Return of the cocktail
– text and photos by Robyn Hanson
Lauren Mote is back, this time as the mastermind behind Bittered Sling Bistro. The food-and-cocktail pairing competition, held at Legacy Liquor Store, takes its handle from an 1806 moniker for cocktail – a logical name knowing the Vancouver mixology heroine’s penchant for bitters.
A next-level variation on the Cocktail Kitchen program Mote helped instigate at The Refinery, Bittered Sling Bistro features one veteran and one apprentice bartender per month, in a competition to pair three cocktails (using the featured spirit and a custom-made bitter) with each of the three courses prepared by Chef Jonathan Chovancek, Mote’s partner (as well as hubby-to-be) in the catering company Kale & Nori.
For $60, attendees experience a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres, three cocktails expertly paired with three courses, and the opportunity to rate the bartender’s cocktail pairing based on a variety of criteria such as presentation, pairing, and performance.
A different spirit and themed cuisine is featured each month. While the menu remains the same, the cocktails are left up to the bartender’s imagination. November’s two events featured spirit was Maker’s Mark bourbon paired with a New Orleans-inspired cuisine. I was one of the lucky ones to attend Bittered Sling Bistro’s second-ever inception (Tuesday, Nov 22; the first was held Nov 8 and featured Market‘s Jay Jones) where apprentice bartender Arthur Wynne of The Cascade Room (and, soon, The Union Bar) showcased his phenomenal cocktail pairing skills.
Upon arrival, guests were invited into the specially designated “Maker’s Mark Lounge” – the Olympic Village store’s impressive scotch and whiskey showroom. As we mingled, we were treated to a cocktail of the sponsored bourbon, cardamom-infused Cointreau, plum syrup and a house-made crabapple soda.
Hors d’oeuvres, including an Oyama Schinkenspeck-wrapped Farmhouse Brie with celeriac puree and tarragon, and crispy mac and cheese balls with smoky tomato dip, accompanied our introductory cocktails.
After breaking the ice with the other guests – a mix of industry folk and cocktail enthusiasts – we were invited to take a seat at the store’s Harvest Table where snifters of Maker’s Mark awaited. Wynne guided us through the history and tasting notes of this premium Kentucky small-batch bourbon.
Then came the first course. Chovancek had prepared a West Coast interpretation of a Cajun-style boudin using sablefish instead of the traditional sausage. Plated like a work of fine art, it was served alongside quince mostarda, smoked pepper duck egg yolk, mustard greens, and crème fraiche.
Inspired by the colour of the duck egg yolk, Wynne paired the dish with a frothy concoction of bourbon mixed with fig gastrique, roast yam puree, plum and root beer bitters, and Prosecco. Those around me remarked that the cocktail offered little pizzazz on its own, but after taking a bite of the food, we appreciated how perfectly it complemented the food.
The second course was a delectably tender pork shoulder served with a chanterelle BBQ sauce on a bed of roast vegetables (broccolini, golden beets, purple carrots) and a sweet potato puree.
Wynne’s pairing was a South East Asian play on a mint julep with floral bouquets of cilantro and Thai basil leaves in place of the mint. Mixed with chamomile syrup, orange bitters, lime and soda water, this was a definite crowd pleaser. Chovancek remarked that the cocktail added a summery feel to the otherwise wintery dish.
Third course was a tropical dessert showcasing Kale & Nori’s raw vegan fare. It featured a raw coconut and cocoa terrine topped with a chunk of caramelized pineapple, served with caramelized pineapple mousse, goat’s milk dolce de leche, and salted caramel crunch.
For this final dish, Wynne mixed an apple pie-inspired nightcap that blended the bourbon with Okanagan apple compote, cracked long pepper, apple juice, and a Virginia tobacco-infused cream, flame-spritzed with Ceylon cinnamon infused rum.
Next month’s Bittered Sling Bistro will feature Campari and Aperol.
More photos from Bittered Sling Bistro at Legacy Liquor Store, Nov 22 2011: