember your victories, when you felt you could, even when you thought you couldn’t, and amazed yourself beyond your expectations when you did. You may not have “gotten there”. But that only means you are still on your way.

For more stories, visit The Ladies Chillout Lounge website.

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Peach Martini

2 oz Ciroc peach vodka
1 tsp Simple syrup (more if you like it sweeter)

Shake Ciroc peach vodka and simple syrup with ice. Serve neat in a Martini glass. Sip slowly and luxuriously.