Whimsical English tea party vs. Beefeater gin, June 9 2011
– by Carrie Swiggum/photos by Siamak Amini
“We love gin. Well, I love gin,” said this week’s featured mixologist, David Bain, before explaining the inspiration that went into create his version of a whimsical English tea party cocktail menu.
The Cocktail Kitchen Series at The Refinery in downtown Vancouver pits 30 different bartenders against each other competing for prizes and a chance to take it all in the finals. For the last series the grand prize was a trip to Napa Valley, California; this time, a trip to Nicaragua is up for grabs.
It’s a twist on the Iron Chef foodie feud; the main difference being that the bartenders are competing and not the cooks. The guests rate the drinks on how well they pair their original cocktails with the featured set menu. It’s a three course meal with three different cocktails. The June theme is Whimsical English Tea Party vs. Beefeater 24 Gin, and David Bain is the second competitor this month.
The taste of rhubarb, watermelon and pepper lingered after the first pairing. Bain informed us that the fresh rhubarb in the drink had been hand-picked from the Fraser Valley. Add to that: gin, green tea, simple syrup, juniper and cracked pepper and you have a zesty, playful flavour.
A classic “sea-ness” pervaded the menu all around.
For the second course, smoked black sea salt dotted the rim of a savoury gin Mary. The spicy cocktail accompanied a green tea poached spot prawn dish served with a dollop of creamy avocado sorbet, balancing out the flavours in the dish and drink.
Guests were in high spirits by the time the third cocktail was poured. And although they easily could have, the cocktails didn’t quite steal the show. For the main course warm red quinoa salad, mixed with English peas that popped in your mouth, pea puree, pickled carrots and bacon formed the nest for a slice of Earl Grey and lavender smoked duck breast that was tender and buttery. The result was not the greasy mess that easily could have resulted from combining duck and bacon in the same dish.
It’s not English without Pimm’s. Given teapots full of ginger beer, guests poured their individual mini-carafe of a Pimm’s influenced concoction of gin, orange peel, cinnamon, clove spices and sugar into their teacup, which already contained a tea-infused ice cube, slice of cucumber and a mint leaf to top it off. With the addition of ginger beer, it was a complex summertime drink.
Don’t think you could drink three cocktails in one meal? The cocktails were mellow, and nobody seemed to be stumbling out the door.
Mixed drinks offer a chance to discover new flavours, said Bain. There is a “bigger palette to choose from in cocktails. There is a lot of choice in wine,” he said, “but not much flavour.”
This series continues until September with different bartenders and a different menu. At $35 per person, it’s an amazing deal, and a lot of fun!
Win! two tix to Cocktail Kitchen:
To enter to win two tickets to Cocktail Kitchen June 22, follow us on @guttersniped and tweet (one entry):
June is for gin! Win 2 tickets to the Cocktail Kitchen Series courtesy @theRefineryVan & @guttersniped http://bit.ly/j0Yi5L
or leave a comment below (one entry).
We’ll make the draw this Friday, June 18.