The Bard & Banker: A Tale about a Pub, a Poet, and Damn Good Ale

victoria-waterfront

 

There it was.

Early afternoon in downtown Victoria, and the sight that made my eyes go all sparkly  – a Scottish pub (Bard & Banker), an English pub (Garrick’s Head), and an Irish pub (Irish Times), all in a row. Or as I like to say, just staggering distance from each other!

 

bardandbankerpub

garrickspub

irishtimes

And as a bonus, right smack in the middle of the English and Irish pubs is Bastion Square, where locals watched public hangings back in the day, then hit the nearby watering holes afterwards for some conversation. I love a town with a rich history!

How do you gentrify a site of gruesome, tragic history, plus make it trendy again? Tourism!

bastionsquare

 

In addition to being a lover of classic cocktails and hard spirits, I am a huge fan of craft beers. Expanding my horizons has been very good for the soul. Having never tried a Scottish ale, I decided today was the day!

 

bandbpubinsude

 

Bard & Banker was beautiful inside, shiny yet cozy, with its cream walls, dark wood, and many chandeliers. Awfully fancy for a Scottish pub, I thought, as I headed for the bar (Hint: It used to be a bank).

As I sat down, I beheld yet another wondrous sight: A place of honor for their best Scotch whiskys! Next to it was a shelf for the rest – bourbons, vodkas, less special whiskeys, etc.

 

bardandbanker_specscotch

 

I told the bartender I wanted a Scottish ale. He handed me a menu, and there it was – big, bold red letters, burning into my eyes and brain, like Destiny: Stone Fired Scottish Ale. I ordered it immediately, and was told it was a fine choice.

 

scottishredaleonmenu.jpg

 

“Barkeep”, says I, “What be this ‘Phillips Robert Service’?”

“Phillips is the brewing company”, he replied, “As for ‘Robert Service’, aye well, there’s a tale!”

The bartender hurried to the other end of the bar, and brought back my ale, a poster, and then the tale.

 

scottishredale_fullglass

 

Robert Service started his career working as a banker in Scotland, like his father. During that time, he devoured books on poetry by Browning, Keats, Tennyson, etc., and started composing some of his own. He later moved to Vancouver BC, and wandered up and down North America, doing odd jobs, falling in love, hitting his family and friends up for money, and having one crazy adventure after another (something about a cowboy outfit, a bordello in Mexico, and so forth). During that time, he published several pieces.

This guy! There oughta be a movie!

While honing his poetic prowess (and being flat broke), the “Bard of the North” got a day job as a Banker, at the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Victoria BC. He rented a room upstairs, in this same building where he worked. And the building later became the bar where I’m sipping this damn fine Scottish red ale named after him – one of the finest craft beers I’ve ever tasted!

 

bardandbanker_sml

 

This Robert Service Stone Fired Scottish Ale, it was absolutely delicious – rich, flavorful, yet light and fresh!  I highly recommend you order this beer when you’re at the Bard & Banker in Victoria BC. , or anywhere else in the world, if you can get it!

Robert Service’s journey continued to the Yukon, where he had many more adventures that inspired some of his most famous poetry. I’m envisioning a web series of the Bard/Banker’s adventures. Think of the creative liberties the writers could take, on top of an already amazing story!

One of his funniest and most popular poems is the famous “The Ballad of the Ice-Worm Cocktail“. Below is a snippet. Click the link if you want to read the entire poem:

“…”There’s been a run on cocktails, Boss; there ain’t an ice-worm left.
Yet wait . . . By gosh! it seems to me that some of extra size
Were picked and put away to show the scientific guys.”
Then deeply in a drawer he sought, and there he found a jar,
The which with due and proper pride he put upon the bar;
And in it, wreathed in queasy rings, or rolled into a ball,
A score of grey and greasy things were drowned in alcohol.
Their bellies were a bilious blue, their eyes a bulbous red;
Their back were grey, and gross were they, and hideous of head. 

And when with gusto and a fork the barman speared one out,
It must have gone four inches from its tail-tip to its snout.
Cried Deacon White with deep delight: “Say, isn’t that a beaut?”
“I think it is,” sniffed Major Brown, “a most disgustin’ brute.
Its very sight gives me the pip. I’ll bet my bally hat,
You’re only spoofin’ me, old chap. You’ll never swallow that…

Cheers!

 


All photos taken by Alexandria Julaton

 

Holiday Spirits: Barrel-Finished Cocktails

I had the genius idea of my ski-buff boyfriend and I staying at a hotel in Park City, Utah, just walking distance from the slopes. While he was playing in the snow, I’d be downtown feeding my wanderlust.

