The world’s most influential mixology conference, Tales of the Cocktail, arrived in Vancouver for three days of events, seminars and – of course – cocktails.Â
It speaks volumes to the Vancouver bartending and cocktail scene that they should host such an event as this is the first time Tales of the Cocktail has been hosted outside of New Orleans. â€œWeâ€™re known for our hospitality, natural beauty, restaurants, chefs, wine, and environment, and now you can add â€˜great cocktailsâ€™ to form a complete package,” Jay Jones, Consulting and Founding member of the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association, told me in an interview earlier this year.
This morning I attended two seminars: “The Science of Cocktails: New Techniques Behind the Bar” with Dave Arnold, followed by “The History and Importance of Ice in Cocktails” with Charlotte Voisey and Jon Santer.Â
The first session explored the science of big ice versus crushed ice in drinks, vegetarian options for drinks (as gelatin is sometimes used for clarification purposes), enzymes, gums, and shaking versus stirring. “The chilling curves are almost exactly the same no matter what kind of ice you use, or what type of shaking style you have,” said Dave Arnold from the French Culinary Institute. “Super sexy shaking is super sexy shaking all day long. Stirring, however, is a completely different story,” he added.Â
It was fascinating to see results of experiments about agitation, dilution, and the use of fancy (and expensive) equipment such as evaporators and centrifuges. I walked away with notes about xantham gum, hydrocolloid, and knowing that some of the processes talked about (if taken to the extreme) might have come with a ‘don’t try this at home’ disclaimer, for safety reasons.
The second session was just as fascinating and also explored ice, although it was all about ice. I loved the history lesson from Charlotte as we all saluted the “Ice King” Frederic Tudor, which was then followed up by Jon Santer and his electric chainsaw.Â
Ponchos were provided for the close seats as Jon sawed into a clear block of ice and demonstrated cutting techniques along with crushed ice in a drink versus shaking it with a block of ice. Not everyone has the ability to work with a giant block of ice (like they did back in Tudor’s day) but there are benefits.
In between, we had a lunch sponsored by Bols and then a Mott’s Clamato Casesar competition between locals Lauren Mote (The Refinery) and Arthur Wynne (Cascade Room).
The sessions were less about recipes than they were about the history, science, and art of cocktails which are actually things that I know some of my favourite bartenders and mixologists love to geek-out about. Passion for all of these elements is what is making Vancouver and Victoria’s cocktail scene that much more exciting and recognizable on the world stage.
Remaining events include the “Spiked Afternoon Tea” at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and “Goodbye Vancouver, Hello New Orleans” finale this afternoon. Tales of the Cocktail returns to New Orleans this summer.