February 14, 2009
Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill
Chambar Belgian Restaurant 562 Beatty St., Vancouver 604-879-7119 www.chambar.com
Try pouring a perfect ounce without spilling a drop. It's tricky, Wendy McGuinness has discovered, as she prepares for Giffard's second annual Iron Mixologist Challenge in France this May. The newly promoted bar manager at Chambar Belgian Restaurant, an haute brasserie where the European beers and custom cocktails are almost as popular as the Moroccan-inspired cuisine, will be representing Canada alongside Shaun Layton of Vancouver's George: Ultra Lounge and Wine Bar.
Giffard liqueurs and syrups, currently all the rage among Vancouver bartenders, are available only in British Columbia and Alberta (they'll be introduced to Ontario and Quebec next year). "The flavours are so true and not too sweet," McGuinness says, noting that precise control over sugar content is particularly important when creating cocktails that complement food. Hughes' Libation, her latest recipe, is an aromatic twist on the Aviation, a classic Prohibition-era cocktail. Finished with freshly squeezed lemon zest, it makes a crisp, palate-cleansing apertif. "Some classic cocktails are very raw," she explains. "To this make this drink more approachable, I add almond milk and orgeat [almond syrup]. The orgeat adds a tiny dimension of sweetness to balance the citrus; the milk smoothes out the flavour and gives it a velvety feel."