Being a flatlander, I have never been higher than 700 feet above sea level, unless I was on an airplane. Found out the hard way that high altitude sickness was an actual thing. Plus, it was a real b—-!

In a couple of days, the vomiting stopped and headaches were mercifully less frequent. Eventually, the dizziness and shortness of breath eased up, too.

My boyfriend told me that when his parents were in Peru, they were given “cocaine tea” to help with their high altitude sickness. The proper term is “coca tea”, which is coca leaves boiled in water. Note: Chewing the leaves or drinking the tea could get you a positive drug test for cocaine. And yet I would have KILLED to drown my misery in gallons of that stuff from day one!

While exploring downtown Main Street, I wandered over to a side street and found the High West Saloon. Their distillery is a few miles away but, sadly, tours are on hold during these Covid times. At the saloon, they served up their award-winning spirits in a shot glass, in a cocktail, and in their food.

The saloon was a mellow, chill place to grab an appetizer and a very tasty Boulevardier, made with their own American Prairie Bourbon. I liked my cocktail so much, I had to come back the next day. Both times, I forgot to take a pic of the exterior, probably coz I couldn’t wait to get inside. So the screengrab below is from their site.

One of the things I noticed on my way to my table was a “shrine” to their barrel-finished Manhattan.

On their menu, I saw that they featured two cocktails finished in their whiskey barrels – the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. I’ve only ever seen barrel-aged hard spirits, such as gin or tequila. Plus, one of my favorite whiskeys, Angels Envy, is barrel-finished in port wine casks.

But barrel-finished COCKTAILS? Didn’t know they existed, so I needed to explore this further and deeper!

The next day, I went back to the saloon, scored outdoor seating, and texted my boyfriend to meet me there. While waiting for him to show up, I enjoyed this view from across the street.

There were two barrel-finished cocktails on their menu, so we had to try both. First the Old-Fashioned, then the Manhattan. I preferred the Old-Fashioned. Props for the torched orange peel as a finishing touch! As for my boyfriend, the barrel-finished Manhattan, also very delicious, rocked his world. He bought a bottle at the gift shop to take home.

I gotta say, I am loving the process of aging and finishing hard spirits in barrels recently used for some other liquor! The whiskey barrel finish gave both cocktails added dimensions in their flavor depth, sweetness and aroma. There was an indefinable something; the first word that leaped to my mind was ‘savory’. The next was “extraordinary”.

To anyone visiting Main Street and Park City, Utah, the whiskeys and cocktails at High West Saloon are highly recommended!

Cheers!

Additional sources:
http://www.newperuvian.com/drinking-coca-tea-drug-test-results/
https://www.highwest.com/saloon.php

A Quarantini Cocktail: The Mint Julep

julep4

 

So your favorite watering-hole is closed down by the pandemic. Or popping by for a pint while bars are opening at half-capacity (or less) in phases means waiting in line, or making a reservation days ahead.

Fortunately, there’s a solutions for these: the Quarantini! But not having an impressively stocked arsenal, like your favorite bar does, means working with what you’ve got.

So what’s a girl to do? What, indeed.

 

whiskys

 

The only explosive growth I’ve seen this early summer is the mint plant in my garden. And, like they say, when life hands you mint, make juleps!

 

julep3

 

The mint julep has been around since the 18th century, and is still the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. It’s been featured in classic literature, such as Gone with the Wind and The Great Gatsby, as well as in stories (rumors?) about some famous writers.

William Faulkner would sometimes go behind the bar at Musso & Frank Grill in L.A. to make himself a mint julep. Ernest Hemingway threw a fit and smashed his drinking glass against a wall at a bar in France, because the bartender served him a crappy mint julep.

Given the extreme reaction to his cocktail, my guess is the base spirit was something NOT bourbon. I mean, I get it. The man was heartbroken, obviously.

As luck would have it, an American tourist was also at that bar with friends. Seeing this outburst, he procured a bottle of Makers Mark from his satchel, thus calming the writer’s rage with a properly made drink.

I sometimes use Makers for this cocktail. Today, though, I’m using Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

 

julep2

 

The ingredients:

1 teaspoon sugar
Bunch of mint leaves
Crushed ice
2 ounces bourbon

Add the sugar.
Put the teaspoon of sugar in a mixing glass. I use Baker’s Sugar, which has finer, smaller granules than regular sugar, so it dissolves more quickly. If you’re using regular sugar, just add about a teaspoon of water to dissolve it completely.

