B.C. distilleries making spirits bright this Christmas season

B.C.'s burgeoning distillery industry is serving up spirits with local ingredients that offer creative twists on Christmas cocktails.

Local liquors made with creative ingredients can enhance holiday cocktails

Richard Klaus co-owns Sons of Vancouver, a distillery in North Vancouver that produces bourbon-barrel aged amaretto. (Gail Johnson)

Christmas can be a great occasion to try out a new cocktail and British Columbia's craft distilleries are serving up plenty of creative elixirs to sample this holiday season. 

Craft distilleries have been popping up in the province steadily since 2013 when the provincial government established the craft designation, according to On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson.

Now Johnson says dozens of B.C. distillers are producing spirits that amateur mixologists might want to add to their wish list this year.

Creative twists on the classics

Distiller Gordon Glanz at Odd Society Spirits in East Vancouver has created a sloe gin just for the holidays. Sloe gin is traditionally made in Britain with sloe berries, but because they do not grow in B.C., Glanz has substituted salal berries sourced from Tofino and Haida Gwaii.

According to Johnson, the resulting spirit is sweet and tart with a hint of oregano. The alcohol's red colour can turn any drink festive, but at Odd Society's lounge mixologists pair it with sparkling wine for a twist on a classic French 75.

Odd Society Spirits in East Vancouver's salal gin is a local alternative to traditional gin made from sloe berries. (Submitted by Odd Society Spirits)

In North Vancouver, the Sons of Vancouver distillery has taken some creative license with amaretto, a sweet liquor traditionally flavoured with almonds. Distillers James Lester and Richard Klaus make their amaretto from apricot and just for the holidays they aged a batch in bourbon barrels.  

As Johnson told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko, the result is a drink with notes of caramelized honeycomb and toffee that give way to flavours of orange peel, bourbon and hint of nutmeg.

Johnson suggests serving Sons of Vancouver's amaretto over a single ice cube as an after-dinner treat.

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

And if you are looking to really up the ante at the next holiday party, you might want to get your hands on some Psychedelic Jellyfish.

That's what the Tofino Distillery calls the absinthe they bottle on Vancouver Island's West Coast. It is so named because of the psychedelic chemical thujone, a by-product of wormwood which is one of absinthe's key ingredients. 

Tofino Distillery's Psychadelic Jellyfish absinthe is not for the faint of heart. (Mark Mckeough)

Known as 'the green fairy' in 1800's France, absinthe was once blamed for driving people mad and banned in the United States. Psychedelic Jellyfish is 73 per cent alcohol by volume.

"This is not something to consume in excess," warned Johnson.

Absinthe's green colour makes it an obvious seasonal sipper. And according to Johnson, Psychedelic Jellyfish is already available across Vancouver Island and will arrive in Lower Mainland liquor stores in the coming days just in time for Christmas.

So if you're stocking the bar or looking for stocking stuffers this season, local liquors are something to consider.


Food columnist Gail Johnson discusses local liquors being produced at B.C. distilleries. 6:54

With files from On The Coast


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