A Makeover for Dive Bar Classics

Joern Rohde

Remember Sex on the Beach? How about White Russians and Long Island Iced  Tea? Maybe the crazy ’80s were too much of a blur — or perhaps you  were too young to remember what your parents were drinking. Believe it or not, all those dive-bar drinks and cheesy cocktails popularized by Tom Cruise are now receiving modern craft-cocktail makeovers with fresh juices, house-made syrups, premium spirits, proper techniques and previously missing ingredients that elevate them to the next level. Everything old is new again, but this time the drinks taste so much better.


Mallard Lounge at Fairmont Chateau Whistler

604-938-2461, fairmont.com/whistler/dining


Long Island Iced Tea is a notoriously lethal drink that traditionally includes many dubious parts: five hard liquors, cheap sour mix to make all that booze palatable and a splash of cola for colour. Rarely, however, does the recipe call for any actual tea — until now.

The Vancouver Island Iced Tea, a refined variation of the college-dorm-crawl classic, acquires a genteel floral sweetness from simple syrup steeped with the Fairmont’s signature Vanilla Orchid Tea. Add a few tannic drops of house-made cherry bitters, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a finishing splash of Fentiman’s ginger- infused Curiosity Cola (poured tableside), and those two solid ounces of mixed spirits — including local Victoria Gin from Vancouver Island — still go down dangerously easy.

“But with a modern twist,” says bartender Ansel Pereira. And a lot more class.



Bar Oso

604-962-4540, baroso.ca


The sour might be a timeless classic cocktail that is easy to love, but it can be just as easily ruined when mixed in the wrong proportions, defiled with nasty liqueurs or bastardized with commercial juices.

Jason Redmond’s bacon-flavoured sour pushes the edges of complexity with two parts bourbon (plus a dash of herbal chartreuse), two parts freshly squeezed lemon juice and one part maple syrup. Yet his precise techniques — which include two shakes (dry and wet) for the egg whites — bring all the elements back into balanced harmony coated in thick, cascading froth.

A delectable garnish of chewy bacon (candied by the bar manager himself with maple syrup, sugar, sherry vinegar and black pepper) elevates jerky — another dive-bar standard — to new heights of ski-resort sophistication.



FireRock Lounge at The Westin Resort & Spa

604-935-4345, gibbonswhistler.com/firerock-lounge


The Old Fashioned is a classic, pre-Prohibition whisky cocktail that tastes divine when made properly, but is really easy to muck up.

“Some places will mash the orange instead of muddling the sugar,” says Assistant General Manager Azza Fleming. “That’s what often makes it divey.”

There is none of that bitter murkiness here, even though the FireRock’s signature drink takes many liberties with the original recipe by adding chocolate bitters and chili-infused simple syrup to Knob Creek bourbon.

Pale golden in colour with an intense chocolate- orange nose, the first fiery sip quickly subsides into a richly rounded, boozy cocoa finish. It’s no wonder the bar whips up hundreds of these easy- sippers every week.



Basalt Wine + Salumeria



It’s another Tequila Sunrise. But this one won’t leave you with that “hollow feelin’” and a banging headache, which inevitably come after consuming too much grenadine made with artificial flavouring.

“I detest the grenadine product that most bars use,” says Bar Manager Kevin Broderick. The Basalt version of this typically sickly sweet red syrup is house-made with tart pomegranate  juice.

Broderick freezes his rarefied grenadine into large, globular ice cubes that slowly melt into freshly squeezed orange juice mixed with smoky mescal (in place of tequila). The gently hazy sunrise effect gets better with time, encouraging you to sip the cocktail rather than slam  it.

Pair the cocktail with a side of classic rock — or  a Lemon Drop shooter. Broderick also makes a grown-up (vanilla-infused) version of the candied bachelorette-party favourite.



Cure Lounge and Patio at Nita Lake Lodge

604-966-5700, nitalakelodge.com


Sure, the Pina Colada might have been created in 19th century Puerto Rico, but the frothy coconut cocktail didn’t become popularized until Rupert Holmes’s cheesy single (“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain….”) shot up the Billboard charts in 1979.

Bar Manager Rhiannon Csordas gives the  ultimate paper-umbrella drink a decidedly non-beachy, farm-to-bar makeover with dried corn on the cob muddled in chocolate bitters.

Shaken like crazy with pineapple juice, lime and Earl Grey tea-infused bourbon, this left-field Pina Colada has a familiar creaminess, but also a curious kick that tastes nothing like “a worn-out recording of a favourite song.”



Bearfoot Bistro

604-932-3433, bearfootbistro.com


It was spring break, 1987, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Peach schnapps had just been introduced to the American market. A savvy distributor devised a contest that would pay a bonus to the bartender with the highest sales. A young bartender named Ted Pizio, who worked at Confetti’s nightclub, mixed the schnapps with vodka, orange juice and grenadine — and called it Sex on the Beach.

“Or so the story goes,” says Scott Barber, head bartender at Bearfoot Bistro, who has an affinity for the cocktail given that he was born in 1987 (though not conceived on spring break).

His modern variation combines coconut rum, peach purée, freshly squeezed lime, cognac-infused cherries and a splash of fizzy, calorie-free Monster Energy Ultra Sunrise. It smells like suntan lotion and tastes creamy, yet bright. We only wish he had called it Sex in the Snow.

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May 2018


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