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Spirits and Cocktails

Spirits and Cocktails

Tutored Tasting – Sauza and Hornitos Tequila

June 12, 2015
Tequila Cocktail

After learning so much at the recent Canadian Club whisky event, I was excited to get an invite to a similar tasting for Sauza and Hornitos tequila. I’ve had tequila only on very rare occasions and, outside of copious references to its potency in country songs, I didn’t know all that much about the spirit.
That’s why this event was worthwhile for me.

We started the evening eating delicious guacamole and Mexican appetizers at Los Colibris restaurant and enjoying a tequila-based cocktail. Personally, I found the cocktail a bit strong and would have preferred something with a bit more fruit and fun, but I know they wanted to showcase the spirit in this.

Tequila tasting glasses lined up

Following the short cocktail session, we started the part I was really excited about – the tutored tasting with Sauza Brand Ambassador Karina Sanchez Huitron. I enjoyed learning about the different types of tequilas and how they are made, especially how barrel aging impacts on quality and flavour.

I think one of the reasons I’ve never been all that fussed about tequila is because I’ve only been exposed to the most basic forms – margaritas and shots. This session opened me up to the options and versatility of the spirit. Karina also noted that when doing a tequila shot with the Sauza Gold (should you be so inclined) you should substitute the lime for orange and cinnamon. I may just be willing to give that a try, by way of research of course.


Hornitos Bkack Barrel Tequila

Karina walked us through five tequilas – all very different – and then we were able to try each one with an appropriate food pairing. This was easily my favourite part of the night, as it showcased just how well tequila can pair with food. I had honestly been a bit skeptical going in, but each of the well-made bites seemed to fit with the chosen drink. I couldn’t try them all, because I don’t eat red meat, but the ceviche and Sauza silver was a personal favourite pairing, as well as the Hornitos Black Barrel and the fudge brownie. Tequila with dessert? Yes, and it was good.

The Black Barrel was my overall favourite of the night – and that of my
guest Paul Dearborn (@whitbywino), who compared it to bourbon. With lots
of oak and vanilla on the nose and 18 months in three different barrels,
this smoky spirit is good on its own or as a cocktail. The recipe below (courtesy of Hornitos) is one I
think I might try soon – tart cocktails are always hit with me:


Tequila cocktail recipe featuring Hornitos Black Barrel

While I remain a devoted wine lover, these experiences with spirits are always educational and interesting. I can now see myself heading back to Los Colibris or another Mexican restaurant and feeling more confident in ordering a tequila-based cocktail to enjoy with dinner.

Do you have a favourite tequila? Share your story in the comments or on social.

Thank-you to Sauza Tequila for inviting me to this event.

Spirits and Cocktails

Food Pairing Friday with Dan Tullio

May 15, 2015
Canadian Club 100% Rye Whisky
All photos provided by Canadian Club

I recently had the chance to attend a whisky tasting with Canadian Club. It was a good experience, as I haven’t explored spirits in great depth and am always excited to learn more about how things are made and why they taste the way they do. One interesting point was the potential food pairings for whisky.

I typically stick to wine for dinner but I was curious to learn more, so I reached out to Dan Tullio, Master Ambassador, Canadian Whisky, Beam Suntory Inc., one of the representatives for Canadian Club. I’m happy to offer up his thoughts about cooking and pairing with Canadian Club as my latest Food Pairing Friday guest column.

People don’t necessarily consider pairing spirits with food. Why do you think rye whisky is a good option for this?
People think that as a result of the higher alcohol strength of spirits versus wine/cordials/beer, the spirits will numb the taste buds, meaning you’re not able to really enjoy the food. On the contrary, Canadian Club 100% Rye (CC 100%) used in proper proportion in the preparation of food simply ramps up the taste experience.  It’s is a distilled spirit, clean and crisp as it flows out of the line on the small copper pot still.  Then it is aged in brand new white oak barrels and matured in the dry–arid high altitude elevation of central Alberta.  During maturation the wood imparts flavors such as caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, nuttiness, aromatic and smoky tones. These are prime candidates for a delicious paring, which basically ramps up the dish.

