The dawn of 100% Quebec cocktails

This text is part of the special Plaisirs booklet

Like Quebec wines, local alcohols and spirits are increasingly popular. Can we say that we are witnessing the birth of local cocktails able to compete with creations from elsewhere?

Claudia Doyon has her hands as much in the earth as she is above the glasses. The general manager of the La Chaufferie distillery bar and co-founder of Amer Kebec regularly goes to the fields, woods and forests in search of ingredients for her cocktails.

Mushrooms, wild vegetables and fruits, plants, shoots and roots no longer seem to hold any secrets for this picker, who transforms them and tests them in her large playground in Granby. This passion for local products, she discovered when working at the bar L’Assommoir, in Montreal. “I realized that apart from the syrups we made ourselves, everything else came from elsewhere and often came in frozen form. This led me to ask myself questions. Why are we not betting more on the Quebec terroir? After all, our grandparents managed to use and keep a lot of ingredients for a long time by making fermentations, vinegars and preserves. “

Imagine Quebec in the glass

Claudia Doyon really began to integrate Quebec into her creations at the restaurant Le Coureur des bois, where she was bar manager from 2018 to 2020. She had, for the first time, carte blanche to design cocktails at the height of the prestigious wine list from the Beloeil establishment, which has a philosophy that goes with the dishes.

Claudia has translated this gastronomic approach into her cocktails by borrowing both from the field of cooking and from mixology, a method that she has kept since. “I remember my very first 100% Quebec cocktail perfectly. It made my manager at the time tick, because it was a cocktail with blood sausage and foie gras! she says, laughing. But by making a very light foie gras emulsion and black pudding syrup, which I mixed with apple brandy and local red vermouth, I created a cocktail so conclusive that the restaurant permanently integrated it. to his card. Which proves that, when a cocktail is beautiful, tasty and well balanced, it can work perfectly whatever its ingredients! “

The mixologist has since made many local cocktails. Some inspired by classics, such as Bloody Caesar or Piña Colada, and others more original, with pickled beets or fruit ketchup, for example.

Remain pragmatic

Is Claudia Doyon’s motto “From land to cocktails” widely used in Quebec mixology? Not really, at least for now. Even if more and more restaurants and bars wish to integrate more of Quebec into the glasses, they face several constraints, starting with the price and the limited variety of local spirits.

As Fanny Gauthier, co-owner of Ateliers et saveurs and of the new La Plage cocktail bar, points out, “drinking local costs more”. “International houses have a volume of production and prices that Quebec distillers cannot compete with,” she says. In addition, even if our range of spirits has started to expand, it is still a young environment that needs to prove itself. We cannot limit ourselves to making cocktails based on beer, gin or cider. “

Until proven otherwise, the lime has no equivalent in Quebec. Yes, verjuice will add acidity to a cocktail, but it doesn’t taste the same. So, I prefer to buy limes from my little neighborhood grocer, encouraging the circular economy, and offering accessible recipes that everyone will be able to reproduce. We have to be realistic.

Like most of her peers, the mixologist will therefore offer 40 to 45% Quebec alcohol and 80% local sodas and tonics at La Plage. A proportion that can be found in the most important cocktail bars in the province, apart perhaps from a few exceptions, such as Les Cousins, a gin bar that puts Quebec in the spotlight on its menu (without, however, be limited to it), or the MTL Bar, which uses exclusively Quebec alcoholic beverages while mixing them with ingredients that do not come from here.

Max Coubès, who we discovered at Cloakroom and at 4e Wall, but also through the book Aperitif in Quebec, is of this pragmatic school. For him, quality takes precedence over origin. “You have to take into account the fact that we have been distilling in Quebec for 12 years, which is very little,” he explains. I will therefore favor a Quebec spirit only if it is good and if it manages to match alcohols from elsewhere. This is not the case, for example, with local rum, which is worse than that of the Caribbean, nor with chartreuse-type alcohols. Even Irish gin has no equal here yet, in my opinion. It’s a bit like pizza: we make excellent ones here, but we wouldn’t go and teach the Neapolitans anyway. “

The mixologist, now a communicator, therefore protests against a form of “die-hard”, whether in terms of alcohol or local ingredients. A follower of simple cocktails with few ingredients, and emphasizing spirits, he does not multiply the use of tropical fruits or complex techniques. He prefers to make seasonal cocktails, using fresh products.

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