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Spirits and Cocktails

Spirits and Cocktails

Wolfhead Distillery – A New Addition to the Windsor Spirits Scene

November 7, 2016
Wolfhead Distillery Coffee whisky is made with real cold brew espresso.

Driving into the parking lot of Wolfhead Distillery on our recent visit to Lake Erie North Shore, Shawn and I were surprised that it was attached to a lumber yard – not your traditional setting for a distillery. But as soon as we walked into this new building, all thoughts of lumber were quickly forgotten – the place was hopping. Only ten weeks after its opening and on a Wednesday night to boot, Wolfhead was packed with a dinnertime rush that was pretty darn impressive.

Wolfhead Distillery in Windsor/Essex, Ontario is one of the region's newest distilleries.And the excitement over this new business is not misplaced. They seated us at the bar for a tasting of their spirits – three whisky and three vodka – and was hard not to be impressed. The vodka is wheat-based and seven times distilled with limestone filtration to remove impurities and impart a bit of minerality and salt.

The plain vodka is very good and would make for an excellent martini, but it’s the grapefruit vodka that impresses me most and I’m not surprised to learn it’s a best-seller. The flavours on this one really pop and there’s not that confected sweetness some flavoured spirits have. It tastes a little bit like good quality ginger ale and would make an excellent cocktail or be fine to drink on its own. Wolfhead believes in using natural ingredients in their spirits and that shows through in the quality. The third vodka, the banana caramel, is more like a liqueur and a bit too sweet for my tastes, but I’m also not a big fan of banana flavours in general.

The whisky, which they had to purchase and then blend since their own will not be ready for several more years, is all Canadian and had more corn, making it closer to a bourbon. Surprisingly, the coffee whisky is a clear winner here. Made with cold brew espresso grounds it is not too sweet and has a nice bitterness from the use of real coffee. The apple caramel whisky is very approachable and would make a nice option for someone who wanted an alternative to American Honey.

A grapefruit vodka mojito at Wolfhead Distillery is a fun option at dinner.The Wolfhead team has invested a lot in their business, we take a tour of the distilling area and the equipment, imported from Italy, is high-quality and speaks to their seriousness. They are also very passionate about the water they use in their distilling process and there’s no expense spared in that part of the process. Right now the focus is on small blends and they are all hand-bottled and labeled. This is a craft operation, with a focus on making high-quality spirits that can be sipped alone or in a cocktail.

At the end of the tasting and tour, my favourites are the premium whisky (the plain) and the coffee whisky, as well as the grapefruit vodka and I purchase both flavoured spirits to experiment more with them at home.

Ahi tuna at Wolfhead Distillery's restuaraunt is a great dinner option.We’re seated for dinner shortly after the tasting and I order the drunken shrimp and scallops (made with Wolfhead vodka, of course) and Shawn has the ahi tuna. I also order one of the mojitos, made with Wolfhead’s grapefruit vodka. It’s a great cocktail and a lot of fun, but with no mint or rum, it’s not really a mojito – with that caveat, I highly recommend trying it.

The food is very good and the quality high, the flavours pop and each dish is vibrant and delicious. You can see why the restaurant is packed on a Wednesday night after only being open such a short time. And many patrons are moving from the dining room to the adjacent store after their meals, which is another good sign – sales of the spirits are brisk. This is a fun and friendly place for a meal or tasting.

Since our visit in August, Shawn is almost out of coffee whisky and I think we’re both hoping to see it appear on LCBO shelves soon for easier access.

*I was a guest of Ontario’s Southwest and Tourism Windsor Essex, so my meal was complimentary, but my opinions are my own. And I bought two bottles of Wolfhead spirits, so I definitely really, really liked them.

Spirits and Cocktails

Fun Summer Sipping Suggestions

July 13, 2016
Social Lite sugar-free vodka coolers

It’s hot in the city these days, so Shawn and I have been experimenting with some alternative options for patio and cottage sipping. We have to balance a lot of things—he prefers beer, I don’t like to drink anything super sugary and neither of us has the time to make anything super complicated.

This year, we’ve had the opportunity to sample a few options that we wanted to share with you for days when wine may not be at the top of your wishlist (I rarely have those days).