Rob Tucker and Dan Tulio
Dan (right) and brand manager, Rob Tucker.

What is your favorite pairing and why?
My job entails a lot of time away from home, but when I am with family and friends I take over the kitchen and barbecue.  The best planned meal for me is to marinate my T-Bone steaks overnight with at least 3oz of CC 100% per steak and a bit of salt and pepper—that’s it!  The spiciness of this rye whiskey is slowly absorbed and as the steaks get infused, the high rye whisky breaks down the molecular structure of the meat, making it tender and deliciously spicy.  To complete the overall experience, I flash barbecue at a very high temperature for no more than 4-5mins while I enjoy a CC 100% over ice with friends.

Dan Tullio, Beam Suntory
Dan leading a talk about Canadian Rye

Do certain types of rye whisky pair better than others?
Canadian rye whisky is a nickname for Canadian whisky.  In fact, there does not have to be any rye grain alcohol in the recipe. Canadian whiskies can add other spirits [up to 9.09%] of any type as long as its two years old [i.e. rum, scotch, bourbon, etc]. Also the majority of most Canadian whiskies have corn as the predominant grain. I personally like using CC 100% because it’s made from a single grain type – rye. It’s like what a single malt scotch is to a Canadian whisky.

Are you a fan of pairing or cooking with whisky? Share your favorite brands or recipes in the comments below or on social.

Spirits and Cocktails

From Wine to Whiskey — Learning About Rye

April 22, 2015

During our trip to Ireland in 2011, Shawn and I stopped at the Bushmills Distillery for a tour and tasting—it ended up being a highlight of our trip, as we enjoyed the tasting far more than anticipated. Still, I tend to enjoy my whiskey, when I have it, in a cocktail, and I am much more likely to opt for a glass of wine when we’re out.

That said, when Canadian Club invited me to their #IHeartRye event, featuring a tutored tasting session with Canadian Club ambassador Tish Harcus, I was intrigued. The more I learn about wine, the more I understand the many correlations between the making of spirits and the making of wine. This was an excellent opportunity to learn more about rye and attend my first real whiskey tasting event.

And what did I learn? Well, first off, that I shouldn’t stick my nose into the glass the way I do with wine – that burns! But otherwise, the techniques are somewhat similar. Tish taught us to warm the glass with our hands, to swirl, to sniff and then to taste. I had expected to find straight whiskey a bit intense, but I was impressed by just how different all four of the options we tried were—and how smooth I found them compared to what I anticipated.

The Premium 1858, which is five-year-old rye would likely be very good with ginger ale. It had lots of caramel on the nose, which I wasn’t expecting, and had a nice, long finish. Tish made sure to advise us never to mix this one with cola, as it would kill the flavour.

Next, we tried a classic 12-year-old rye, which was the favourite at my table. Softer on the palate and a bit sweet, it also had caramel overtones on the nose. This one would be for sipping over ice – definitely not a rye that needs to be made into a cocktail.

Third, the Chairman’s Select 100% rye, had a very interesting nose – I kept getting Popeye Candy Cigarettes for some reason. This was my favourite of the tasting, as I liked how smooth it was. Tish told us this one had a high proportion of new wood and explained the use of copper pot distillation.

Finally, we tried the Sherry Cask rye, which spends eight years in oak. This one was exactly what I had expected all of them to taste like—heavy, very strong, intense. On its own, this was not a good fit for my palate, but I think it might make a nice end to a meal.

While it was not part of the official tasting, I also tried the new Canadian Club Chairman’s Select Maple, which was a little sweeter and had great maple notes. This would be really nice after a meal with dessert or in a fun maple-themed cocktail.

As part of the event, we got a lesson in mixing rye cocktails from some of the city’s best mixologists – I made a dry rye Manhattan and watched as others made the 100% rye old fashioned. I am definitely not the best bartender and I was impressed by how easy these cocktails were to make, but also how important the details were—bitters make a real difference.

While I am still a wine girl at heart, this experience made me curious to do more research on spirits and I am looking forward to future tastings. The wine geek in me is interested in learning more about barrel-aged spirits and distilling processes.

Are you a fan of rye? What are some of your favourites?