Meet the Innovators Behind Whistler’s Bars

Borrowing from the Classics



Martini. Old Fashioned. Brandy Alexander. Who doesn’t love a classic cocktail? Usually composed of two or three standard ingredients, these time-tested recipes offer a prime opportunity for talented bartenders to put their innovative spin on a drink to create something new from something old. Whether it’s adding bitters, switching up spirits, caramelizing or infusing, get ready to fall in love with these reinvented classics.

Meet the Whistler bartenders who love to break the rules, creating their own modern twists for your drinking pleasure. From Chartreuse-infused hard candy crowns to colour-changing martinis, join this creative crew and think outside the box next time you sit at the bar.


Pisco Alejandro

Locals know it as a Whistler institution. For more than 20 years, Caramba has been serving up a family-friendly, pan-European menu, which takes in everything from wood-fired pizzas and heaped plates of tasty al dente pasta to juicy duck confit and crisp patatas bravas. “We like to keep things simple and casual,” says James Paré, Caramba chef and co-owner. “With simple, you can’t hide behind anything. It has to be good.”

As a child, Paré remembers summers spent in the Okanagan on his grandparents’ cherry orchard. “My grandma canned everything: peaches, plums, apricots, pears — you name it. She used to make a rhubarb-strawberry jam that she just called a ‘stew,’ which she served with ice cream, and it was just so good!”

Those simple flavours carry through to Caramba’s kitchen, and when Chef James wants to capture a taste of summer in the heart of winter, it’s pan con tomate that he turns to. “We get beautiful tomatoes from Lillooet. I’ll can these, and they are so delicious in January or February. We make a natural sourdough loaf as our table bread from a blend of our two sourdough starters ‘Cindy’ and ‘Tina.’ I use sliced day-old bread with salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil, pop it in the Panini press, and it comes to life. Then I give the crisp toasted bread a quick stroke of Russian garlic, a rub with that perfect juicy canned tomato, and I finish it with olive oil. You take one bite and it wakes up your palate, taking you straight back to summer. It’s the opposite of comfort food. This is hopeful food — summer is coming!”

CURE LOUNGE & PATIO AT NITA LAKE LODGE
604-966-5700 | nitalakelodge.com


Torched

“I love to play around with the classics. I don’t believe in the idea that you don’t touch perfection,” declares Rhiannon Csordas of The Raven Room. “I think amazing things come when you know the build of a classic drink and want to be adventurous … when you take that classic and make it your own. It’s a fantastic way to learn and get creative.”

Since opening earlier this year, The Raven Room has become a hot spot for lovers of fine craft drinks and a food menu created from locally sourced ingredients. Owned and operated by locals, it’s a favourite post-shift destination for industry locals to come and talk shop over delicious cocktails. “We get so many guests from word-of-mouth recommendations,” says Rhiannon. “It’s like, six, seven times in a shift when I’m talking at the bar, people tell me that bartenders in other bars and restaurants recommend us as the place you just have to come. We knew we were doing something right in the community.”

Riffing on the modern classic Paper Plane, Csordas’s Torched turns the traditional blend of equal parts bourbon, Amaro, Aperol and lemon juice into a bruléed sour by adding egg white, demerara sugar syrup and a few drops of Bittered Sling’s Lem Marrakech. The magic comes thanks to a sprinkle of sugar on that foamy top that’s torched with a brulée gun to add a more complex texture and heavenly burnt-sugar aroma. “I think the Paper Plane is a beautiful cocktail. I started to make the drink by adding spiced bitters for guests when they wanted something for after dinner and they loved it,” Csordas says. “I kept playing around, and eventually, it became a sour with a bruléed topping. I think it brings out a rich, sweet element that works so well with this drink.”

