February 10, 2017
Smoke and spice
The first green shoots of spring may be sprouting here in the Lower Mainland, but in the mountains, it’s still a wintry wonderland. That means there’s still plenty of time for a little après ski action.
After a day on the slopes, we crave the aromas of smoke and spice, the complex flavours of peaty whiskies and toffee-scented rums, the heat of something that is both warming and actually warm.
“A pretty staple cocktail in a chalet environment is a hot, boozy drink,” says Rhiannon Csordas, bar manager of Cure Bar at Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler. “It’s comforting and, if you’ve had an ice-cold day on the hills, that’s what you want to drink on the patio around the fire.”
Located on the lakeshore in Creekside, Nita Lake Lodge is the ideal of a ski chalet, and Cure Bar the ideal of an après ski joint: comforting, welcoming and chicly rustic, with a great list of hearty snacks and satisfying cocktails. Among them is Csordas’s Hot Tamale, a steamy blend of rum and apple juice, fragrant with sage, ginger, clove and cinnamon.
“This is basically a hot apple cider, with a housemade winter spice syrup,” she says. “I wanted to make something that was Christmas in a syrup. The cool thing with flavoured syrups is they’re easy to make and they will elevate anything.”
Spice is one way to add warm flavours to drinks; another is with smoke.
“Smoke is warming and savoury and it’s an experience,” Csordas says. “I like to tell people that your drink tells a story, and every cocktail should be an experience.”
You can add that smoky scent with mezcal, peaty scotch or, the way Csordas does, with smoke-infused ice, made by smoking a container of water over sherry-soaked wood chips, then freezing it into cubes.
“For anyone who is a fan of the classics like the Old Fashioned, try a smoke-infused cocktail and you will be blown away,” she says. “Smoke pairs well with anything as long as it’s balanced.”
Hot, spicy or smoked, there’s one other key element to chalet cocktails. “They’re sippers,” Csordas says, “so you’re more likely to hang around.”
The Hot Tamale
- 1½ oz (45 mL) Lemon Hart rum
- 1 oz (30 mL) winter spice syrup
- 4 oz (120 mL) apple juice
- Cayenne pepper to taste
Place rum, syrup and apple juice in a small pan and heat just to a simmer. Pour into a snifter or glass mug. Top with a pinch of cayenne. If you like, garnish with a dehydrated apple slice and cinnamon stick. Serves 1.
Note: To make winter spice syrup, place 2 cups (500 mL) brown sugar and 1½ cups (375 mL) water in a pan with 1 tsp (5 mL) chai powder, 2 fresh sage leaves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 slices gingerroot and ½ tsp (2 mL) each star anise and ground clove. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Cool to room temperate and strain. Will keep, chilled, up to 4 months. Makes 2 quarts (2 L).
Three to try
Aged rums add sweet warmth
to a chilly day.
Appleton Estate 12 Year Old
Premium Jamaican sipping rum with notes of orange peel, vanilla, toasted oak, spice and nuts. $39.99
Havana Club 7 Year Old
A Cuban cigar in a glass: cedar, tobacco, vanilla and dark chocolate, brightened with hints of tropical fruit. $31.49
Mount Gay Extra Old
Barbados’ greatest export after Rihanna: a multiple award winner with flavours of baked apples, dried fruit and warm spice. $43.99