Victoria will be awash with spirits and the people who mix them and the people who drink them this weekend. The Art of the Cocktail festival returns for three fun-filled and educational days aimed at exposing attendees to all the latest trends in cocktails and the foods that go with them.
The Art of the Cocktail has its roots in a single event that was held as a fundraiser for the Victoria Film Festival in 2008. Now it has grown into a three-day festival in various venues around the city, kicking off with an event called the Three Martini Lunch on Saturday afternoon at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress Hotel. The largest event is the Grand Tasting at Crystal Gardens on Saturday night where you can taste many fine cocktails along with many fine bites to eat prepared by area chefs. I’m really looking forward to that as well as a workshop on Sunday at the Little Jumbo restaurant with Roberto Bava, an Italian wine producer and chocolate expert. He’s going to talk about how wines and fortified wines and how they work with chocolate and nuts. Or course there will be tastings and pairings.*update: This workshop is now sold out. Little Jumbo is the site of several workshops, and this is the restaurant that well-known Victoria mixologist Shawn Soole opened earlier this year. Soole and Nate Caudle also published a book called Cocktail Culture this fall, and it captures the heart of the cocktail scene in Victoria with profiles and recipes from all the top mixologists in the city.
The cocktail has been in resurgence for over a decade now, I think. Not just a trend, but more possibly a reflection of it becoming easier for liquor brands to market themselves through the expanding media. But I think here in Victoria especially the trend is another reflection of the interest in local artisans and local products. More than ever before, cocktail recipes I see from local bartenders include bitters they’ve made themselves or purchased from other local producers, and because we have a growing number of distilleries on the island, and bartenders like to showcase those local spirits. So when Merridale Cidery released their new apple brandy, they had local bartender Janice Mansfield create some cocktail recipes using that product.
With us in the studio this afternoon was James Marinus, one of the managers of Shelter Point Distillery just south of Campbell River. I’ll have a more detailed story about the distillery in the future, but it was built primarily to make whiskey, however it takes three years of aging to produce a Canadian whiskey, so while they’re waiting for that first batch to mature next year they have been busy making a vodka called Still Master Vodka.
James shook and served us the North Island Pear-fection, which uses fresh pressed pear juice and apple juice from Blue Moon Winery in the Comox Valley. You’ll be able to taste that cocktail along with another cocktail made with Still Master vodka called the Nanaimo Bar at the Grand Tasting. Shelter Point Distillery is also hosting a cocktail competition on Sunday the 28th at Catalano Restaurant as bartenders will concoct more cocktails using Shelter Point’s Still Master Vodka. 7:00pm. Tickets are just $10.