THE RAVEN ROOM
604-962-0311 | theravenroom.ca


Champagne Dysmorphia

“We’ve got a motto here at the Bearfoot: We don’t say ‘no.’ We will always do our best to accommodate what our guests want,” says Bartender Joe Casson. “We cover so many bases, from our awesome wine cellar and fantastic cocktails to grappa, port and vodka, and of course, spectacular fine dining; but we’re known for being fun and approachable.” And what could be more fun than a mischievous twist on that elegant classic, the Champagne Cocktail? Inspiration here for British-born bartender Joe comes from the Queen: “I heard that she drinks Champagne with Cognac and Chartreuse, so I decided to bring all that together to create our ‘Champagne Dysmorphia,’ a cocktail within a cocktail, within a cocktail!” Replacing the traditional Angostura bitters-soaked sugar cube with a house-made Sazerac sugar cube, in the shape of a bear, layers up an impressive depth of flavour while it fizzes away elegantly in a flute of Moët & Chandon. But, in typical Bearfoot style, pretty isn’t enough — not when it could be spectacular. That’s why this cocktail comes with its very own Chartreuse-infused hard candy crown.  

Musing on putting his personal spin on classic cocktails, Joe says, “I like to think of each recipe as a melody — what ingredients you use, how you approach the drink. That’s choosing your instruments. You can pay homage to the tune but use your own style. When it comes to classics, I think once you know them, you get to have the fun of ripping them apart and then putting them back together again.”

BEARFOOT BISTRO
604-932-3433 | bearfootbistro.com


Magic Chair

“Sure, we have the classics, but if we didn’t put a tweak of ourselves into cocktail recipes, bar culture would only have about 30 drinks instead of thousands,” Maxime Lambert, the Mallard Lounge’s bar manager, says with a chuckle. “Plus, there’s something special about delivering a drink to one of our guests that was invented right here.” “Right here” at the Mallard Lounge (just off the welcoming lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler) is probably one of the coziest spots in Whistler, especially throughout the winter season thanks to roaring fires, comfy sofas and homey armchairs. “You can’t help loving this lounge,” says Maxime. “Live music, 110 different whiskies behind the bar, great food and that feeling that you’re in a rustic chalet … perfect for winter.”

A riff on a gin Martini, Maxime’s Magic Chair creation is made with award-winning Vancouver Island Sheringham Gin, St. Germain Elderflower, Inniskillin ice wine and a touch of theatrics thanks to Spirdust, a powder with impressive qualities that doesn’t alter the taste or texture of the drink. “We dip an Amarena cherry in the Spirdust,” Lambert explains, “and then drop it into the cocktail and swirl it around. It goes from clear to a sparkling silvery and pink drink.” Likely to be an instant Instagram video hit, the Magic Chair gives a glittery shimmer and offers up a sweeter, more floral take on the classic Martini. With a palette of 10 colours to choose from (“Bartender’s choice or you can pick,” Lambert says.), you can drink your way through the rainbow at the Mallard Lounge this season.

MALLARD LOUNGE AND TERRACE
604-938-8000 | fairmont.com/whistler/dining


Turning The Tide

“Sure, we have the classics, but if we didn’t put a tweak of ourselves into cocktail recipes, bar culture would only have about 30 drinks instead of thousands,” Maxime Lambert, the Mallard Lounge’s bar manager, says with a chuckle. “Plus, there’s something special about delivering a drink to one of our guests that was invented right here.” “Right here” at the Mallard Lounge (just off the welcoming lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler) is probably one of the coziest spots in Whistler, especially throughout the winter season thanks to roaring fires, comfy sofas and homey armchairs. “You can’t help loving this lounge,” says Maxime. “Live music, 110 different whiskies behind the bar, great food and that feeling that you’re in a rustic chalet … perfect for winter.”

A riff on a gin Martini, Maxime’s Magic Chair creation is made with award-winning Vancouver Island Sheringham Gin, St. Germain Elderflower, Inniskillin ice wine and a touch of theatrics thanks to Spirdust, a powder with impressive qualities that doesn’t alter the taste or texture of the drink. “We dip an Amarena cherry in the Spirdust,” Lambert explains, “and then drop it into the cocktail and swirl it around. It goes from clear to a sparkling silvery and pink drink.” Likely to be an instant Instagram video hit, the Magic Chair gives a glittery shimmer and offers up a sweeter, more floral take on the classic Martini. With a palette of 10 colours to choose from (“Bartender’s choice or you can pick,” Lambert says.), you can drink your way through the rainbow at the Mallard Lounge this season.

SIDECUT MODERN STEAK + BAR AT THE FOUR SEASONS RESORT AND RESIDENCES WHISTLER
604-966-5280 | sidecutwhistler.com

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