Nothing says summer like a glass filled with a big bouquet of garden-fresh herbs. But some cocktails pack an equally mouth-watering punch with no greenery at all. Amari, the catch-all phrase for bitter herbal liqueurs, spirits and vermouths infused with herbs, flowers, seeds, citrus peels and spices, are often the favourite bottles on any bartender’s shelf. They lend drinks complexity and depth — without ever wilting. Here are just a few of the subtler herbal creations that will bloom in Whistler bars this summer.
Basalt Wine + Salumeria
604-962-9011 | basaltwhistler.com
Casual, neighbourly and located smack dab in the heart of Whistler Village, this West Coast salumeria features some of the best Italian traditions (charcuterie and cheese) with the bonus of an eclectic, B.C.-focused wine list.
This dark-peach Aperol Fizz dovetails nicely with both sides of the program — a little bit herbaceous (from the bitter Italian liqueur distilled from gentian, rhubarb and cinchona) and a little bit bubbly (by way of Charme De L’Ile, a prosecco-style, cool-climate sparkling wine from Averill Creek Vineyards on Vancouver Island). A shaken egg white adds a thick, frothy head, while muddled orange gives the drink depth of flavour and colour.
“It’s super crisp and super fresh,” says Bar Manager Jamie Lynch. “I had a hate-on for Aperol Spritz for the longest time — it’s become too trendy. But the creamy texture from the egg white changes everything.”
604-932-3433 | bearfootbistro.com
On Wednesdays We Wear Pink
From champagne sabering in the wine cellar to smoking-cold nitro ice cream churned tableside, the Bearfoot Bistro knows how to put the fun in fine dining. Scott Barber’s always-inventive cocktails are no exception.
“On Wednesdays We Wear Pink” is a classic line from Mean Girls, Tina Fey’s 2004 cult-favourite comedy. You don’t have to know the film to appreciate this devilishly good cocktail, which looks like a fruity Cosmopolitan, but packs some serious heat thanks to the herbal complexity of Ancho Reyes Verde, a Mexican liqueur made from poblano chilies. Shaken over ice with smoky mezcal, fresh cranberry juice and rhubarb-ginger syrup, it’s sweet, spicy and slightly vegetal.
“You have to be able to laugh at your own drinks,” says Barber (this is his third cocktail inspired by Mean Girls). “The guys don’t always get it, but the ladies love it.”
Cure Lounge and Patio at Nita Lake Lodge
604-966-5700 | nitalakelodge.com
Smoke and Oak, Zen and Preserved
The rooftop garden at Creekside’s Nita Lake Lodge is always the prime inspiration for summer cocktails. But this year, Head Bartender Rhiannon Csordas is throwing a few riddles into the mix. Literally.
Clue: I can crawl, I can fly, and I have hands but no legs or wings...
What am I?
Answer: Smoke and Oak — the name of her single-malt sipper mixed with sage-infused honey and garnished with a thyme sprig.
Other herbaceous elixirs include: the easy-going Zen, which incorporates cucumber-infused gin with Lillet, chamomile syrup, mint and lavender; and the Italian-inspired Preserved, with oak-barreled gin, basil-infused white vermouth, strawberry jam and cracked pepper.
“It’s so cool to be able to tell people about our garden and bring them up there when it’s in bloom,” Csordas says. “You don’t see it when you’re sitting here looking out over the lake, but it makes me so proud because all the products I'm using are homegrown.”
604-932-4442 | ilcaminetto.ca
Out of Sight
Recently relaunched by the Toptable Group (which also owns Whistler’s Araxi and Bar Oso), Il Caminetto is a swishy, modern Italian restaurant that showcases ingredients sourced from the mother country alongside those grown closer to home.
Staying as true as possible to the B.C.-Italian theme, Bar Manager Peter Johanson uses a local Amaro — Naramaro, from Legend Distilling in the Okanagan Valley’s Naramata Bench — for this bittersweet variation on an Aperol spritz. The liqueur’s bright orange zest, hints of caramel and smooth vanilla undertones add aromatic depth to elderflower syrup, freshly squeezed lemon and a splash of prosecco.
A light aperitif for the beginning the night, Out of Sight (named after the Stevie Wonder song) also offers an easy segue into the bar’s extensive Negroni “vault,” featuring a dozen variations on the classic. “After that, everything’s definitely going to be alright,” Johanson says with a laugh.
Sidecut Bar at the Four Seasons Resort &
604-966-5280 | sidecutwhistler.com
The Four Seasons’ cozy Sidecut Bar, adjacent to the hotel’s verdant courtyard terrace, recently elevated its cocktail game with a new collection of drinks inspired by mountain ranges around the world and created by Lauren Mote, a multi-award-winning bartender from Vancouver.
Perfect for summer sipping at crisp altitudes, this warmly rounded spin on the Mint Julep (named after the Upper Orinoco River in the Andes) switches out bourbon for a shot of Johnnie Walker Black that has been infused with the sweet notes of tonka bean and allspice. The main herbal component comes from a refreshing, simple syrup made with Mountain Mint tea from Whistler’s own Namasthé Tea Co., which hand-harvests its wild spearmint in the nearby Pemberton Valley. But it also contains an essential dash of Green Chartreuse, a French herbal liqueur made by Carthusian Monks, which blooms earthy on the finish.
Head Bartender Richie Small adds his own perfumed touch by smacking the silver smash cup with fresh mint and rubbing the leaves around the rim. “It wakes up the oils,” he explains, “and gets it right onto your hands.”