Ernest Cider from OntarioErnest Cider – I like to have the occasional cider as an alternative to beer or wine. It’s a great option at pubs or restaurants where the house wine sounds dodgy, and with so many great Ontario craft options, I usually have some interesting selections to choose from. Ernest Cider impressed me with its adorable packaging, but I was much more interested in what was in the can and that was quite good too. A little sweeter than the bone dry cider I usually prefer, this had a more natural sweetness from the addition of local honey and some cane sugar so it wasn’t a sugar bomb. Shawn and I both enjoyed this one, as the apple really comes through and the carbonation is nice and crisp. We’d both have this again on a patio.

Giffard 1885 Creme de Violette gin gimletSocial Lite Vodka Cocktails – I like a cocktail once in awhile too, but I don’t like having sugar-sweetened drinks if I can avoid them. Social Lite understands that not everyone wants something sweet, so this Toronto-based company developed their line of sugar-free cocktails to appeal to health-conscious sippers like Shawn and I, who want a convenient cooler without all the sugar. First things first, these are not sweet, so if you’re hoping to replace a sugary cooler, this will throw you off. For us, it took a minute to adjust to the flavour, as both the lime and ginger and the lemon cucumber mint flavours seemed a bit bitter on first sip. But once your palate adjusts, they are a really nice sipper. We both preferred the lime and ginger (I’m not a cucumber fan at all, so this is more about my preferences than the quality of the drink) and are thinking these will be our cottage coolers of choice moving forward.

Giffard Lichi-Li Martini is a fun pink sipperGiffard Liquers Crème de Violette and Lichi Li– So first I tell you I avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and then I suggest syrups? Yep. Because with a liqueur you can get a pop of flavour without a huge amount of sugar and I like the ability to play around to make a slightly-sweet drink that will be fun and summer-ready. Shawn can’t handle lychee scent or flavour at all (he asks me to keep my lychee martinis on the other side of the table at restaurants), so I was on my own to try this one. And I liked it. I made a Lichi Martini with 1.5 oz vodka, ½ oz of Giffard Lichi-li and some fresh lime juice to taste. I found it a little strong, so I cut it with a bit of diet ginger ale. The drink was pink and fun, but not too sweet..

With the Crème do Violette, I made a Violet Gimlet with 2oz of dry gin, ½ oz of Giffard Crème de Violette and 1 oz of fresh lime juice (they suggest lime cordial, but I wanted something with less sugar). It was pretty good, but a bit strong, so we again cut this with a bit of diet ginger ale to taste. Shawn and I had fun making these easy-breezy cocktails and I look forward to playing around with these syrups even more over the summer!

Chateau des Charmes Cuvée d'Andrée 2014 RoséChateau des Charmes – 2014 Rosé Cuvée D’Andrée – I couldn’t resist adding in a wine to this list because my honest-to-goodness go-to summer sipper is usually rosé and this is a really good one. With strawberry, lemonade and oranges on the nose and lots of ripe fruit on the palate, this Pinot Noir rosé is bright pink and bursting with flavour. We have already gone through two bottles and the summer is only just starting. It’s perfect for a night out on our patio, pairs well with just about everything and is a fun option to bring to a barbecue—especially at a $16 price-point.

So what are you sipping this summer? Do you have a go-to cocktail without all the sugar? Share your suggestions in the comments or on social!

*We received these products as samples, but our opinions are all our own.

Spirits and Cocktails

Station Cold Brew Coffee Cocktails

November 16, 2015
Station Cold Brew and Jameson

Over the summer, Shawn fell hard for Station Cold Brew Coffee. While I gave up coffee in January, he remains a connoisseur. So when he tried Station’s cold brew and Jameson Irish Whisky combo at the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival, he was hooked.

Since then, he’s become a regular drinker of Station’s all-natural and Canadian made cold brew. We buy the coffee concentrate and keep a jug in the fridge. Even with fall’s chill moving in, cold brew is still on the menu. He prefers it for mid-day sipping and with no bitter aftertaste and less acidity than most coffee, it’s an overall smoother experience.

