Tuesday 24 April 2012

Amaro April: Colin MacDougall from Blue Water Cafe

As promised I return with another drink, this time from a new neighbourhood for this blog - Yaletown in Vancouver. There is a lot of good food in these parts, but not as much good drink, but I have made the trip numerous times specifically for one place, one great bar program, and one insane whisky collection. Blue Water Cafe is first and foremost a raw seafood bar, one of the best in the city - actually THE best in the city as they just won "Best Seafood Restaurant" at the 23rd annual Vancouver Magazine Awards - but I feel like their name doesn't come up often enough for what they're doing with cocktails. The first key is to have some great skill behind the wood, and they definitely have it with bar manager Keith Trusler, assistant bar manager Colin MacDougall, and the rest of the team. Next is probably to ensure a good product selection, and Blue Water features - no joke - over 170 labels of Scotch alone, including 125 rare single malts, and also a nice selection of bourbon, Tequila, and brandy. This page on their website shows what seems like a smaller and outdated list, but at the least you'll get the idea.
I tried to get some good pictures of the bottles, but they cover the windows for the entire span of a long bar and just couldn't get a picture hat encompassed more than one or two regions. You can see a picture on the right of their hilarious "gin couch" - a couch-shaped ice shelf for the high end gins, which does include the amazing G'Vine Nouaison. Another very fun thing about this selection is their offer of whisky flights, from some peaty pals to the "world's finest 18 year-old's" to a $150 flight of three very rare bottlings.

As for the cocktails, the menu leans (as they often do) to the light and palatable side, but all the choices look tasty, and the barrel-aged choices all came out excellent - a Botanist Negroni and a Pre-Prohibition Manhattan in American oak, and a Blue Water original, The Red Mile, with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Orancio, Tuaca, Fee whiskey barrel-aged bitters, and a hint of Averna - aged in French oak. There are entire pages dedicated to Martini and Manhattan specifications, the latter featuring pre- and post-Prohibition styles as well as a Red Hook. Needless to say, it's a great cocktail and spirit destination - as are all of the Top Table restaurants, including Cin Cin and West.

Colin, from West before his 3-year tenure at Blue Water, is another Certified Specialist of Spirits, as well as a finalist you might remember from last year's Cocktail Kitchen at The Refinery, creating a winning concoction for the Cointreau competition using the liqueur as a base with gin and Fernet as backbones. On my first visit to Blue Water, Colin offered me a shot of Averna to finish my evening, and I knew he had to join us for Amaro April. The drink he shares with us today is an almost-finished work-in-progress that should be showing up on their menu soon enough, and it's served straight up but with a small shot of Averna on the side. This is, as he says, in case you want a little more bitter in your drink so you can add more as you please, but I actually found the cocktail to be balanced just the way it was, and really enjoyed sipping the Averna on the side and having the flavour come out more on my palate when I went back to my glass. The Alberta Springs, Averna, and walnut bitters bring out strong toffee and caramel flavours yet comes off as drier than you'd think. He mentioned that he'd prefer to use the Sazerac 18 rye, but then he'd have to charge about $23 per glass, so this was his second choice.

An Untitled Cocktail from Colin MacDougall

2oz Alberta Springs 10 Year-Old Canadian Rye Whisky
0.25oz Benedictine
3 dashes Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters

Combine all ingredients with ice and stir. Give a cocktail glass a hearty rinse of Amaro Averna, then strain the mixture into the glass. Flame a lemon peel over the drink and discard. 
Serve with 0.25oz Averna in a shot glass on the side. 

Thank you to Colin and to Blue Water Cafe for the excellent drinks I have had there. I recommend it if you haven't been yet - especially if you want to try some Scotch.

[[ See my post on amaro digestivos here ]]
[[ See my post on amaro aperivos here ]]
[[ See a buying guide for amaro here ]]

[[ See "The One Hit Wonder" from L'abattoir in Vancouver here ]]
[[ See "The Penny Farthing" from Pourhouse here ]]
[[ See an introduction to amaro  here ]]
[[ See "The Imperial Eagle" from Bourbon & Branch here ]]
[[ See "Sevilla" from Beretta here ]]
[[ See "Fallow Grave" from the Toronto Temperance Society here ]]
[[ See "The Black Prince" from Phil Ward here ]]
[[ See "Bad Apple" and "Jackson Ward" from Amor y Amargo here ]]
[[ See "The Four Horsemen" from Jay Jones at Shangri-La here ]]
[[ See "Debbie Don't" from Dutch Kills here ]]
[[ See "Welcome to the Dark Side" from Cin Cin here ]]
[[ See "Foolish Games" from Russell Davis here ]]
[[ See "Intro To Aperol" from Audrey Saunders at Pegu Club here ]] 

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