Distilling cocktail culture

Distilling cocktail culture

Penticton may be in the middle of BC wine country, but sometimes, you just need a cocktail. Thankfully, award-winning distilleries are popping up around the region, and the Okanagan cocktail scene is…”a thing”.

Take Craft Corner Kitchen, for example, and its inventive cocktails, often served in retro glassware your parents may have had in the late ’70s. One of their creations is the Penticton Elixer, a melange of local ingredients:  Old Order Distilling’s Black Goat Vodka (a vodka that is, in fact, dark in colour), Maple Leaf Spirits Maple Liqueur (perhaps the most Canadian spirit around), maple syrup, and Darkling Oatmeal Stout from Cannery Brewing. Needing a lighter libation? There’s an ever-changing menu of options, including one that is reminiscent of a creamsicle.

Old Order started with gin and (clear) vodka, and in 2018 will introduce a whisky. Take a free tour of the facility, just a few blocks from Okanagan Lake, then indulge in a cocktail at the intimate bar; perhaps a flight of gin and tonics, the latter being changed with each glass so sippers can pick a favourite.

Drenched in European history with master distiller Jorge Engel and his partner, in business and life, Anette, Maple Leaf Spirits overlooks the Naramata Bench — on a clear day the view extends to the local ski hill, Apex Mountain — and transforms grapes and fruit into a range of spirits from brandies to liqueurs to the very first “Okanagan Cognac”, called Lady of the Cask. Here you’ll find a tasting room and warm hospitality. Don’t forget to ask Jorge about the chicken that crossed the road to get to a rooster. Look for their products in cocktails on many bar and restaurant lists.

Further into Naramata, Legend Distilling has pure vodka and two gin varieties, plus flavoured vodkas. And, for those mornings when you need an extra kick, the Blasted Brew Spiked Coffee is caffeine and vodka in one. Best get a designated driver, a group of co-workers, and hit the long bar in the tasting room to try the most recent cocktail samples, then treat the DD to a bite at the on-site restaurant, Knotweed.

Winner of the first BC Distilled People’s Choice Award for best gin, a mere 30 minutes south of Penticton is Dubh Glas Distillery, just off the highway, next to a pub that sometimes features psychic readings, seemingly on random Tuesdays. Skip the psychic, and visit the compact distillery down the street for a taste of Noteworthy Gin. Owner/distiller/volunteer firefighter Grant Stevely takes impromptu tours around the stills.

The South Okanagan is more than wine…and cocktail culture surely can inspire well-stocked bar of spirits.