I love old things. Old cities, old music, old furniture. I get inspired by history and eras gone by. This fall I was inspired to create my first original cocktail. I had just returned from a summer trip, had hosted my first big cocktail party and had been asked to write for this magazine and I thought, now is the time to indulge all my cocktail creativity. I had soaked up some history, collected a new antique bar and drank my weight in cocktails. I was ready.. but let me tell you the tale of how I got there.
In mid-August, my husband and I took a trip to Nelson, British Columbia (Canada eh). It’s a picturesque town that was settled in the late 1880’s along the shores of Kootenay Lake’s West Arm. Often referred to as the Queen City of the Kootenay’s, the town was established after settlers found silver deposits in a nearby mountain. Needless to say, the town has a rich history and has managed to maintain several historical buildings to add to its stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains and lake. It’s also home to 50 restaurants and cafes, which is more per capita than San Francisco. It seemed like the perfect place for a relaxing week of eating, drinking and soaking up summer.
After the long but exquisitely beautiful drive from Edmonton (Alberta), we arrived at our Airbnb. A spacious and lovely rail town apartment that was mere steps from the main thoroughfare of the town. Exhausted as we were from the winding mountain roads, we decided that we must venture out for some charcuterie and a few cocktails. We arrived at The Black Cauldron and were not disappointed. Likely the best cocktail bar I have ever ventured into, it had an apothecary lounge vibe with an impressive list of delicious sounding cocktails. After our first drink, we immediately ordered another and had intentions of returning at least once more before the week was out.
This seemed to be a trend, as every joint in town seemed to have taken great care in creating their food and drink menu. This delighted us to no end. It was our kind of town. It was only our second day there that we ventured into one of the few antique stores in the area. My husband and I are both collectors and antiquing is something we do quite frequently. We were almost ready to leave the store when I spotted an antique bar set up near the back. I had never seen anything quite like it. Majestic curved walnut drawers with a levered cabinet that opened to reveal art deco glass inlay and mirrored shelves. It was quite possibly the most beautiful antique piece I had ever laid eyes on. I snapped a few pics in a rush to meet my husband outside and we were on to our next adventure.
Later that night, I kept thinking about the bar and how I’d kick myself if I at least didn’t consider giving it another look. We went back the next day to talk to the store owner Leah. We chatted about the origin of the bar and where she had found it. Originally it was made in the UK, sometime in the late 30’s to early 40’s. It had resided in a lodge near Courtenay, BC which is where she’d purchased it. Then she laid it on us that there was a little rumor that went along with the piece. The tale was that Bing Crosby used to stay at the lodge where the bar was located on his many fishing trips to Vancouver Island. Bing was an avid fisherman and also a notorious drinker, so chances are that he may have poured himself a drink from this very bar. I was pretty much sold right then and there, true story or not, but I took the afternoon to mull it over. When I returned back with a stack of cash to hand over to Leah, she shook my hand with tears in her eyes. She really did love the piece and could barely seem to part with it. I tried to assure her that it was going to a good home where I would cherish it for a lifetime.
After logistics were finalized and we had returned home, we were caught up in the frenzy of having to host a cocktail party of our own that we had planned. Unfortunately, the bar wouldn’t be there to wow our guests but we knew it would be a great conversation piece someday soon. Once it arrived a few days later, it was even more stunning than I remembered it. The wood gleamed in our sunny bonus room and the movers had done a great job of taking care of it so no damage was done. It was just after this that I had another antiquing expedition where I found a case set of Bing Crosby 45 records. It seemed the perfect accompaniment for my new bar.
The bar, the records and the crisp fall air all seemed to come together to inspire me. I put on my Bing 45 records and started trialing a signature cocktail, the Foggy Pear 45. I love using fresh fruit in my cocktails, but had yet to try pears. I thought their natural sweetness with a bit of citrus would balance nicely with a smooth cognac. The elderflower liqueur would further modify the citrus and pair beautifully with the pear flavor. It all turned out perfectly. The dash of cinnamon was the coup de grace to tie it all together. I named it “foggy” because the pear silt gives it a cloudy look which isn’t altogether common in cocktails and the “45” is a nod to my Bing records which were the soundtrack for this drink.