Menus & Entertaining

Tips and trends for today's party drinks

By: Christine Picheca

Author: Canadian Living

Menus & Entertaining

Tips and trends for today's party drinks

By: Christine Picheca
Soeur de Cassis
Cassis Mona & Filles

One of our food editors recently returned from a trip to Quebec City. When he was there, he visited Cassis Mona & Filles in Île d'Orléans. While Doug raved about the beautiful location and the quality of their product, it was the description of two sisters carrying on and modernizing their family business that piqued my interest.

Sisters Catherine and Anna continue in the tradition of their father, Bernard Monna, in producing Crème de Cassis liqueur. This family operation is producing their quality product from varieties of blackcurrants cultivated on their own five hectares. The sisters have also expanded their product line by adding jellies, mustards and syrup, all made from their own fruit.

The state of agriculture in Canada is currently in flux. I have had many conversations lately with various industry professionals and all seem to agree that farmers need to take a more entrepreneurial role in marketing their products and that new avenues and markets need to be opened up for the fantastic Canadian products that come from our land. Catherine and Anne seem to be doing a good job of just that.

I also hear they have a great recipe for Sangria!

Shot Glasses Revisited
Remember shot glasses? Not the utilitarian versions used in boat races at University or versions with tourist logos emblazed – "Greeting From Sunny Jamaica," – but those delicate little glass vessels that, in our house, are pulled out Christmas morning after church. My dad pours three or four different liqueurs, amaretti in this one, drambuie – my mother's favourite in another, a little anisette and a couple of brandies to toast our celebration before the major cooking starts for the day.

I was helping my grandmother move last week and she was offering up items she no longer used. Included in them was a fantastic cut-crystal tray designed to hold six petit crystal cylinders and a small decanter to be passed to guests with a bit of sherry, or set out decoratively on a sideboard tea table. They tickled me just seeing them and made me want to have a party, just so I could use them.

I had a second shot glass run in the same week at a Vodka tasting for U'luvka Vodka. This Polish version of the shot glass was specifically for vodka and had the unique distinction of not having a base to set your glass down. The mythology behind the bottomless glass went something like this: the Royal Court would use such glasses in times gone by and since it was impossible to put the glass down it was necessary to continue to drink until all the bottles of vodka were empty. Since the court could not function on days proceeding the revelries, due to their hangover state, the king declared that the state alchemist must create a libation that would keep the Polish economy from grinding to a screeching halt – hence the vodka in question was born, smooth as silk and hangover-less.

I can't vouch for the lack of hangover (at $69 a bottle, I could hardly afford to put it to the test)! However, it did make a mighty fine Martini. And aren't the shot glasses lovely, I feel another party coming on….

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Filtered beer
Creemore Springs Brewery
A visit to Creemore Springs Brewery on Thursday incorporated a tour of the brewery, and a lovely beer inspired lunch in the boardroom catered by Eigensinn's Farms and featuring farm raised suckling pig.

Brew master, Gordon Fuller, is proud of the beer they are producing and it is evident that Molson's influence has been an enhancement to the operation and not a detractor to the product it was feared to be by Creemore fans. The beer remains unpasturized with no additives or preservatives; just barley, malt, yeast and water, as it was intended to be. Creemore removes its beer from store shelves at 8 weeks for optimum freshness.

Gordon was extolling the virtues of unfiltered beer believing some complexity is lost the more processes the beer goes through. Unfiltered beer is a hard sell to North American audiences who want clear and sparkling beer. Beer tasting brought us to a refrigerated room of frosty tanks with conical spigots at the bottom where spent yeast is re-collected and drawn off to be used again for the next brew. The tanks were so close together, looking up it was as if we were in a stainless steel beer grove in a magical beer forest.

Things became even more magical when Gordon gave us a taste of the unfiltered UrBock straight from the tanks. Gordon makes a good point, the beer is, light and effervescent on the tongue from the live yeast. All the beer we tasted that day were excellent but this beer was truly the high pint.

Filtering for aesthetics - as our beer is done - inevitably means losing some of the good stuff as well. I have always felt over-processing is a detractor when it comes to food and now I have one more piece of ammunition for my arsenal of factoids. How many great flavours do we compromise for the sake of a pristine aesthetic? Gordon Fuller has a hope to educate the public to enjoy the cloudy genre of unfiltered beer – I am doing my little part to help. I would love to be able to buy what I tasted coming out of that tap in the Creemore forest.

Seelbach Cocktail
Here is the recipe for the Seelbach Cocktail I had Thursday night. I decided to share so you can have it as your holiday cocktail as well but if it becomes a hit trend of the season I'm taking credit!

Seelbach Cocktail
1 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Cointreau
7 dashes of Angostura bitters
7 dashes of Peychaud's bitters
5 oz. chilled Champagne

Combine the bourbon, Cointreau, and bitters in a shaker filled with ice. Stir and pour into champagne flutes. Top with chilled Champagne. Garnish with an orange twist if you like.

The cocktail is named for a hotel in Kentucky. The Peychaud's bitters is the bitters predominately used in the Southern US, Angostura is more usual here but you can find both.

What's new today? Click here to read the latest trends in food and entertaining. The Irish Car Bomb
Sitting at the Interlaken Hotel bar in the Berkshire's foothills, the couple next to me buys a drink. A middle-aged couple (their words not mine) having a weekend away from kids - the first in a long time. He announces his age is forty-two and he thinks he is too old to be out. He asks the bartender, for a recommendation for other local bars where they can head out to and find some fun. The bartender tells him of a place close by, but he's feeling like he will look like all of the kids' dad and so lingers as an excuse to not venture forth.

Instead he suggests we all have an Irish Car Bomb – the drink of his youth, when he was cool with his buds and knew where he fit in. Rather than venturing off of his barstool he buys a round for all takers at the bar … the Guinness arrives with a floater of Jameson and a sidecar of Bailey's Irish Cream. We all watch as he picks up the shot and drops it into the foamy Guinness - his wife encourages him to chug-a-lug as he once did in the glory of his youth. The bartender sets everyone up - Irish Car Bombs all around! It kind of tastes like malted milk – quite yummy.

Thanks for the nightcap Will!

Cremant for New Years Eve
If you want to drink Champagne all night long but don't have the budget for it, look for a cremant instead. It sparkling wine from France – made exactly the same way as Champagne but made from the grapes of the region where it is produced. The one pictured here is Chateau De Montgueret, Cremant de Loire that we tasted in the test kitchen for an upcoming story. It's great and only $19.95. I have been drinking it throughout the holidays with just about everything.

Other cheap options are Nino Franco Prosecco ($17.95) or Roederer, a Californian sparkling ($27.95).

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Menus & Entertaining

Tips and trends for today's party drinks