Every sip of my Cedar Sour cocktail at Wolf in the Fog restaurant in Tofino, B.C. transports me to the island’s old growth cedar forests. Bar manager Hailey Pasemko uses local cedar wood from the Vancouver Island rainforest to infuse rye with a rich, smoky flavour and earthy aroma — it’s basically the Pacific Northwest in a glass.
Wolf in the Fog isn’t the only restaurant mixing drinks with unusual, foraged ingredients. Bars across Canada are adding flora into their cocktails. Here’s what inspired five beautiful foraged cocktails (and how you can try making one at home). Mixologist tip: It can be hard to differentiate between a salal berry and a don’t-eat-me, so do your research before foraging for ingredients.
Candy Cap Magic, Botanist (Vancouver)
At Botanist in Vancouver, creative cocktail director Grant Sceney and bar manager Jeff Savage concoct four signature drinks inspired by earth, air, water, and fire in the restaurant’s cocktail lab.
The earthy Candy Cap Magic cocktail uses a whiskey infused with rare, locally foraged Candy Cap mushrooms that lend the drink a spiced, caramel flavour. It’s is served on a bed of moss inside a terrarium that’s packed with hidden dry ice and the theatrical presentation is meant to mimic the Vancouver rain forest. “The idea was inspired by petrichor, or the way the forest smells after the rain,” explains Sceney.
The Rusty Antler, Antler (Toronto)
The menu at Antler in Toronto is a celebration of Canadiana. “We want to define Canadian cuisine by highlighting local, seasonal, and wild foods and our cocktails reflect this idea,” says general manager Derick Dubblestyne. “Foraging is the ultimate expression of wild ingredients.” The Rusty Antler is the restaurant’s signature cocktail and combines a venison jerky-infused Drambuie with a smoky scotch and walnut bitters, garnished with a piece of house-cured venison jerky.
Gin & Jam, Restaurant Manitoba (Montreal)
Local ingredients are at the heart of Montreal’s Restaurant Manitoba. “I am a forager and I created Manitoba to share the importance of being informed about our wild territory and the wonderful flavours we can find around us,” says owner Elisabeth Cardin.
Cardin uses foraged ingredients from across Quebec to give guests a taste of the province’s diverse landscape, and makes all the infusions, syrups and jams in-house. Cardin’s favourite cocktail, the Gin & Jam, mixes local KM12 gin with a wild sumac infusion, peppery green alder syrup and a black elderberry jam. “For me, it’s a taste of northern Quebec and reminds me of a fishing trip near Forestville,” says Cardin.
The Giving Box, The Courtney Room (Victoria)
The cocktails at The Courtney Room in Victoria are as elegant as the black granite bar they’re served at. The Giving Box combines Wallflower gin infused with pine needles, elderflower, green chartreuse, honey syrup, champagne acid (a solution of tartaric acid, malic acid, and water that adds a slightly acidic, yeasty flavour), and salt foam.
The Giving Box cocktail recipe
- 1 oz pine-infused gin
- 0.5oz green chartreuse
- 0.5oz elderflower liqueur
- 0.5oz honey syrup
- 0.5oz champagne acid
- salt foam
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, wet shake until well chilled, double strain into a chilled coupe glass. To create the salt foam, add salt water and a pinch of soy lecithin in an immersion blender, then add lime zest to the top of the foam.
Cedar Sour, Wolf in the Fog (Tofino)
A morning forage near Tofino’s Kennedy Lake shows me where bar manager Pasemko gets inspiration for her cocktail menu, which includes ingredients like cedar wood, pine mushrooms, fir sprigs, ocean water, and sea asparagus. In addition to cedar-infused rye, her signature Cedar Sour combines lemon juice, a lemon-thyme syrup, and egg white to create a sweet, frothy first sip.
Cedar Sour cocktail recipe
- 2 oz cedar rye
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 3⁄4 oz lemon-thyme syrup
- 1 egg white
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake once without ice, then a second time after adding ice. Serve neat and garnish with preserved cherries.
To create the cedar-infused rye, soak a clean, four-inch piece of cedar wood in warm salt water for an hour. Cut the wood down into small pieces and add to one bottle of whisky and infuse in an airtight jar for five to seven days before filtering out the wood particles. To create the lemon-thyme syrup, combine ¼ cup fresh thyme and the rind of half a lemon, pour four cups of hot simple syrup over the herbs, and let them steep in the fridge overnight. Strain out the herbs the next day.