He also spent some time this summer experimenting with cold brew coffee cocktails. These were perfect for cottage sipping and remain great cold weather alternatives. Here are some of his fun experiments:

Station Cold Brew Coffee and Bailey's

Station Cold Brew ready to drink coffee and Baily’s: Approx 5oz to 1.5oz Baily’s or to taste, ice (Vanilla and Cinnamon Bailey’s used here, any type is fine).

Station Cold Brew coffee concentrate, Grand Marnier, whisky and milk:
2oz coffee concentrate, 4oz milk, 1oz each Grand Marnier and whisky.
Station Cold Brew Coffee Cocktails

“Iced Irish Coffee” – Station Cold Brew ready to drink coffee and whisky topped with whipped cream.

Station Cold Brew Coffee

He advises playing around with either the coffee concentrate or the ready-to-drink option to create versions that meet your own tastes.

And let’s say you’re looking for a hot coffee option for a cold winter day?

Matt Jones, whisky ambassador for Beam Suntory, offered a few great tips.

“Bourbon and coffee go well together, Canadian Club Maple as well. Just add a dust of cinnamon and nutmeg here and there, whipped cream, and even make a bourbon vanilla whip cream. So many ways to go. There is also Bourbon/Canadian Club Maple Frappé, which is just shaken coffee with our whiskys and cream over ice,” he says.

Are you a cold brew fan? Or you prefer your coffee the traditional way? Do you have a coffee cocktail you love? Share it in the comments or on social.

CC Maple

 

Spirits and Cocktails

Halloween Wine and Cocktail Ideas

October 26, 2015

Halloween is one of our favourite holidays and Shawn and I are always up for some spooky fun. This year, we’ve already participated as ‘running bandits’ at the Monster Dash 5K and we’re planning to spend October 31st with the lights out watching horror movies.

So what wine pairs best with horror movies? Sparkling, of course! Nothing goes better with salty popcorn than a crisp, dry sparkling wine. But Halloween offers lots of great wine options – you can add some real flair to your vampire costume by pairing it with a blood red wine in a suitably spooky goblet.

Casillero Del Diablo 2014 Malbec

We may just crack open the Casillero Del Diablo 2014 Malbec I recently received as a gift as our Halloween wine this year. The devilish logo has Halloween night sipping written all over it. Have you tried it? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social.

Want something a little sweeter for your Halloween treat? Consider this delicious Scotch-based cocktail Shawn and I recently tested. Wait, did I just suggest Scotch in a sweet cocktail? You bet I did – and your party guests will definitely be impressed by this pumpkin-pie-in-a-glass goodness.

Since I’m still off sugar, I had to skip this one, but I did have fun watching Shawn shake it up and I confess to stealing a sip for taste-testing purposes. What a surprise – this is not-too-sweet and perfect for fall sipping.

The Famous Grouse Scotch Pumpkin Pie Martini

Made with Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky, we subbed the pumpkin pie filling (not something we keep on hand) for pure pumpkin and half tsp of organic brown sugar. We also used 2% organic milk instead of half & half to make a slightly healthier version. Either way, it was well-worth the effort.

Famous Pumpkin Pie Martini
1oz Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
4 tsp pumpkin pie filling
1oz apple juice
0.5oz half & half cream
0.25oz maple syrup
2 dashes cinnamon
Combine
ingredients in a shaker tin with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a
chilled Martini glass. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.

 

The Famous Grouse Scotch Halloween Cocktails

Looking for other options? Canadian Club and Jim Beam sent me some spooky cocktail recipes you can shake up to impress your guests.

Ogre’s Brew
1oz Canadian Club 100% Rye
0.5oz Bols Blue Curacao
4oz orange juice
Shake with ice (turns bright green!)
Strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice
Garnish with gummy worms

Dancing with the Devil
60 mL Jim Beam® Devil’s Cut® Bourbon
30 mL Triple Sec Liqueur
30 mL fresh lemon sour
30 mL passion fruit juice
2 dashes Tabasco® Sauce
Cherry
Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry

What will you be serving this Halloween? Do you plan to go with wine or cocktails? And have you ever had a Scotch cocktail? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments and on social.

While I received a sample of Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky to try in this cocktail, all opinions are my own.