Good things apparently come to those who wait, which on the West Coast means suffering through the monsoons of Juneuary in the hope that summer might arrive at some point. And one of the best parts of summer? That would be loading up the car, Airstream, or Mountain Equipment Co-Op Blue Ice Dragonfly backpack and getting the hell out of the city. It’s camping season, and it’s more welcome than ever this year, considering the days, weeks, and months you spent locked down at home self-isolating for the good of your fellow Canadians.
There are two basic kinds of campers out there: the hard-core lunatics determined to get completely off the grid (think freeze-dried food, sleeping on the ground, and dumping in the woods), and those who like to have the cooler accessible at all times, mostly because it makes it easier to get gooned by noon.
As a dedicated Liquor Nerd, you know which category you fall into.
The goal then becomes: how do you balance getting away from it all with making the most of happy hour? The key is to keep it simple and channel your inner Boy Scout by being prepared.
First, the simple part. A reality of camping is that space is usually at a premium, especially when getting from Point A to Point B in an Austin Mini, VW Golf, or Peel P50. That means you don’t want to be packing up an Oggi Jumbo Party Cocktail Shaker or Aicok Slow Masticating Juicer Extractor.
A one-stop solution to keeping things economical is the indispensable Adventure Happy Hour Cocktail Shaker Set from Stanley. Cleverly designed as a self-contained ticket to boozy paradise, the stainless-steel (read: indestructible) unit features two insulated glasses, a strainer lid, a jigger cap, and a citrus reamer. And, really, that covers most of what you’ll need to execute a perfect Lynchburg Lemonade.
Now to the being-prepared part. Once again, because space is at a premium, you don’t want to be lugging bags of sugar to make simple syrup, or toting around two-dozen limes or lemons. So do your squeezing and your sugar-and-water boiling at home. Combine the citrus juice and the simple syrup in equal amounts, pour into a Mason jar, and you’ve got a sweet-and-sour mix for a huge array of cocktails ready to go.
So all that’s left to get is the ice. Most folks go the cubed or block route, the problem being that, after a couple of days, everything tends to become a soggy mess. The last thing you want to be making for happy hour is a cocktail with ice that tastes like the Oscar Mayer wieners floating around the bottom of the cooler.
Bring a bag of cubed ice, but pick up a block of dry ice (available at Praxair in East Van) to keep your cooler cold and your cubes pristine. A 25-pound block runs about $40 and will last three days. Need crushed ice? Grab your axe and a reusable cloth shopping bag and have at ’er. Yes, it’s all that easy—until the rain, mosquitos, and cretins blaring Van Halen in the next campsite over arrive to make you wonder why the hell you ever left town.
Here’s a twist on a Lynchburg Lemonade using red huckleberries (found growing around pretty much every campsite in B.C.).
Lynchburg Huckleberry Lemonade
2 oz. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
1 oz. premixed sweet-and-sour mix
20 foraged huckleberries
Muddle the huckleberries with the back of a spoon or a piece of kindling. Add ice, Jack Daniel’s, and sweet-and-sour, shake, and then strain into your Stanley tumbler over fresh ice. Top with the lemon soda and stir.
Mike Usinger is not a professional bartender. He does, however, spend most of his waking hours sitting on barstools.