If not for the B.C. wildfires, Covid-19 pandemic, ongoing signs of global warming, and continued rotten existence of the Trump family, this might be the greatest summer in Vancouver history. Despite all those bummers, it’s hard to argue that things have been anything other than pretty damn perfect.
Late June on the West Coast was the first sign that we were in for something, um, different this year. You might remember temperatures spiking to the kind of heights they tend to reach in Kuwait City, Baghdad, and the hockey hotbed of Phoenix. Since then it’s mostly been nothing but nonstop sun and heat—the type we normally have to fly to Hawaii, the Bahamas, or Merritt to enjoy.
The great thing about weather normally associated with beach vacations? That would be that normal drinking rules don’t apply. If God’s seen fit to give us this most glorious of endless summers, then she’s sure as heck not going to judge you for kicking off happy hour at 11 a.m.
Sometimes getting on it early means you’re too groggy to get fancy with the cocktail shaker. Here are four new summer offerings to help you get a glow on with a minimum effort, which makes sense, because no one wants to work on summer vacation—real or imagined.
Fuse & Sip
As much fun as home-mixology is, sometimes it can be enraging. Think about how, every now and then in a valiant attempt to break out of the endless hamster wheel of Margaritas, Mint Juleps, and Bourbon Bug’s Bloods, you’ll wing it. And then discover after a half hour of muddling and mixing, that as interesting as the combination of Jim Beam, Galiano, toasted pecan syrup, muddled galangal, egg white, fresh lemon juice, and chocolate bitters sounds, it makes for a truly appalling cocktail.
The beauty of Fuse & Sip is how it takes the guesswork out of getting extra fancy at cocktail time. Started by lifelong friends Karen Hope and Monique Zizzy, the Squamish-based company offers 100 percent natural infusion kits made with locally-sourced dried fruits, herbs and flowers. The process is easy to the point of being idiot-proof. Empty the contents of a Fuse & Sip package into a jar, add 12 ounces of your go-to alcohol (tequila, rum, vodka, gin, whisky, or Japanese yogurito), and then let it sit for three days. (Half the fun is watching the liquor change colour as the fruit rehydrates, the process starting a half-hour in. Also don’t forget to stick your nose in the bag and inhale deeply upon opening—it’s like potpourri for liquor nerds). After 72 hours your infusion can be poured into a glass and topped with soda if you want to go the quick-and-easy route, or used as a base for something fancier.
Fuse & Sip's 10 different kits include Fancy Pants (dried oranges, ginger root, butterfly pea flowers and organic cane sugar), Day Drinker (dried strawberry, peach, lemon, elderberry, and mint), The Forager (dried blueberry, raspberry, elderflower, lime, and nettle leaf). Can’t wait three days? Try the Moira Rose Sangria (dried rose, cranberry, pineapple, lemon, and organic cane sugar), where you add to a bottle of rose and you’re ready to roll in around two hours. (fuseandsip.com).
One of the strangest things about the past year is how we’ve all grown accustomed to taking root on the couch, not just for days, but weeks and months. For large swaths of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the message from health officials was clear: don’t leave the house unless you have to. Great news for those who idolize Twin Peaks shut-in Harold Smith, but not so much for folks who love a good night out at their favourite restaurant. Especially if that favorite—say Earls—restaurant also was the only place to get one’s favourite beer, like the house-made Rhino.
This summer has brought something good for Earls patrons then, and not just that dining in is once again very much a thing. Since 1984, Rhino has been the much-loved on-site beer at Earls, but because it was only available on tap, you had to go out for dinner to get it. Now, for the first time, Rhino is available for purchase in cans in two styles: Rhino Pale Ale and Rhino Lager. Both are brewed by East Vancouver’s Parallel 49 as part of a partnership deal, and both are about as seriously West Coast as beer gets. The Rhino Pale Ale is mildly hoppy with notes of Okanagan peaches and nectarines, and the Rhino Lager has a crisp taste that screams summer. One thing: you have to go out to get them before they come home with you. Cans, which can also be pre-ordered online, are available for purchase at Earls locations. So pull on those shoes for the first time in two weeks, which—admit it—feels great. Unless your name is Harold Smith from Twin Peaks. (earls.ca).
Walter Caesar's craft-style booze-free mix has estabished itself as a homegrown favourite of Canadians who like their cocktails to have a nutritional kick, each liquid serving starting with vine-ripened tomatoes, grated horseradish, Worcestershire, hot sauce, secret select spices, and clam juice from the North Atlantic. For those too lazy to pour that mix into a glass and add vodka, Walter Caesar Craft Vodka Cocktail lightens the workload.
The West Coast-based company combines premium vodka with organic cane sugar, clam and lemon juice, salt, tamari, organic vinegar, onion and garlic powder, spices and hot sauce. Even though Walter Caesar Craft Vodka Cocktail clocks in at 4.5 percent ABV, you can definitely taste the liquor, and, more subtly, the spice. And that’s a good thing because no one orders Walter Chell’s most famous creation hoping for what might as well be an old-fashioned tomato juice. (waltercaesar.com)
Let’s start by talking about the look of the cans. Can you say retro-chic in the most smashingly ’70s of ways? The Arlo logo alone makes you want to pop a top while watching a double-bill of Shaft and Foxy Brown in your ultra-cool grandparents’ rec-room, orange shag carpet and macramé plant holders optional. Brewed in Delta B.C., and billing itself as “The life of the party”, “Boozy Kombucha”, and “Your new best friend”, Arlo definitely doesn’t lack for attitude.
The drink is made by spiking the alcohol normally found in Kombucha with fresh fruit ingredients, with flavours including Mango, Raspberry, Grapefruit, and Cucumber Lime. (Proving again that someone at the company has an iron-clad grip on the importance of first impressions, Arlo Raspberry Kombucha comes in a fittingly ripe-raspberry red can, and Arlo Mango taking its colour cues from the Manila variety of the famously exotic fruit). As for what’s inside the can, think pleasantly vinegary (it’s Kombucha!) and fruit-packed, which is to say get ready to meet your new best friend. A friend which, luckily, won’t judge you for getting on it before the Coal Harbour heritage horns do their thing at noon. (arlokombucha.com)