Add the mint.
After you add the bunch of mint leaves in the mixing glass, just press them gently and firmly with your mixing spoon, or muddler. You want to extract the oils without tearing up the leaves.

 

muddlers

 

If you use a muddler, DO NOT pound the leaves; you’re not making a mojito! Besides, breaking the leaves releases its chlorophyll, which can make your julep taste a little bitter.

Add the ice and bourbon.
Pour some crushed ice on top of the mint leaves. Now add your bourbon, and give it a couple of stirs.

 

julep1

 

Work on the presentation.
The cocktail is almost ready for its big moment! Pour the mixture into a highball glass.

Heap more crushed ice, and place a mint sprig on top.

Stir until the glass feels chilled, then add a straw for sipping.

 

julep4

 

And now enjoy your summer day with another classic cocktail!
Cheers!


Sources:

The Mint Julep. The Right and Wrong Ways to Make the Simple Classic.
The Complete History of the Mint Julep

Dating Tales with Cocktails: The Bad Touch (Lady Finger Cocktail)

Samantha’s Story

I was at an upscale whiskey lounge one evening with my gal pal Samantha (not her real name), celebrating her recent interview at the Starbucks corporate office. Sure it was an interview, not a job offer (yet), but in this brutal job market, you celebrate every victory, even small ones.

dalwhinnie_scotch

After studying floor-to-ceiling beverage options, flipping through the whiskey bible and consulting with the bartender, we settled on a fine choice: A shot of Dalwhinnie single malt scotch, followed by another. Diageo’s 15-year-old was a definite crowd-pleaser, with its smoothness, aroma and lingering flavors of honey and peach. It’s no wonder it won a gold medal at the 2015 San Francisco Spirits Competition. A perfect scotch to sip through tales of dating drama.

Sam’s relationship with her man had been pretty stormy lately. I asked if she had a Match or Tinder account yet. “Oh my god, dating SUCKS!”, she replied loud enough to raise eyebrows across the bar. “I still remember how awful the guys were before I met Jason (not his real name), which is why I’ve stuck with him. Seriously, I went on a lot of dates. A LOT! And, oh man, the stories I could tell you!”

whiskeylounge

Sam moved from Some Itty Bitty Town, Washington to big sparkly Seattle for grad school. She made a few half-hearted attempts at exploring the city, but still felt awkward not knowing where anything was or anyone to show her around. Tom, who went to the same grad school, had seen Sam wandering around downtown alone a couple of times. Eager for a friend and grateful for his attention, Sam accepted Tom’s invitations to cafes, movie houses and bars – anyplace a couple of dirt-poor grad students could have a good time, for not a lot of money. Plus, Tom was not a bad-looking guy.

After another heavy makeout session at his studio apartment, they decided they wanted to take it to the next level. Sam, with her unusual Russian-European beauty, had been with plenty of men. Plenty. She had a healthy sexual appetite, and was up for just about anything.

But not this.

sippingscotch

“Stick your finger in there,” Tom said, lying naked on top of the sheets with his back to Sam.

“You want me to stick my finger in…” Sam felt she couldn’t finish her sentence, even as she tried to not sound like some blushing naive bumpkin.

He had told her it felt so good, in ways he couldn’t even describe. There are so many nerves clustered in that little area that the pleasure centers are overwhelming, he explained. So not wanting to be a silly spoilsport, she continued to play along, moving her finger to the spot he directed her to. For all her impressive experience with men, she had never rubbed anyone’s prostate gland before. Now if she could only just find the damn thing.

Weird, she thought. What WAS that? Something floating…disturbing texture…she started to pull her finger out. Something dark and squishy was on it! Tom suddenly grabbed her hand and shoved her finger back in. Oh my God, she thought, was that feces?? “EW EW EW!”, her mind screamed even as she rubbed his prostate gland. Since his back was to her, Tom couldn’t see the shock and disgust flitting back and forth on Sam’s face that whole time.

After he had climaxed, Sam told Tom she needed to leave. Something on her research report she realized she had forgotten to add. Sam also decided she needed to get out more and make other friends, since she had no intention of hanging out with Tom ever again.


The Lady Finger Cocktail
(courtesy of absolutdrinks.com)

1 part gin
1 part cherry brandy

Combine, shake with ice, serve neat.

The Whiskey Library

whiskeytasting

“Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” (Haruki Murakami)

I waited in line to get into the fairly new, and already very popular, Multnomah Whiskey Library one evening. According to the other customers I chatted with, there’s always a waiting list. If you wanted to make reservations and skip the lines, you’d have to purchase membership, and currently they’re full. The Library was a high-ceilinged, chandeliered modern pub of dark wood, leather and exposed brick, with two of its walls covered by shelves showcasing whiskies from around the world, along with other choice hard liquors. Jaunty Scottish and Irish instrumental classics played in the background, and yet the noise level was comfortably moderate; it never got so loud that you couldn’t hear what the person was saying to you from across your table, even with all the hard surfaces.

The Library made it a point to never exceed their maximum capacity of 50 customers in a room at a time, so there were never too many people loudly crowded into a room, bumping into each other and spilling their expensive drinks. As soon as I was seated and looked around, I noticed a majority of the patrons that night appeared to be in their late 20s to early 40s, with a slightly higher men-to-women ratio. My eyes explored the room and paused at a very well-dressed man sitting at a lounge chair a few feet away. He was slowly swirling a dark liquid in a snifter, possibly a Scotch.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch connoisseurs recommend sipping from a tulip-shaped glass, or any glass with a wide base and narrow mouth, to improve the tasting experience. For example:

properglass

I watched him quietly sip his beverage with such obvious pleasure, and realized I have never seen a man rush through a glass of premium Scotch, or toss it back quickly. Oh, to be a glass of really good Scotch – to be tasted slowly, savored completely, and enjoyed with complete focus.

This place had pretty much everything that will put you in a really good mood – world-class liquors, tasty appetizers (the bacon-wrapped dates and crab fritters were fabulous!), and a very attractive staff. Lovely ladies greeted you at the door, my server looked like he’d stepped out of a men’s clothing catalog, the bartender with the great smile and brawny good looks was very attentive…I could go on and on.

whisklibpiccombo

I turned my attention to the menu. The prices were a bit steep, with whiskey tastings ranging from $14 to much higher. Expect to pay for the level of selection and superiority one prefers in fine beverages, as well as for the exclusivity and ambience of a place that offers them. Classic cocktails, gins, vodkas, rums, beers, wines, and so on, were also well represented. But if you’re at a place that calls itself a “whiskey library”, you order the whiskey.

I ordered a Talisker Storm single malt Scotch, from the shores of the Isle of Skye. As I raised the glass for a sip, I was pleasantly surprised by the peat-y, smokey aroma. Some people don’t like a smokey Scotch. With that first sip, a delicious warmth spread from my throat to throughout my body. I gasped softly and shut my eyes as the room swayed a bit and my cheeks tingled pleasantly.

scotchwhiskey

Wow. The boldness, the smoothness. And interestingly, the flavor wasn’t nearly as smokey as I thought it would be, considering the first fragrant impression. With its blend of new and old scotches, Talisker Storm managed to smooth out the smokiness. Nicely done!

Interestingly, there are articles online on how to properly drink and enjoy a Scotch. According to an askmen.com article, entitled “10 Things to Know About Drinking Whiskey“, the process is as follows:

Aroma: Swirl the whisky around the glass and take in the aromas as they are released. Don’t poke your nose straight into the glass, as all you’ll pick up is alcohol.

Taste: Take a nice, long sip and let the whisky feel its way around your entire mouth before swallowing.

Finish: A good whisky should linger like a fond memory, and you will still be feeling and tasting it for minutes afterward.

According to a “How to Drink Scotch” article I found online:

“Before actually drinking the Scotch, take a moment to savor the scent of the Scotch. Doing so will help to prepare the taste buds for the flavor that is about to come. Sip a small amount of Scotch. Allow the Scotch to settle onto the tongue and gently move the liquid around the mouth. This action will distribute the flavor and enhance the pleasure derived from the drink. After a moment, swallow the Scotch and prepare to enjoy another sip.”

In my opinion, as with any all-encompassing, sensual experience, I’d say the only right way to enjoy such a moment is to do so completely and at your own pace.

Cheers!

Gie him strong drink until he wink, That’s sinking in despair; An’ liquor guid to fire his bluid, That’s prest wi’ grief and care: There let him bouse, an’ deep carouse, Wi’ bumpers flowing o’er, Till he forgets his loves or debts, An’ minds his griefs no more. (Robert Burns)


Interior shots #3 & 4 courtesy of Multnomah Whiskey Library website
Articles mentioned in blog: http://www.ehow.com/how_2304608_drink-scotch.html http://www.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment/the-expert-10-things-to-know-about-drinking-whiskey_3.html