Bartenders are taking traditional drink recipes and giving them a new twist—adding international ingredients to put their stamp on staples. Chinatown is the place to head for coconut milk concoctions; from the Keefer Bar’s popular Milk & Honey cocktail with rice milk, whisky, sake and honey, to neighbouring Bao Bei’s pina colada, which they bill as "the best frozen sissy drink you’ll ever have."
At The Union, the Tom Yum Collins combines vodka with coconut milk, lime, gomme, ginger, lemongrass, Thai basil, lime leaf, cilantro and chilli water; and the Mangaa Lassing (pictured) is a ‘drunk mango’ version of a traditional lassi yogurt drink, with kaffir lime leaf vodka, mango puree, fresh lime, coconut milk, agave, chili water and orange bitters.
Pisco pulls a punch
Pisco, a South American version of brandy, is a popular pairing with cream cocktails. At The Diamond, the Orange Whip combines pisco with rum, milk, vanilla and orange juice to make a 1950s-inspired cocktail.
Matt Cooke, bar manager at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, tweaked a recipe from a Portuguese cookbook to create Licor de Leche. The clear amber cocktail is a combination of pisco, cream, cocoa nibs, sugar and lemon that has been left in a jar for a few weeks and slowly strained to create an imaginative dessert accompaniment.
Over at Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, there’s a spicy Pan Americano (pictured) on the menu with pisco, extra bitter dark chocolate, cayenne pepper steamed milk and orange peel.
Buttermilk pancakes? Great! Buttermilk cocktails? Er, you might be surprised how good they taste. At Medina Café, bar manager Trixie Blümel has created a Ted & Sherry cocktail that uses buttermilk in a smooth concoction with rum, egg, sherry, maple syrup and bitters—a modern twist on a flip.
Buttermilk adds a tangy tartness to cocktails and at Juniper (pictured), beverage manager Shaun Layton uses it in a pistachio daiquiri that also includes pistachio syrup and a dusting of baked nuts.
Bauhaus restaurant’s Buttermilch Margarita combines tequila with agave, fresh lime, quince jam and, you guessed it—buttermilk—to create a fruity and frothy drink.
Milk washing might not sound very appealing, but the technique (mixing alcohol with milk and citric acid) clarifies the spirit and leaves behind a milky taste. Beach Bay Cafe and Patio’s bar manager Adrian Lindner puts a tiki spin on the technique in his Vodou cocktail, which combines milk-washed Appleton rum with Gosling and Lemon Hart Demerara Rum, then rounds it out with pineapple, passionfruit and hibiscus (pictured).
At the Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s 1927 Lobby Lounge, bar manager Robyn Gray uses a similar technique to create a London Fog cocktail, which features Earl Grey tea-infused vodka that has been milk washed.
Flips are one of the oldest types of cocktails and showed up in taverns as far back as the late 1600s, originally as a mixture of beer, rum and sugar that was heated with a hot iron rod to make it frothy. Over the years, the beer component has been dropped and eggs and cream were added. Now you’ll find cold versions that take inspiration from these old colonial cocktails.
Boozy versions of eggnog are usually a type of flip and the creamy, velvety nature makes them more of an after-dinner cocktail best enjoyed in the colder months. Come Christmastime cocktail bars like Pourhouse do a range of them, but flips can be enjoyed any time of year as a sweet treat.
Prohibition in the Hotel Georgia has a hearty Flip D’Hiver that includes Irish whisky, sherry, fig-infused Grand Marnier, cream and egg. Ron Oliver, owner of Mamie Taylor’s, serves up a Pressed Apple Flip (pictured): the combination of apple and baking spice makes it the perfect dessert accompaniment.
Yew’s cocktail menu, designed by Lauren Mote who was most recently at UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar, includes the Varuna Coffee, which is partly inspired by Vietnamese sweet coffee and is a combination of cold brewed coffee, sweet milk, rum, bitters, maple and sarsaparilla bark.
We drink our way through the city to search out creamy cocktails
The Dude might have given White Russians some street cred in The Big Lebowski, but milky and creamy cocktails have never been the coolest drink to order…. until now. Flips, milk washes and buttermilk are turning up behind the bar of some of Vancouver’s most renowned watering holes.
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Amy Watkins is a British writer who fell in love with Vancouver when she visited on an assignment and then moved here. She writes about travel for national UK publications and writes BCLiving's weekly events column.