Travel One Sip at a Time
Author Rose Simard offers us cocktails that combine local ingredients, seasonal alcohols, and the craftsmanship of Québec artisans: a sure way to make summer last!
Text — Rose Simard
Photos — Nesrine Brikci
Many reasons are pushing us to discover our vast region more. Some look for large green spaces, others for rivers full of fish in which to cast their lines. For me, drinking the flavours of Québec takes me on journeys to every corner of the province.
In the last five years, we’ve seen a renaissance of microdistilleries in the province. This industry, which had practically disappeared after Prohibition, is growing at an unprecedented rate. Today, in almost all regions of Québec, there is at least one still working at full capacity to satisfy our thirst for local alcohol.
Some artisans have made the conscious choice to make products “from field to bottle” so that their nectars reflect their land. One sip of Desrochers honey wine will conjure the flowers carpeting the Upper Laurentians for anyone with an open palate and mind. For me, this is precisely the beauty of local alcohol: it takes us on a journey and evokes the perfumes of a place a few kilometres from home.
I invite you to let yourself be carried away to different regions in the province with these three local cocktail recipes that combine the craftsmanship of our artisans and ingredients from the Québec pantry.
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Cocktail with blueberries and whey eau-de-vie
Nestled in the valleys dotting the Charlevoix region is the Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour. Well-known for their legendary cheese, such as Migneron de Charlevoix, the family business recently began producing Charlevoyou wines and spirits. Maurice Dufour’s children, Madeleine and Alexandre, found an innovative way to use the whey remaining from the production of their semi-hard cheese. By distilling it, they have given a second life to this residual liquid, all too often considered waste. From this distillate, they create a uniquely flavoured eau-de-vie. In fact, they are the only ones in Québec who can take pride in making alcohol “from barn to bottle.” Optimizing raw materials is at the core of their business vision.
The two young entrepreneurs are constantly revising their business model so they can maximize the full potential of their precious resources. In addition to whey, Madeleine uses the still to transform the grape pomace left over from their small wine production into a fresh and delicate gin. The Gin d’été is only available at the Baie-Saint-Paul distillery. A visit, if only to admire the bucolic landscape of the farm, is well worth the effort. For the moment, the whey eau-de-vie is their only product found on the SAQ shelves.
This spirit, nicely named Charlevoyou, is similar to vodka and has a slightly earthy taste. It has strong aromas of wild strawberries and blueberry jam, with a round and intense flavour. Charlevoyou makes an ideal pairing for a cheese and charcuterie plate, but it can also be consumed as an after-dinner digestif, a bit like grappa. For my part, I definitely prefer to showcase and serve it as a “dessert” cocktail.
1.5 oz. Charlevoyou eau-de-vie
1 oz. blueberry syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 egg white
1 sprig of rosemary
Garnish: A small sprig of rosemary
- Pour all the ingredients into a shaker.
- Start with a dry shake.
- Add ice, then shake vigorously a second time.
- Strain into a chilled glass.
- Garnish with the sprig of rosemary.
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Cocktail inspired by the fields of the
Less than an hour from Montréal, away from the noise of Highway 15, Matt Strickland — an American born in Tennessee — distills exceptional spirits that are a pure expression of the Mirabel region. The Côte des Saints Distillery bears the name of the road on which it is located, a peaceful road crossing through vast fields of barley. This is the grain the artisans of the startup use to produce the neutral base of all their gins and whiskies.
The Côte des Saints Distillery is first and foremost the story of an extended family united by their love of whisky. The partners are proud to harvest the supplies they need to make their favourite spirits from their own barley field next to the distillery. These spirits are currently aging in a variety of oak casks that come from several regions around the world and that have held different types of alcohol such as sherry, calvados, and port, to name just a few. While we wait for their caramel-flavoured nectars to be ready, we can enjoy their delicious gin.
The Côte des Saints gin is packed full of essential oils obtained by macerating aromatic herbs. To give it its fresh, floral taste, they use cardamom, lavender, lime peel, coriander seeds, and rosemary, among others. The finish is long and smooth, thanks to their “grain to bottle” approach. This juniper berry spirit can be consumed on the rocks or in a cocktail that features it.
1.5 oz. Côte des Saints gin
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
0.75 oz. simple syrup
1/4 cup diced celery
6 flat-leaf parsley leaves
Garnish: A sprig of lavender
- Pour all the ingredients into a shaker.
- Add ice and shake vigorously.
- Strain into a glass with a large ice cube.
- Garnish with the sprig of lavender.
A few kilometres from the Côte des Saints Distillery, we can drink in the heady aromas of La Maison Lavande. Stretching for more than a kilometre, the lavender farm welcomes visitors looking for some peace and quiet during flowering time, from late June to mid-August. A taste of Provence in the heart of Saint-Eustache, who would’ve believed it!
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Cocktail in harmony with the industry of bee colonies*
*Excerpted from the book L’Apéro au Québec (KO Éditions)
The municipality of Ferme-Neuve is located 275 km north of Montréal. The higher we go in latitude, the less human activity we find, as it gives way to lush wilderness. In this enchanting landscape of prairies, forests, and lakes, Anicet Desrochers and his partner, Anne-Virginie Schmidt, of the honeybee farm Miels d’Anicet are busy producing organic honey. A few steps away, on the family land, Naline Desrochers, Anicet’s sister, and her partner, Géraud Bonnet, use the honey to create unique honey wines [more traditionally known as meads]. Although some very good ones exist, honey wines are not very popular in Québec because they’re often perceived as being too sweet. Those of Ferme-Neuve do not belong to this category. On the contrary, they have the distinct feature of being dry and crisp. In the range of products offered by the couple (sparkling honey wines, dry wines, vermouths, and liqueurs), we can detect notes of flowers, hazelnuts, and even spices.
The production of honey wine is very much like that of wine. Just as wine-growers gather their grape varieties, beekeepers select their honeys based on their distinct flavours. The end goal is to express their qualities and subtleties. The honey’s unique taste is determined by the land and the flowers that the bees forage. Depending on the plant life around the hives, the golden nectar can develop completely different aromas.
For the Desrochers clan, the seasons guide the classification of the honeys, rather than the colour. In the spring, when the valleys are covered by cherry blossoms and dandelions, the honey is milder and has vegetal notes. In contrast, in the fall when the buckwheat fields of the neighbouring farms are in full bloom, the liquid has an earthier aroma and stronger taste. These are the qualities that guide the couple in their alcoholic creations. In symbiosis with their natural surroundings, Naline and Géraud let the seasons inspire them.
The range of Beezz sparkling meads and Desrochers D dry wines are perfect for the cocktail hour, while the liqueurs steal the stage as digestifs. For the love of variety, I suggest you try the Bizz Mule, a cocktail inspired by the Moscow Mule.
1.5 oz. Cirka Vodka Terroir
1 oz. fresh lime juice
0.75 oz. honey syrup
3 slices of ginger
Beezz IP sparkling mead with hops
Garnish: 1 honeycomb and 1 small sprig of mint
- Muddle the ginger in a shaker.
- Pour the rest of the ingredients into the shaker, except for the sparkling mead.
- Add ice, then shake vigorously.
- Strain into a glass filled with ice cubes.
- Add the sparkling mead.
- Garnish with the honeycomb and small sprig of mint.
Rose Simard is the founder of 1 ou 2 Cocktails, an independent media outlet that seeks to democratize cocktail culture and the art of living associated with it. In 2019 she co-authored L’Apéro au Québec (KO Éditions), a book that promotes local spirits and the artisans who produce them.