As the seasons change, so does Mitch McCaskill’s cocktail menu.
The maître d’ at Ernest’s, NAIT’s fine dining restaurant, wants his featured drinks to reflect and celebrate the highlights of a particular time of year, be it holidays, weather or related dining trends. All of this has influenced his selection of libations for Thanksgiving weekend and fall.
Here, McCaskill (Hospitality Management ’09) offers recipes for 4 drinks now available at Ernest’s (try pairing them with meals, he recommends) that either bring out the best of season or dare to disrupt it with a splash of summer past. Either way, they're sure to satisfy in the face of cooler, shorter days to come.
Aviation No. 88
McCaskill learned of this gin-based martini during a recent fact-finding mission to New York, where he discovered it at Hudson & Malone, a modern take on the traditional saloon. “It’s lively and floral,” he says. “It’s got that sense that it can warm you up.”
1 oz. G’Vine Nouaison gin
½ oz. Crème de Violette
½ oz. Maraschino Lazzaroni
Lemon rind twist
Method – Add the liqueurs to a shaker tin and fill nearly halfway with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon rind twist.
Occasionally, summer stretches a little into fall. That overlap is perfect for the Manzarita – “It’s a fall margarita,” says McCaskill. Equal parts sweet and savoury, it’s also a good match for the cranberry-and-stuffing, pumpkin-pie-and-whipped-cream themes of Thanksgiving dinner.
1 oz. El Jimador Tequila
½ oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 oz. apple cider
Pinch of cinnamon
Method – Muddle a lemon with cinnamon in a shaker tin (that is, mash it up, treating the cup like a mortar and pestle), add liqueur, apple cider, ice and shake. Encrust the rim of an old-fashioned glass with sea salt before transferring the contents of the shaker tin. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
“Two years ago I noticed Pimm’s was coming back so I decided to try to figure out what to use it with,” says McCaskill. The Pimm-up has been on the menu ever since, selling well during evenings at Ernest’s. Its refreshing nature reminds of a mojito, but it’s richer and more nuanced.
½ oz. Pimm’s
½ oz. Hendrick’s Gin
1½ oz. simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, heated until dissolved, then cooled)
1 oz. lime juice
2 diced cucumber slices
3 leaves of mint
Splash of soda
Method – Slap the mint leaves between your palms to bring out the oils, then muddle them with lime and cucumber in a shaker tin (stop before the cucumber gets mushy). Add all other ingredients except soda and shake with ice before transferring contents to a tulip glass. Pour some soda into the empty shaker tin to collect any pulp left behind and use this to top up the glass. Enjoy with a straw.
Pick Me Up
McCaskill was taught this coffee-based cocktail by a customer at the Cove Lakeside Resort in Kelowna, B.C., where he once worked. With its mild chocolate-and-cream sweetness and caffeine kick, this drink is perfect for the end of a meal, with or without dessert. “It’ll wake you up,” says McCaskill.
1 oz. Belvedere vodka
1 oz. Baileys Original Irish Cream
2 oz. espresso
Method – Add all ingredients to a shaker tin and follow with ice. Shake and strain into a snifter half full of fresh ice.
Each year, a north Edmonton resident donates a portion of his backyard fruit crop to NAIT's culinary programs. Among them is the Northern Spy apple, which McCaskill thought would match with bourbon. "I get that apple taste sometimes from it," he says. McCaskill named his creation – brisk, sweet, juicy and warming – in honour of the fruit supplier. (The garnish, an apple made of sugar, was crafted by instructor Norman Brownlee.)
Half-a-dozen 1-inch cubes of apple
1 oz. simple syrup
1-2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
Method – Muddle the apple cubes in an empty shaker tin. Add ice, syrup, bourbon and shake. Empty into an old-fashioned glass. Serve with a straw.