So, no royal sightings, but plenty of great cocktails. If you love spirits and mixed drinks, Victoria, B.C., is where you need to be this weekend for The Art of the Cocktail, a two-day fundraising festival for the Victoria film fest.
Some of the best mixologists in North America are here, people like Bridget Albert and Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Brian Van Flandern, all sharing their tips, techniques and inside knowledge about making great drinks. Plus there are all sorts of reps from both international producers like Belvedere, Hendrick’s, Don Julio and Tuaca, as well as the local Victoria Spirits, Okanagan Spirits and Schramm vodka. If you’re in or around Victoria, try to drop by for the afternoon tasting and cocktail competition — I’ll be judging, and it sounds like it’ll be a fairly lively contest!
Meanwhile, here are a few highlights:
• The personality of the festival is definitely Thirsty Traveler Kevin Brauch, an inescapable presence who’s been leading the rest of the bartenders on hangover-inducing pub crawls, bouncing in and out of other presenters’ sessions, jumping into other media interviews, and having a grand old time in general. Highly entertaining for the rest of us.
• It’s been great to see so many women involved, from festival organizer Kathy Kay to international bartending sensations Bridget Albert and Charlotte Voisey, as well as local mixologists Lauren Mote and Dani Tatarin, not to mention that more than half the people in any session I sat in on were women. You go, girls! Seems the days of spirits being a man’s world are over.
• The trendy spirit of 2010? According to Portland’s Jeffrey Morgenthaler, it’s going to be Mezcal, which is already taking New York by storm.
• What are we drinking? Dark ‘n’ Stormys. With Fever Tree and Fentiman’s craft ginger beer here, as well as Morgenthaler’s seminar on making your own ginger beer, it’s all about the spicy soda, best served with a glug of dark, molassessy rum. As Morgenthaler said at the first session yesterday as he poured us a round of Dark ‘n’ Stormys: “I think it’s a great morning beverage.” Couldn’t agree more.
• Where are we drinking? When they close the tasting hall, it’s back to Clive’s, where the festival’s executive mixologist Shawn Soole is manning the bar each night after pulling a full shift at the festival. If you haven’t been to his bar in the Chateau Victoria, you should plan a special trip to the Island just to check it out — this is a gorgeous bar, with terrific cocktails.
Lots more to come, but now I have to head off to brunch, then back to festival. Cheers!