By Jorden Hutchison
Eggnog…it’s the quintessential holiday drink. According to a recent poll by Statistics Canada, Canadians consume more than eight million litres of eggnog during the holiday season. And while store-bought eggnog might taste good, it can contain as many as fifteen not-so-wholesome ingredients like heavy cream, excessive amounts of sugar, artificial flavours and butter.
This holiday season, I set out on a search to explore Vancouver’s handcrafted eggnog scene. I went to a handful of the city’s most popular bars and restaurants – each known for serving great cocktails – and met the notable bartenders who create this festive brew. And while each drink was unique, one thing remained the same: they featured far less ingredients than store-bought versions yet ten times the flavour. So gather your friends and loved ones (19 years or older, of course) and follow this tasty Yuletide trail.
Gastown hotspot The Diamond is known for its inventive cocktail menu and talented bar staff. Exposed brick walls, candlelight and large windows overlooking the cobblestone streets below make this a great spot to people watch while sipping a festive drink.
Bartender: Ron Oliver
The Drink: Though it’s not on the menu, The Diamond’s eggnog is available by special request. The brew consists of egg yolk, bitters, cinnamon, rum, cognac, vanilla syrup made in-house and 3% milk. After giving it a good shake, Ron serves the nog on ice and garnished with nutmeg, a mint leaf and Guinette (a half-preserved Morello cherry soaked in alcohol and flavored with brandy).
Taste: According to Ron, The Diamond is all about showcasing the flavours of booze – they never want to hide its taste. And while the flavours of rum and cognac are strong, the egg and milk add a light and frothy texture.
Price: $11 (plus tax).
Since opening in 2004, Chambar has gained a reputation as one of Vancouver’s top culinary locales. Located on Beatty Street, the restaurant dishes up Euro cuisine with North African influences. Chambar’s menu sets it apart from any other restaurant in the city – and so does its eggnog.
Bartender: Yacine Sylla
The drink: The Winter Sour isn’t your traditional eggnog. Its distinctly Chambar spin showcases bold flavours, including Sperone Cremovo Marsala (a rich and creamy Italian aperitif with a sweet wine base), bourbon, all-spice syrup, egg white, nutmeg and lime juice.
Taste: The aperitif provides a sweet and creamy flavour, while the lime juice adds a sour kick. The Winter Sour is the perfect holiday drink for those looking to veer away from the traditional.
Price: $11 (plus tax).
Situated in a 100-year-old building in Gastown, Pourhouse is one of the city’s most popular cocktail taverns, serving century-old style drinks. Want to learn about the history of eggnog? Pull up a seat and chat with bartender Brian Grant – he’ll provide a quick history lesson on the drink’s debated origins while creating your holiday drink.
Bartender: Brian Grant
The drink: The Brandy Flip consists of an egg, a couple ounces of cream, Spanish brandy, simple syrup, a dash of Angostura bitters and ice. After shaking the mixture for 20 to 30 seconds, Brian serves it in a short glass, garnished with freshly ground nutmeg.
Taste: The rich and fruity flavours of the brandy and smooth, frothy texture of the cream and egg make for a heavenly pairing. I’d go back for the Brandy Flip in a heartbeat.
Price: $12 (plus tax).
West is known for fine dining cuisine and a sophisticated atmosphere, and head bartender David Wolowidnyk is one of the city’s most acclaimed bartenders. Bonus: the restaurant is conveniently situated across the street from South Granville’s Stanley Theatre, making it the perfect spot to enjoy a Yuletide drink before catching the holiday classic White Christmas the Musical.
Bartender: David Wolowidnyk
The drink: David attributes his eggnog recipe to one of his favourite bartending books, Harry Johnson’s Bartenders’ Manual – the first how-to book for bartenders, first published in the 1800s. Perfect for a large holiday party, the recipe makes more than 90 servings of eggnog. It’s made up of 20 eggs, sugar, rum, French brandy and 3.5% milk. Stored in small, individual serving bottles, the drink is given a good shake just before serving, poured into a glass and garnished with freshly ground nutmeg. According to David, his nog is a holiday favourite among regulars.
Taste: After taking a sip, I have to agree with the restaurant’s regulars – its light, creamy and full-bodied taste warmed me from head to toe.
Price: The drink costs $11 (plus tax).