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What were our editors happily sipping in 2019?
My latest visit to Tofino this past June was a “surf trip” less in the traditional, actually-catching-any-waves definition and more in the sense that I wore a wetsuit and carried a board to the ocean before giving up and eating chips all afternoon on the beach with my husband who had blinded himself with salt water almost immediately upon entering the water. We were content simply supervise our friends who were ripping hang-10s and what not (or at least I was supervising—blind husband could not, unfortunately, weigh in) and plotting how to trick one of them into being the designated driver for the evening so we could achieve our true Tofino goal: drinking one too many cedar sours at Wolf in the Fog.
I don’t know if it’s fair to call this perfect cocktail my favourite of 2019 when in reality it’s my favourite of the decade. I can’t go to Tofino without drinking this at some point—it’s physically impossible to resist the pull of the smoky, woody, cedar-infused rye that plays so elegantly off of the frothy, creamy egg foam on top (and that candied cherry garnish on top just so happens to also be the metaphorical cherry on top). The ocean may be what beckons some to this little slice of West Coast paradise, but for me, it’s the bar in “downtown” Tofino that truly makes a splash. Surf’s up. —Stacey McLachlan, executive editor
A few weeks back a large box arrived on my doorstep, courtesy of the good folks at Islay’s Laphroaig Distillery. It looked much like the set up above: more a tome than a box, with a booklet inside, singing the praises of Ian Hunter, the legendary distiller who’s family owned Laphroaig from 1908-1944. But instead of the bottle you see above there was a two ounce taster—it could have been dispiriting until you realize that a 2 oz serving of a $2,500 whisky is still worth more than an entire bottle of Highland Park 18. I was actually a little nervous about trying it—I love Laphroaig’s young expressions, but as a general rule I’ve always been let down by ultra-old, ultra-expensive whiskies that are all the rage these days. For me there is a thing as too much time in oak and these pricey bottles often end up being akin to chewing on a 2 x 4. So I waited until my Mother-in-law’s birthday dinner and I split the sample between a few of us.
I instantly regretted my generosity.
The whisky was the stuff of dreams with the heavyweight power of Laphroaig’s ever present peat mellowed and chilled by the force of three decades and notes of honey and panna cotta being a bit more prevalent. Even a small taste lingered and lingered and while I was happy I seriously considered snatching everyone’s samples back for my own consumption, which I suppose is the most Scottish compliment you can pay a single malt. —Neal McLennan, food editor
My partner and I recently made the financially conscious mistake of stopping in Squamish and cleaning out the BCL on our way Whistler—alcohol-wise, we were set for the weekend, which meant that we had very little excuse for drinking anything that we hadn’t loaded into the Airbnb fridge ourselves. But we did find a way to justify an evening at Bar Oso (something like “It’s Saturday”) and both ordered a drink from what should be called their Fancy Pants G&T Menu. I got the Black Moon + Philips Artisanal Tonic, which I liked very much… but not quite as much as the Roku G&T my partner ordered. Roku gin comes from Japan and is made with six botanicals (roku means six, just call me the Duolingo Owl) including sencha tea, sakura flower and yuzu. The gin coupled with ginger, orange and a floral tonic made a great team, not unlike my partner and I as we finished his drink. —Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor
I wish there was a Fitbit sorta thingy that would measure how much beer you drank (oh, that’s what my liver is for?) and what it was without you having to log it in to Untappd like a loser. I’m saying all this because I know I drank a ridiculous amount of beer this year and it would be nice to have some sort of accurate record of it. Though I guess that’s kind of the whole point of drinking beer.
In any case, there were a few contenders for this, including an incredible Beet Sour from Electric Bicycle Brewing and the Three Alive Citrus Saison from North Van’s Beere Brewing.
But I had my favourite beer of the year in January, and I know that because I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Field House’s Zinfandel Ale was a limited release and their PR team would really love me to stop asking when it’s coming back (sorry folks, not gonna happen).
Another in Abbotsford-based Field House’s experiments with wine, the combination of Zinfandel—a black-skinned wine grape—with vanilla and oak was mind-blowing and by far the smoothest heavy beer (it clocks in at a hard-to-believe 7.7 percent alcohol) I’ve ever had.
Please join me in spamming the fine folks at Field House until they bring it back. —Nathan Caddell, associate editor
To be honest, I don’t fall in love with all that many cocktails, but I do have a few preferences that guide me through a menu. I tend to favour booze-forward rather than fruit-forward drinks, I’m 50/50 on an egg white in there (it almost always signifies there’s a lot of fruity sweetness underneath), and I’ll almost always choose the bourbon-based drink over anything else.
All the boxes were ticked when I spotted the Bourbon Butter Tart on the menu at Timber, and it’s become my go-to winter drink. Made with bourbon that’s been “fat-washed” with brown butter and mixed with brown sugar maple syrup and walnut bitters, it’s served over a large ice cube and topped with a rum-soaked raisin. It’s a drink I’d order by the Baker’s Dozen if that wasn’t problematic. Instead, one Bourbon Butter Tart on a rainy Vancouver night is the perfectly warm, sweet hug I crave at this time of year. —Anicka Quin, editorial director